Saying Goodbye to Another Garden

Up here in Northern Wisconsin, we are at the end of our growing season. The late crops are already being harvested, and to make matters worse, we have had a couple nights of frost, which has moved some things along even faster. I am still a novice gardener, with only three years of having a garden and a couple years of trying to container-garden my herbs. (That was always a miserable failure, since I would forget to water them and everything would be fried by July!)
I have tried to stick with basic vegetables and herbs, given I only have a 12X6 foot space, but I have tried to maximize my space by mixing some herbs and rhubarb in with the existing plants in the borders around my lawn. This year I grew:

  • Slicing tomatoes
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Thai peppers
  • Bell peppers
  • Jalapeno peppers
  • Habanero peppers
  • Salad greens
  • Radishes
  • Mint
  • Basil
  • Chives

[I didn’t grow Swiss chard this year, but will probably add it back next year. I love it, but Chad only likes it a few ways; I thought I could live without it, but its just so pretty I have to have it!]

My pesto-making set-up.

I had already harvested most of my veggies; my basil had gotten tough and bitter, but I was able to make and freeze lots of pesto, basil vinaigrette, some chopped basil and even made basil salt! I was also able to freeze many peppers for the year to come, since we use a lot as we make salsa and chili and other spicy things to keep us warm through the cold Wisconsin winters. (I don’t have the amount of other crops to “put them up” for the winter, so I just have the pleasure of gorging myself on what is ripe during the summer! But back to the fall…)

I was able to nurse the garden through the first frost but was leaving town for the second, so I harvested what was left; the final salad greens, green bell peppers (which I would have LOVED to keep going until they were red) and habanero peppers.

The last garden fresh salad of the year.

As crazy fall weather would have it, we do have an increase in temps coming, but for me, its the end of the line. So, I took advantage of a sunny day to put the pots and tomato cages away, and to cover my garden space, basically batten down the hatches for the impending deep freeze.

This is what the early summer looks like. Now…

All tucked in for the winter…

I’m actually not sure about covering the garden; and I could use help on this one. I believe I had tomato blight this year; it was in both my garden and container plants. Black spots on leaves became yellowed stems and eventually turned dry and fell off. It started low and if I was diligent in removing it, the rest of the plant was OK, but the plants became pretty sparse at the end of the summer, and I’m sure the yield suffered. I had read that I should burn, remove or bury the diseased foliage, so I removed what I could, and replaced the heavy black plastic that was on the garden when we moved in, which I hope will foster some nice mulching-like activity as well as perhaps kill whatever was on my tomatoes. (If anyone has advice or thoughts for next year, or even anything I can do this fall, I’d love to hear it!)

Since I hate winter and am pretty sure I am a functional SAD sufferer, you would think this would be a dreaded time for me. Surprisingly, though, gardening makes things better instead of worse. I know that someday the sun will bring warmth and when the days start getting longer, I can begin the process many gardeners look forward to–planning the next garden!

Final Note: As a dietitian, the lack of gardens and farmers markets in the winter also acts like a challenge during the winter months. Its much easier to get people of all ages to eat fruits and vegetables when they are picked from a local orchard or bought at a farmers market, but since we should be eating produce all year, how will I (and you, I hope) keep those healthy habits through the dark days of February and beyond? I’ll be sharing some of my favorite recipes with you, and we’ll make it to the next spring together!

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