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Ever curious Elinor

While the temperature is still all over the place—a few days hot, a few cold, then a hot day, and back to cold—soon it will stay cold. There is frost in the north of the state this weekend and it won’t be long before it creeps into the Twin Cities. Most plants in the garden have gone to seed and it’s aster time. It is also the time of goldfinches who love to come and eat the hyssop and coneflower seeds. What tiny, beautiful, cheerful birds they are. As the garden winds down for the season, it’s time to assess what worked and what didn’t so I can begin planning for next year.

The peanuts were a bust. Either the location wasn’t right or my garden is not suited for them. The plant began well enough but after a few weeks it stopped growing and by the middle of July it had mysteriously disappeared like it never existed. Alien abduction?

At first it seemed the black garbanzo beans were going to be amazing. Their ferny looking leaves sprouted up with vigor. But after reaching six inches tall they stopped growing. A few of the plants managed to produce one or two tiny beans each before they too were all abducted by aliens.

The sweet potato was another disappointment. It began well, and the vine is actually still green, but it looks sickly and never got more than a foot long. I am assuming there is no potato under it, or if there is, it will be tiny. I will dig it out in the next week or so just to satisfy my curiosity and prove what a failure the plant was.

The peanuts, garbanzos, and sweet potatoes were all experiments. None of them succeeded, so I won’t be growing them again next year. It’s fun to try new plants though. Next year I might try a fig. That will be quite something if it works.

Even though the garbanzo beans didn’t do well, all the other beans did. Well mostly. The white beans grew strong but were not productive enough to grow them again next year. The pinto beans also grew strong and turned out to be climbers when the package said they were a bush variety. For the most part there were plenty of sunflowers and milkweed nearby for them to climb up. They were fun to grow but, like the white beans, not that productive. The black beans, however, went crazy this year and did really well. There is enough for a couple meals.

The green beans did fantastic until the rabbit ate them all. The pole beans did well too and just when I thought they were done, have managed to produce another flush of beans. The cowpeas were also successful, their pods this year grew longer than they ever have before.

A pile of bees in a pumpkin flower

Beets, lettuce, kale, chard were all disappointments. I have never been able to grow beets and all the garden places say they are one of the easiest vegetables to grow, making me feel incompetent. I thought perhaps I just hadn’t found the right variety, so every year I try a different one and every year I am disappointed. I think this was my last year of beets. Maybe next year I will try something like parsnips again. I have had moderate success with those in the past.

The lettuce, kale, and chard began well but were planted late because of so much spring rain, and never got much of a chance to take off before it got blazing hot. It seems like these three are always hit and miss for me. Some years they do great and other years I am lucky if I can pick enough for one small salad. Since we get plenty of all three in our csa box, I may skip planting these next year, though there are few things more satisfying than walking out my backdoor empty handed and coming back with a basket full of dinner. We’ll see how enticing the seed catalog makes them seem come December.

The peas this year were amazing. Last year there was one plant that kept going well into summer, was taller than all the others, and oh so sturdy. I saved seed from it to plant this year. As a result I had about a dozen amazing pea plants in addition to a long row of the usual. I saved seeds from several of the big ones so next year I might have enough to plant them exclusively. These peas are the first seeds I have really paid attention to choosing the biggest and strongest to save. It is exciting to see it paying off. I was able to save seed from the best green beans too before the rabbit ate the plants down to sticks.

Early on I thought the new (to me) zucchini variety I grew was not going to produce much at all. Turns out is just took a while to get going because we got more than enough beautiful zucchini and the plants are still going. I have never tried saving zucchini seeds before. I will have to remember to do that before it is too late for this year.

Pumpkins. Once again the squirrels ate every single one of my pie pumpkins, and there were a lot too! When they started in on my pepita pumpkins, I had had enough. There are three large pepita pumpkins left in the garden and James and I have been regularly dousing them with desperation hot pepper paste. So far this has kept the squirrels from eating them. The pumpkins will be in danger until the vines dry or get killed by frost, whichever comes first. Since the vines are still snaking out and flowering, it seems I will be fretting until frost—two weeks? Three? The anxiety might do me in.

Clearly the Dashwoods have completely failed at their guardian chicken duties. Not only do they turn a blind eye toward the squirrels but there are now two rabbits visiting the garden! I am not sure what the rabbits are eating since nothing seems to be bothering the carrots, amaranth, or pole beans, the only remaining garden plants that are potential rabbit food. But the single baby rabbit in the spring started off not eating anything either until it mowed down my green beans. And now that there are two of them, that can only mean trouble and possibly more baby rabbits come spring. I can scold the Dashwoods for their dereliction of duty until I lose my voice, but they do not care. Ingrates.

Marianne lost her tail

Marianne is beginning to molt. In less than two days she lost all her tail feathers and most of her fluffy butt feathers. A naked chicken butt is not the most attractive thing to follow behind on the garden path. If this goes anything like it did last year, the other three will soon be molting too. I could mock and tease them in their disheveled moltiness to get back at them for not being good guard chickens, but they have such a supreme air of not giving a shit about how they look that my efforts would be useless. It’s admirable really, and probably one of the reasons I love them so much.