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Mary Lowther column: A few to do items before resting on winter laurels

The best part of the year though, is being able to harvest my late planted crops
Cauliflower transplanted Sept. 12 and harvested today. The leaves are also edible. (Mary Lowther photo)

By Mary Lowther

The reader might suppose that moving across the street would be simpler and quicker than across the country, but I am here to explain that such is not the case. As an air force brat, I moved with my family between continents with practiced ease, while the 500 foot translocation started in March hasn’t ended yet! There are just as many boxes to pack and unpack, the furniture and other goods need to be arranged and the kitchen organized. David says we’ll be fully moved in by Christmas but has refused to make a wager on it. The irony is that we made this move because we have a much larger garden and I’ve been too busy to do it justice.

One good thing about not having the garden up and running until midsummer is that I don’t have a whole lot of produce to store or preserve, which allows more time to concentrate on my late garden. I hope the cold frame will extend the lettuce and greens season through the winter and the leeks, kale, beets and Brussels sprouts growing outside will tide us over. I’ve been putting off tidying the tent that houses my tools, wheelbarrow and garden supplies, telling myself that I’ll get to it when it’s raining and I can’t (or shouldn’t) work in the garden. Now that it’s raining I have no excuses.

Once the tent is in order I have a few more “to do” items before I can rest on my gardening laurels. Garlic needs planting and the compost heap needs building with several ingredients to make great compost. It’s easy to make weak compost, but when my family depends on nourishing food I want compost that will produce strong crops: fresh steer manure, alfalfa meal, clay, soft rock phosphate, good garden soil, water, vegetation scraps and weeds, including their seeds because these also contain nutrients. Soaker hoses leave most of the soil dry and weed free anyway, so any weeding I have to do will be in the early spring while it’s still cool and damp, before I set the hoses out.

Speaking of rain and tidying the tent, it’s time to bring everything under cover that might deteriorate outside. I cover my hoses with tarps and repair any leaks in the tent, and if it stops raining I’ll improve upon the repairs. Meanwhile, the varmint defying fence David erected needs some holes closed, and 1,500 feet of fence requires a lot of maintenance. It’s worth having this fence though, because I feel safe gardening in an enclosure that makes varmints think again and skulk off to easier pickings.

The best part of the year though, is being able to harvest my late planted crops. I’m harvesting immature plants because I don’t know how much more they will grow this year and because I’m impatient to eat something from this lovely garden. After all, this is why we have put ourselves through the move in the first place! So far we’ve had a feed of two to three inch long green beans and several two-inch wide cauliflowers with some of their leaves. I’m chopping up the leaves separately and steaming them. Interestingly, the “Health” says these leaves are one of the richest sources of calcium in vegetables. If I put them in a salad with some smoked cheddar and chives David will never suspect they are good for him.

Please contact with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.