Reflecting on the Fall Vegetable Garden

As summer winds down, the flavors and colors of the fall vegetable garden fill our minds.

By Kathy McFarland


Fall 2015

Potato

Myanmar Purple Sweet Potato. A delicious variety from far-away Myanmar (Burma).

Photo courtesy www.RareSeeds.com

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Dear Gardening Friends,

The winding down of summer is always tinged with a little sadness in my mind. I have always considered myself to be a summer person and tend to enjoy the longer days with more hours of sunlight. But that also means that I put in longer hours working outside. As I grow older, I realize that a change of the season is a good thing. The shorter days when darkness falls a little earlier with each consecutive day gives our bodies just a little more time to rest and recover from the long hours it has endured throughout the summer.

The gardens aren’t finished yet, though. We are busy harvesting those fall crops that were planted late in the summer to get those last fresh salad greens before they succumb to the frost. We are also busy harvesting those pumpkins, whose vines have spread out several feet in every direction and created a maze of vines on the ground. Among those rambling vines are myriad colors and shapes of winter squash that will make delicious soups, casseroles, and desserts in the coming months. The different colors, sizes, tastes and textures will add some welcome variance to our home decorating, as well as to our plates on the table.

Just as our bodies need a rest, so do our gardens. We see soil that has been in production throughout the long summer and is now being planted in nutrient-replenishing cover crops for the winter or simply being left to lie untended throughout the fall and winter. We look into our food cellars or pantries and see colorful jars of tomatoes, green and wax beans, pickled beets and cucumbers, jams and jellies, peaches and applesauce, and so much more that have been “put up” for the winter. We will enjoy those goodies as the leaves turn from green to bright colors and then brown as they fall from the trees.

I look back on this particular summer and realize that gardening here in the Ozarks has been unlike most other summers. While I generally spend a great deal of time and energy dragging water hoses around to keep the vegetable garden, flower gardens, berry patches, young orchard and vineyard watered, that has not been the case this year. Going into fall, I think about how we have had so much more rain than usual that it has been very difficult to nearly impossible for me to keep the weeds to a minimum. All of the excess moisture caused a tomato blight so extensive that I lost much of my crop, and some of the potatoes rotted in the muddy ground.  I consider myself lucky. Many others have lost their entire crops, homes, and even their lives to the localized flooding.

Traditionally, autumn is a time of giving thanks for the bountiful harvest. While each harvest is different, there is always something for which to be thankful. This autumn is no different. I hope that you’ve had a successful growing season that ends with a bountiful harvest and thoughts of thankfulness. I hope you enjoy the change of the season that includes a change in the chores that need to be completed. Many blessings to all of you gardeners who can now take some rest as the days continue to grow shorter.

Best wishes,
Kathy McFarland