If you’ve been following this column closely over the last 38 years, you probably already know that I am an avid fall vegetable gardener. During most of those years, I’ve raised fall gardens and lived to write about it.
Most of the time, most fall vegetable crops will grow much faster if they are planted in July, or even early August. I call it double dipping. When summer veggies first start coming in, I’m usually getting ready to plant another crop that will mature in late September or early October.
Generally speaking, vegetables that are normally supposed to mature in 78 days or less will reach maturity at least a week to 10 days faster when they are planted in mid-summer than they do when they are planted in mid spring. I have no idea as to the scientific reasoning for this phenomenon other it’s just the way Mother Nature works.
However, if I’ve ever had a fall garden as pitiful as the 2019 rendition is turning out to be, I don’t remember it. It would take some doing to prove, but I’d be willing to bet that it’s been more than 30 years since I’ve had a fall garden that I wasn’t talking about, at least one time, in the newspapers. I still don’t understand why most people don’t take up the habit of fall gardening, but I no longer belabor the point.
Since the fall of 2016, when Mr. Parkinson attempted to make me hang up my gardening shoes, my younger brother, Andy, has stepped in to do all the heavy, and most of the light, lifting when it comes to gardening at 249 Charlie Brown Road. Since then we have had three of the prettiest crops of late beans I’ve ever seen grow in any season.
This year, we have only one out of the five hoops we planted with a few strag- gly vines still alive. There’s no hope that we’ll pick a bean off it. We also planted peas but not a single seed sprouted.
The planting was done during the last week of July and the first week of August. I know, for sure, that it has rained on several occasions within five or fewer miles of Charlie Brown Road since we planted the garden, but at no time since then has it rained enough to make beans, peas, squash, lettuce and a host of other greens seeds sprout on our little road.
Two short rows of Bodacious Sweet corn, perhaps 4 square feet of turnips and one hoop of heirloom English cucumbers sprouted only because I talked some friends into packing buckets of water to pour on them. The corn doesn’t have a chance of making a cob and the turnips are doubtful of making much. But we do have sweet potatoes cracking the ground.
On at least three occasions to date I have talked Loretta into packing 4 gallons of fertilized water at a time out to the cucumbers and they are thriving. She loves them as much as I do. If you have never grown heirloom English cucumbers in autumn, you have missed out on one of the seasons most fabulous treats.
I got a start of these a few years ago from a friend who lives in the Cotswold’s region of England. I’ve been saving my own seed ever since and making sure that they are isolated enough that they will not crosspollinate with domestic, hybrid varieties.
When grown on trellises, the cukes will grow about an inch in diameter and up to 18 inches long before they start filling out and producing mature seeds. Even in dry weather, they rarely have any bitterness and, when grown in cool, fall weather, they become as crunchy as walnuts and even have a somewhat nutty taste.
It is no wonder to me why the Brits are so fond of cucumber sandwiches. These are no ordinary cucumbers.
Even though it hasn’t rained here in many weeks except for one little, dryweather, sunshine shower last week, we still have all the tomatoes we can eat. Now that I’m on this diabetic diet, I eat tomatoes at least three times a day and worry about what I’ll do after the first few frosts when the cukes and ‘maters are gone.
There’s not going to be enough turnips to get by on for more than a few days and I don’t believe I’m allowed to eat sweet ‘taters.