The garden is winding down even though it is not that cold yet. Remember Attack of the Vines!? Well, some of those vines produced some sugar pumpkins or gourds. Starting last year we scrape the initials of the kids in a pumpkin (the “J” and “A” did not miraculously appear, regardless of what we tried to convince the kids happened). This is always fun, but with two big caveats: 1) what happens if only one pumpkin survives, so only one of the kids has their initial in one; and, 2) we cannot use the pumpkins for pie. The second one is a bigger concern for me, especially since we only got three sugar pumpkins this year. I tried to convince Ava she could have the pumpkin with the “A” on it only if she lets us make a pie out of it later. That idea was summarily dismissed with “the pumpkin is my friend and we don’t eat friends.” Fair enough, but we are out a pie. We also got a few fun gourds. Gourds are interesting to plant because you are never quite sure what you will get. At least we are not sure what they will look like; we do know we will have an interesting fall decoration.
One of our little experiments this year was sweet potatoes. Last winter we had a few we didn’t eat fast enough and they started sprouting. What do you do with a sprouting sweet potato when you have a garden? Plant it of course. This all started in the winter and we knew it would get too hot in Phoenix and June was a long way away to try in Prescott. This led to planting them in a container. It turned out the sweet potatoes did great even being completely root-bound in their confined space. Because of their stellar performance this year they have made the list of vegetables to plant next year. I am always trying to get the kids to try something from the garden. I know Ava likes sweet potatoes so I asked her if she will try some of them. After asking multiple times in multiple ways, the answer was always the same, “I like sweet potato fries!” We did manage to get one concession from her, they can be round fries instead of just normal looking fries. I guess that’s a start.
The garden takes lots of planning. Because it is so new and we are new to mountain desert gardening, we are still trying to determine what will grow well that we like and what variety will we like best. Some of the potential crops have to be started now. That is the case with shallots. I ordered a one pound bag and it arrived just before heading up to the garden. After clearing some herbs and Avamatoes we turned the soil over and added some of the compost we have been composting for the last year. Then we planted away. We did cover them with chicken wire to protect them from predators. Now we just wait. And wait.
To get a jump on things and see how it works I am trying to clone some of our tomatoes. That will be its own post in the coming weeks. Some of the pepper plants and smaller tomato plants are moving to Phoenix for winter to see if we can prolong the season some.
We also walked around to start to layout next summer’s garden. To the right are our preliminary thoughts. They will be modified and amended as we get closer to ordering seeds in December or January. We are going to grow a lot fewer carrots. Although they are good, they are not that good. We will replace them with extra onions and beets and maybe something else. The peas and beans never did much so that area will likely be additional tomatillos. We are resolving into a garden for salsa and salads. I didn’t have much luck with cilantro but we will try that again as well as dill for pickles. Although we do not have enough space to grow enough cucumbers to make pickles we will try a few cucumbers for salads. The squash and pumpkins will be moved to a new area because they tried to take over where they were; growing up trees, though mint and lemon balm, and over strawberries and rhubarb. Our neighbor put in a fence behind ours and he said we can attach a finer mesh to keep out predators, so that is on the list for the spring. I will need to run a new water line but we are discontinuing two from another part of the yard so I will have enough zones to keep things watered. We planted asparagus a few years ago and it has never done much. I think it is too dry where it is (outside the garden area). That will be moved to the new area also in the hope it will do better.
Because cold weather is not too far away we are trying a new, to us, way to keep some of our herbs through the winter. We have dried some in the past and we will dry most of the oregano this year, but we wanted a way to keep a fresh herb taste. This year we are trying chopping a variety of herbs, place them in a tray, cover with olive oil, and freeze them. After they were frozen we cut the mass into rectangles (we didn’t have ice-cube trays) and put them in a bag. I think they should go great as part of a vinaigrette or with fish or chicken or other vegetables.
Fall is upon us in Prescott even if it is not in Phoenix. In the next week or two we will be harvesting our peanuts to see if we got anything. Before the anticipated first frost we will harvest the green tomatoes for green tomato chutney. We will also be cleaning the garden up and composting the plant material and generally getting things ready for winter. In a couple of months we will be ordering seeds then starting the seeds and waiting as the whole process starts again.