The Last Hurrah?

Final harvest?

A cold front blew in today. Actually, it’s still blowing in, which is why tonight the Weather Seers are calling for a low of merely 42 degrees Fahrenheit. However, that’s the temperature predicted for the airport about 30 miles from my house. If the winds abate sooner than expected, my garden will chill down to the upper 30s.  And tomorrow’s low — when the winds have departed — is supposed to be 39 degrees, which means my house will be flirting with the low 30s.

You see, I live in a cold spot. I think it’s the topography of my yard. By the street, my yard is near the top of a long hill. It gradually curves down to the wide floodplain that borders our creek. As you may know, cold air likes low spots. When it finds my hilltop, it cascades downward until it reaches the creek. Then, I think, like water behind a dam, the cold builds, gradually creeping up the hill, so that when the temperature is teetering near freezing for most folks, it will be freezing in my yard.

My vegetable garden is at the top of the hill. Tall pines shelter it from the road, and provide some protection from chilly west winds. But only some.

I could have probably waited until tomorrow, but I decided to pick anything that looked remotely ripe today. Better safe, as the saying goes — especially when delicate, tasty peppers are at stake.

This afternoon I picked four Carmen Italian Bull’s Horn sweet peppers, 1 Apple pepper, a handful of Sweet Treats cherry tomatoes, a couple of little Viva Italia paste tomatoes, and two good handfuls of Fortex pole beans.

The beans have been the biggest surprise of the summer/fall growing seasons. They just won’t quit. Only the vines on half of the trellis are still alive, but those plants refuse to concede to winter’s impending arrival. They still bloom, and flower-hungry pollinators argue over who gets the honor of ensuring that every flower grows to beanhood. I think, perhaps, today might have been their final harvest. But never say never with these astonishing beans. They are already on my “to plant” list for next year, that’s for certain.

This has been the most productive and healthiest garden I’ve had in many years, despite a continuing drought and about a month of prolonged, above-normal temperatures. I attribute my success to compost. I never seem to be able to produce enough to give my veggies all they need. So last spring, we invested in a truckload of compost from a local place that provides topsoils, mulches, and compost. We went to their site and inspected it, of course, before buying a load. Given the productivity I saw this year, it was money well spent.

Gazillions of studies have shown that compost harbors beneficial organisms and micronutrients that promote growth and inhibit diseases and pests. My garden is all the evidence I need to be convinced. And, yes, I see another truckload of compost in my garden’s future. We’ll have it delivered by February, so we’ll have time to spread it, wheelbarrow load by wheelbarrow load, onto the veggie beds. It’s hard work for aging bodies; the cooler late winter air keeps it tolerable if you pace yourself.

But late October harvests of delicious, beautiful vegetables more than make up for every sore muscle and creaky knee that arise from spreading that black gold through the garden.

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