This year I’ve made a real attempt to reduce the number of vegetables we grow. Why? We have always grown enough vegetables not only for ourselves, which includes winter storage, but plenty extra to pass along to non-gardeners. Our household is smaller now and once the summer residents here have gone, our food needs are really reduced. We’ll still grow plenty to cover all the bases in the household, even if we end up with winter guests, and we’ll still have baskets of extra to share with neighbors. The freezers and the pantry will be full, no worries! Scaling down from an ‘overabundance’ is what we’re striving for. However, reducing doesn’t happen in one season. It’s a process. We’re not very good at it. Growing enough food to feed a small army has become second nature to us, a habit hard to adjust. Planting a green manure on a lot more ground than usual is going to be our method for ‘project scale down’. We have always used a green manure crop ( a green manure is a specific crop grown to improve soil conditions) on areas of the gardens. It is not uncommon for us to leave certain beds empty and grow a green manure to help restore productivity. This year, in our attempt to put our food production into perspective , we’ll place almost an entire garden in a green manure crop. We’ll plant the other two as usual…and we’ll still have plenty of veg for our year’s supply of food. Green manures add organic material to your soil and will also help with the fixation of nitrogen. The crop will be tilled in while still green and succulent introducing bacteria into the soil. The bacteria is capable of fixing free nitrogen from the soil and eventually transferring this nitrogen to the plants you are intending to grow. So, we’ll still actually be growing something in that big garden space….but the crop for this year won’t be one we harvest and eat. We’re giving the soil a year’s sabbatical you might say, along with a replenishing of nutrients. A green manure mix usually includes a grain and a legume. Our first green manure crop will include hairy vetch, oats, and field peas. Later we’ll follow up with a clover, rye, and a legume mix. We’ll just be growing soil in some places, and this helps with my feeble attempts at scaling down the vegetable production! I think I’ll amend the tee shirt that advises people to ‘Eat More Kale’ with the addition of ‘Grow More Soil’!
The Clethra (Clethra alnfolia ‘compacta’) is blooming profusely and the sweet scent of its blooms are a delight in the garden right now. Anemone vitifolia , Kirengeshoma koreana, Kirengeshoma palmata, and Lycoris squamigera are all in full bloom. Cardnial flower ( Lobelia cardinalis ), gentian ( Gentiana asclepiadea), and the Helianthus( Helianthus divaricatus) are bringing great color to the landscape. Our native turtleheads ( Chelone), with both pink and white blooms, are just beginning to open. The fall gardens bring a new surprise each day, and many visitors to the nursery are using this time to add unique and special plants to their landscape. The ornamentals continue to do their thing as we begin to tend to the chores of the fall vegetable garden. Aside from the asparagus and herbs, the spent annual plants are pulled out, the soil turned over, and an amendment of compost or manure is applied. In some beds a green manure, like winter rye or buckwheat may be sown, and this will be turned under in the spring. Green manures are a great way to replenish the soil with some of the nutrients it may need. We are still collecting lots of food from these gardens, and will continue to do so through the fall, though some areas are ready for cleaning up. Two rows of green beans have pretty much exhausted themselves, several areas where lettuce and various greens are growing can be turned over, and the garlic beds are empty. The hoop house will soon be rid of its summer residents ( peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes)and replanted with a fall crop of kale, broccoli, and greens. I have to admit, this little bit of clean up helps to bring some order to the lush jungle appearance of the gardens. These tasks of both seasons, summer’s end and the fast approaching fall, merge together right about now. Yes, tomatoes are still being picked and canned, the lawn needs mowing, seed is still being harvested and sown, but the firewood is also being cut and stacked and we have our sights on cooler weather and what it entails. Tomorrow, I will begin bushogging the lower pastures at the farm , moving the ewes once again, and adding an anxious ram to the mix. All fall related tasks. For a while, we will feel like we’re living between seasons. Perhaps this overlap brings a flurry of work……ending some tasks and starting new, but I love that we so intimately witness and partake in the seasons transitions. We are a part of this change, we have our hand in it. It will happen regardless, but our lives which are so connected to the natural world, keep us rooted in observation and paticipation. Here are a few more photos of the fall bloomers we are enjoying at the moment:Fall is approaching, and we begin to see some of the foliage around us taking on their autumn hues. Along with the harvesting of ripe seeds from the display beds for propagating, and continuing to gather ripe fruits from the vegetable garden for processing, we are also beginning to put some of the beds( vegetable) to rest. The ornamental display beds are still glorious in growth and many fall blooming plants are just coming into their own.