It's the last week of October and I fully expected to have a brown, sleeping Cottage Garden by now. My last post which was written in the height of harvest season was a full two months ago and even then I anticipated an early October bedtime for this plot of land and to be totally finished with canning, harvesting, preserving and fermenting.
The difference between this year and others is two-fold. First, our area of Wisconsin was gifted a mild start to fall and we didn't even see a light frost until the middle of October (this is late). Second, for the first time in my gardening life, I had planted seeds in July and August in hopes of a late season garden.
It may sound silly to you veteran gardeners out there that I had never done this before, but it's true. Ever since my first foray into a serious garden, I had never considered anything past the initial spring planting. What resulted was a lot of long season crops or fallow ground. I had no such aspirations this year either until a friend of mine gave us a bunch of started broccoli and eggplant and peppers well into June. We had the space, but I feared the plants wouldn't produce in time.
Later, as my peas and beans ended, she encouraged me to replant with other crops like beets, lettuces and radishes for a late season harvest. I had the seeds, but lacked the experience. I waited until the last recommended planting dates for these crops in my heat zone and planted. What did I have to lose?
Now, more than two months later, my family is enjoying fresh beets, carrots, and kale. My tomatoes and peppers and eggplants waved goodbye just over a week ago with the first light frost. My lovely cut flowers and marigolds and herbs are browned husks from that same frost. But standing with robust vigor and cheer are my broccoli plants, carrot stems and beet greens. A garden that I expected to be fully dead and brown is still thriving and giving us whole, nutrient-dense food!
The radishes are crazy huge so we just pull those and give them to our pig. He loves them. The peas weren't very happy with the light frost and quit producing, so those plants go to BaconFace as well.
Just recently, we pulled up all our cabbages and beets to prepare for a large fermentation push. Fermented foods are important to add to a diet and we love being able to make them here at home for pennies. We'll make beet kraut, kimchi, kvass, and good old fashioned sauerkraut.
We are enjoying the continued harvest from the Cottage Garden. With the way our Autumn is headed, we should be pulling fresh food from the soil well into November. Maybe by then I can write about how we put our cottage garden to bed. Finally.