You must leave now, take what you need, you think will last
But whatever you wish to keep, you better grab it fast
Yonder stands your orphan with his gun
Crying like a fire in the sun
Look out the saints are comin' through
And it's all over now, Baby Blue
I have a tendency towards an internal soundtrack.
And melodrama (apparently).
The last two weeks I've been singing Dylan in my mind while gardening and two nights ago it finally happened...frost. Enough to kill most of the annual cutflowers, the basil, what was left of the tomatoes (not much, just sungolds), the eggplants, the peppers...
I've known it was coming. We had an iffy night about three weeks ago but I scrambled to cover everything and came out unscathed, save for the green beans. A warm spell followed, enough for another large harvest of hot peppers to ferment for sauce, some pretty zinnias to admire, raspberries galore, broccoli, beets, and squash, and squash, and squash.
In the field I dug all of the potatoes, prepared and packed the onions for the root cellar, weeded a little, finally planted some of the nursery pots that have been sitting out front ALL SUMMER LONG, and slowly said my goodbyes.
Goodbye to having more work than I can do in a day, every day. Goodbye to abundance. I wish I could say it gets easier. I know that the seasons are changing and I am facing months without active growing, which to me means months without momentum. This happens every year. I know that. I'm not sure I can accept WHEN it happens here in Vermont, or will ever be able to accept it, but I can at least try to be less of a baby about it. I can pull on those insulated coveralls and fingerless gloves and get on with it.
It ain't over 'till it's over and there are plenty of things still to do as well as plenty of beauty. I love, love, love ornamental grasses and they are in their prime right now out front. The miscanthus 'Adagio' (maiden grass) and Calamagrostis brachytricha (Korean feather reed grass) that I put in a couple of years ago have filled in and have been really spectacular this fall.
From a garden design standpoint I like to squish grasses in wherever I can. Perennial grasses are especially nice amongst/near early blooming plants that will be in their prime while the grasses are just breaking dormancy, and past their prime while the grasses are showing off. Annual grasses are welcome wherever... pots, interspersed with annuals or cutflowers, etc. Grasses are textural and architectural as well as being pretty low maintenance on the culture end of things. Most are both heat and drought tolerant and are fine in normal to relatively poor soil.
The Brussels sprouts are sizing up. For those of your who have never seen these growing in the field they are monstrous plants that will get to 3 feet tall. I pruned the top growth in September to encourage the plant to put it's energy into the sprouts. They require a very long season and getting them to size up can be a challenge. Luckily they prefer cooler weather and can handle frost. Adam has been hinting about harvesting some but I like to wait until the offerings are more limited.... saving them for when other wimpier crops bite the dust. Need to eat all these daggone eggplants first!!
Cabbages are also rolling in. I'll be making sauerkraut this weekend to preserve them. It is forever amazing to me the capacity that some plants have for preservation. Quick science lesson: Cabbage (like many fruits and vegetables) is covered in lactobacillus and other beneficial bacteria. When shredded, salted, and pounded to release it's juices the lactobacillus converts the sugars in the cabbage to lactic acid, which inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria and acts as a preservative.
All you need is cabbage, salt, a suitable container, and a little elbow grease. My first year making Sauerkraut I did it in 3 gallon tofu buckets I salvaged from the local co-op, covered with a dish cloth, and placed in the cellar for 6 weeks. Eating it for the first time felt like playing Russian Roulette and I must admit I made Adam do it!! I have since upgraded to Kraut Kaps which take the guess work (and skimming of stinky moldy skum) out of it. They fit over a mason jar and make an airtight seal while allowing gases to be released from the jar.
I honestly have more onions than I know what to do with. My favorite of the four varieties I grew are the 'Gold Coin' cipollini that look like just that, beautiful golden coins.
The 'Rossa Lunga di Tropea' or Italian torpedo onions are a close second. Not as pretty but the flavor is very good and quite mild as far as red onions go. I am using these and the big 'Alisa Craig' onions first as they don't store well. The cipollini will make it through until the spring in the cellar, only adding to their appeal. The 'Pontiac' onions are powerhouses and will last too. They have a more basic flavor profile, but you can't have it all. There is something about always having onions and garlic on hand that makes me feel like I'm ready for anything.
But ready to put the garden to bed? For the dark days? Can I say goodbye this year without falling off the deep end? If I write it down will it make it so? Either way, Fall is edging closer to Winter (with a capital W!) whether I like it or not.... and at the very least I have plenty of food squirreled away, a deluxe light therapy box on order, and the right song stuck in my head.
Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you
Forget the dead you’ve left, they will not follow you
The vagabond who’s rapping at your door
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore
Strike another match, go start anew
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue