Thursday, August 27, 2009

the late-season shuffle

Another round of lettuce. Seeds were sown
in a little bare spot where previous lettuce
had bolted.
It's getting to that time of year when the edible landscape starts to look a little....tired. The former sea of golden calendula is now a sea of developing seed-heads (keeping up with dead-heading seems futile). The cosmos are leaning and looking a little spindly. The dill has completely gone to seed and is beginning to flop over due to its magnificent height. And while I should perhaps have pulled it out weeks ago and put something else in, I love its height and the copper color it has attained. Besides, the void would be tough to fill. So with the help of Erin (my diligent garden assistant) I stake up the thick, woody stalks to allow the dill to enjoy the rest of the season as the garden's loftiest inhabitant.

Some of the annuals, so vigorous throughout the season, have overgrown their allotted space or simply overgrown their ability to hold themselves up any longer. Take for example the borage. Having grown to about 4 feet, with stems almost 2 inches in diameter, these fleshy plants are so heavy that staking has proved useless...they simply take the stakes down with them. So I've been pulling some, mainly to keep them from smothering some of their neighbors like the yellow squash and various peppers. To fill the voids left behind, I moved a few containers with blueberry and mint from their original spots (which were so filled with kale you could barely see the containers anymore), added a little mulch around them and, voila! This tired, overgrown bed now looks fresh again.
Tucking radish seeds into a late-season
empty spot in the edible landscape.

The Edible Landscape is getting a makeover in other areas too! Mustard greens that have bolted were removed, a few woody and dry summer savory plants were pulled, the chervil and cilantro which both have flowered and become ragged were removed...all to make way for the planting of some autumn vegetables. Stop panicking...yes, I said "autumn". But don't be afraid. Late summer is the perfect time to plant some new crops for fall. And it is strangely satisfying to pull out a few of those tired summer plants to make way for something fresh and new. Adding a little compost and preparing a bed for late-season beets, radishes, lettuces, chard and kale has a rejuvenating effect. And it is heartening to know that when the last of the glorious tomatoes have been harvested, there will be something new to look forward to as the days grow cooler. All these plants appreciate the cooler days to come, and their flavors will be sweetened by the crispness of autumn. And since this is an edible landscape, we can be cheered by the thought that these new additions will offer stunning color and texture long after many flowers have begun to fade. Wouldn't you know it, the University of Minnesota Extension Service has a handy guide for planting vegetables for fall harvest. It's not too late to add something new to your edible landscape! If you're having trouble finding seeds locally, here are a few online sources I've had success with.

Cooks Garden
Seeds of Change
Seed Saver's Exchange

Radishes are ready for harvest just a few short weeks after sowing.

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