Slow-motion Fall

IMG_2536October 9th and no sign of frost.  We are used to fall in Alaska, an abrupt transition from summer and winter—often lasting only a week or two—that can hardly be considered a season.  In contrast, this year in our part of Maine, fall has unfolded leisurely, with lingering summer temperatures well into September.

I love milkweed

Love to see milkweed.

We have so many apples on the ground from our wild trees that it smells vaguely of apple brandy.

Roadside crabapples--a great year for apples in Maine

Roadside crabapples–a great year for apples in Maine

IMG_2548This slow fall pace has allowed our vegetable beds to continue to produce, and produce, and produce—something we had not expected this late in the season.

Still going strong

Still going strong

Our sunny hillside—near, but not too near, the ocean—apparently creates a microclimate with a longer growing season than areas around us.  It will be fun to see how far we can stretch it.

Our little cold-frame is an attempt to provide greens into the fall

Our little cold-frame is an attempt to provide greens into the fall.  So far, looking good.

Our October garden is an unexpected bounty.  We continue to harvest eggplants, tomatoes (fortunately we had no blight), tomatillos, leeks, fennel, chard, collards, peppers, and carrots from our first planting in May.

The chard has been a trooper. Always abundant and always delicious.

The chard has has been impressive. Always abundant and always delicious.

The birds started eating the sunflowers, so I hauled the enormous flower heads to the ground under the bird feeders, a feast for contentious bluejays. IMG_2429

In late July to mid-August I planted colder-weather crops, which are producing like mad now.

The russian kale, peas, and beets are thriving

The Russian kale and beets are thriving.  It’s dubious that we’ll get broccoli out of this planting, though..

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October tomatoes

Peas, kale, beets, more carrots, and even corn—needless to say, we haven’t bought any vegetables in months.  In fact, I’ve had to adjust my mindset this summer so that I don’t feel guilty if we don’t eat everything produced in the garden.  If it’s not eaten, it makes great compost for next year.

The biggest surprise in our first Maine garden was the sheer plenitude.  I planted what I thought would be small islands of flowers among the vegetables.  They properly attracted bees, other beneficial insects, hummingbirds, and butterflies.

October pollen overload in this honeybee

October pollen overload in this honeybee

But they also ran rampant, rioting all over the stodgier vegetable neighbors.  IMG_2472I had to continually cut back the cosmos to give the eggplants more room and the nasturtiums would have engulfed the entire garden if I had let them. IMG_2471

But nothing compared—volume-wise—with the lone tomatillo I planted in May.  I had no idea that tomatillos would even grow in Maine and—because I ignorantly though it would be out of its element—pictured a tidy, compact plant.  Ha.  It was godzilla.  I continually cut it back and it then grew even more profusely, entwining its arms into every tomato and pepper plant in the bed.  IMG_0961A jealous monster.  It gave me two complete harvests, so I have nice jars of salsa verde and roasted tomatillos frozen for winter.

One tomatillo plant. I hated to pull it up, but wanted to give the peppers a chance to produce a little more.

One tomatillo plant. I hated to pull it up, but wanted to give the peppers a chance to produce a little more.  And, it was time to harvest.

Planting in raised beds was a first for me.  Next year, I will plant the sunflowers, pumpkins, corn and potatoes in regular beds.  But, otherwise I am a total convert to raised beds.  They allow for close-planting, with few weeds, and are easy to work.  I planted some things too close together and will adjust next year, but the happy hodge-podge of flowers and veggies, with few rows or open soil, made for a healthy, productive, and beautiful garden.

We fortunately had few garden pests.  This Japanese beetle was bonding with a wild thistle.

We fortunately had few garden pests. This Japanese beetle was bonding with a wild thistle.

If this warm weather continues, we will have to devise some new ways to cook eggplant.IMG_1708