Fall is in the Air

Fresh from the garden

Fresh from the garden

Though the temperatures are still warm during the day, there is a touch of fall in the air. I can feel it in the early morning and smell it on the breeze. Not to mention there is a maple on my bus route to the metro train that is already starting to change color and the Canadian geese are beginning to make stop overs on the lakes as they make their way south for the winter. Even though autumn is my favorite season I always have mixed feelings about its impending arrival: boo, gardening season is coming to an end and yay gardening season is coming to an end. Also, yay cool weather, frost, no more allergies. And boo cool weather, snow and ice. If I am lucky, there will still be another month plus a week or two of gardening left before a killing frost makes a visit. Time for the pumpkins to turn orange and the turnips to grow. I am also expecting a shipment of garlic in the mail to plant before the ground freezes.

This morning Bookman and I were out in the garden early before the heat and humidity drove us indoors. It was humid but cool and there was a lovely breeze from the north. It smelled so good out in the garden. We were able to make a concerted attack on the weeds and it felt really good. I missed out on finding the netting for the blackberries before the critters got to them, but as I was saving it from the weeds and the comfrey plant that had gotten really huge and fallen over on it, I discovered it is sending out shoots and rooting new canes. Huzzah!

I also discovered that, once again, the squirrels ate all the hazelnuts off the tree. The tree has been producing nuts for

Sunflower in the bag

Sunflower in the bag

years and I have never had one. Maybe I need to put socks on each of the nuts? It’s working for the corn. I should have been paying more attention to Walter the crab apple. He had about two dozen bright red crab apples on him. I haven’t been diligent in checking when they would be ripe, figuring it would be about the same time as my other apple trees, about mid-September. Well, I was wrong. I went to work Thursday morning and Walter was covered in apples. I came home from work Thursday afternoon and there was not a single apple left on the tree. Note to self for next year, if you want to make crab apple jelly, the apples get ripe at the end of August.

One plant nothing bothered at all is the malabar spinach. It is not really spinach. It is a vining plant with little pink flowers on it. The vine keeps going and going all summer and likes the heat. The leaves are the edible part. I kept waiting for it to get really leafy but it never did so next year I will be sure to plant more than one. I did manage to get enough leaves from it to make malabar spinach curry. And was it ever good too! Unlike your regular greens when you cook them and they get a bit soggy, the malabar keeps its crunch. This is likely because the leaves are mucilaginous. I neglected to tell this to Bookman and he had a little panic when chopping up the leaves. They started to ooze and for a minute he thought he had chopped up a caterpillar or other bug into out dinner!

A wee green pumpkin

A wee green pumpkin

One of our big annual sunflowers is now covered with a plastic grocery bag. I read somewhere that this will keep the birds and squirrels away so we can actually harvest the seeds. I’ve never managed to harvest any sunflowers seeds so I am very excited at the prospect. Usually the squirrels will chew the head of the whole flower off and run away with it. The bag is suppose to keep them from doing that. While I am excited about having my own sunflower seeds, I just realized that I will have to crack open the shells on each one of them. Something to keep my hands busy while watching a movie some evening, right?

I read a really good gardening book called Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist by Michael Judd. I read a lot of gardening books and after awhile they all start to say the same thing. But each one never fails to have some new bits of information in it so I do always learn something. The book takes a permaculture approach to backyard gardening which is what I am doing so the book and I were meant for each other. I’ve read enough edible landscaping books and enough permaculture books over the past two or three years that herb spirals and composting and water retention methods and planting for pollinators and creating food guilds was not new. Still, I learned some good stuff.

Like comfrey is not just good for the garden. Comfrey, is good in the garden because it is a nutrient accumulator. It has

quinoa

quinoa

very deep roots and pulls up all sort of mircronutrients that would not be otherwise available. It grows big and fast and can be cut back once or twice a summer and used as mulch on the garden beds. The purple flowers also attract pollinators. Now I have learned that a comfrey poultice is good for bruises, sprains and sore muscles. The leaves are high in allantoin which speeds up the production of new cells. You can make a comfrey poultice or two out of leaves, water and flour and then freeze it to have on hand when the need arises. Neat, right? I haven’t made any poultices yet but I have a bunch of comfrey just waiting for me to do just that, which will be soon.

I also learned quite a bit about hardy kiwi and Bookman and I have made great plans for building a trellis next year over the polyculture bed. Each female plant can produce as much as 100 pounds (45 kg) of fruit that can be eaten fresh, dried, or made into jam. How awesome is that?

Gooseberries and currants are popular in permaculture gardens because they are small, high yielding shrubs that can withstand some shade making them ideal as understory plantings for bigger trees. This spring I planted a red gooseberry and a black currant. I have learned from Edible Landscaping that currants have 5 times the vitamin C of oranges, twice the potassium of bananas, and twice the antioxidants of blueberries. There are black, red, white and pink currants with black being the most tart and pink the sweetest. I was excited about currants before but goodness, now I want to go crazy planting a bunch of different varieties. I am seriously considering that come spring, if the soil ph still is not right for the blueberries, I might just take them out and plant currants instead. But I get ahead of myself.

Squash muffins

Squash muffins

Beside learning something new, garden books should also make you excited about gardening. Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist scores high on both. So if you are looking for a good gardening book, get your hands on a copy of this one.

Just a few more things from the garden before I go. Today Bookman made some delicious squash, raisin and walnut muffins. He used zucchini and lemon squash from the garden. Do they ever taste good. We have also harvested two ears of corn! I haven’t tried it yet but I will with dinner this evening. Bookman is making pizza and one of the ears will be sliced up onto the pizza. Yum!

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