This Week in the Garden, Essay Eight
The garden is as busy as ever even though we are getting deeper into October. I am still harvesting cauliflowers and broccoli. We have the last of the tomato harvest hanging, upside down, on wires in the laundry room. The tomatoes ripen one at a time in the warmth and we use them in cooking and salads.
We still have a lot of peppers in the polytunnel in varying stages of ripeness. My habanero peppers continue to ripen in the cold but I suspect they will not be as spicy as they should be. I need to get in the polytunnel and dig up some of the best pepper plants and pot them up. I hope to overwinter them in my Annie Siegel propagator. This is a simple set of shelves with shop lights hanging from the shelf above. I find them simply wonderful for starting plants and hope for success in overwintering my peppers. I have not tried this before.
Peppers are perennial plants and if you can coax them to survive the winter and put them out in the greenhouse as early as you can, you will get a much earlier, and I hope, heavier crop than you could starting from seed each time.
Once I have got the peppers out of the polytunnel, I plan on filling it with as many mature lettuce, chard and parsley plants as I can. This will give me a very early crop of lettuce and greens and the parsley does much better with a bit of protection. In the spring, I will plant the parsley plants out in the garden and let them set a crop of seeds, parsley being a biennial. This would be a good thing to do with chard as well as it is also a biennial. Chard plants get simply huge when they go to seed so getting them in a bed in the back of the garden to do their thing is a good idea.
It is also time to think of onions. I grew three varieties of onions this year and my sister and nieces strung them on pieces of baling twine which worked really well as they are well ventilated and east to get at. I have to pick out the onions I will set aside for seed production next year. I will put the onions in labelled paper bags in my unheated closed porch. When planting time comes, I will put 8 of one variety in a well-marked bed and grow them on for seed.
This is where the Onion Union comes into play. Any gardener can grow one type of onion seed but not more than that as the little devils cross-breed freely. Last summer, I grew seeds from one variety of onion from a friend on Hornby and she grew another variety. We are getting together soon to share our harvest of onion seeds. I have asked some gardener friends on Denman if they would like to join the Onion Union. Anyone want to join should call me at 335-088 to get their 8 onions.
I have a lot of seeds still to thresh out. I need to thresh out the beet, Jerusalem broad bean and lettuce seed and have the celery, rutabagas and poppies done. I got 3/4 of a quart of poppy seeds from the bread poppy so I have lots for my baking and lots to reseed and to share. We need to go over the potato harvest and select the seed potatoes for next year.
One crop I am not harvesting is wild mushrooms. I had no idea how wily and sensitive they are when I first moved here from the city. I thought it was okay to take as many as I liked. Not so! Mushrooms will not grow in an area where they get too much predation. I found this out last autumn when I visited the magical garden of some friends who really take care of their mushrooms. Their garden was full to bursting with chanterelles, short-stemmed rusulas, lobster mushrooms and various bolletes. This is because they only ever harvested a small portion of the mushrooms that came up in their garden. The hordes of wild mushrooms gave their garden an enchanted air and they could pick a few as the fancy took them. This is a much better relationship to be in with these wondrous beings who not only farm the forest but make nutrients available in any soil where they are not discouraged. The mycelium simply hate to have the soil disturbed so I now practice no-till gardening wherever I can.
I don’t produce all the seeds I need and I get a lot of seeds from the Garden Club when we have our Seedy Saturday event. This year, i decided to shop for my seeds early as there are some seeds such as carrot and cucumber that are more advanced to produce. I went shopping at Sweet Rock Farm, seed producers from Gabriola Island. I like their products very mush and am happy with their service. I bought a few extra seeds at Salt Spring Seeds. In both cases, I was not able to buy everything I wanted as they had already sold out of some seeds. So do not delay but make up your seed list and order soon.
If you would like to see the photos I have to go with this and other articles and read my other stories, I have a blog at https://druidapprentice.wordpress.com