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Dare I admit that my enthusiasm for my nightly plateful of tomatoes is diminishing? Saying that feels like heresy for a gardener. But, I can’t say that I’m regretting that my wonderfully productive plants bearing their bounty since June are mostly pooping out (maybe a dozen more green ones yet to ripen, and the Sungold keeps pumping). My tastebuds still thrill at the first couple of mouthfuls, but then I recognize that the acidity is more pronounced than the balance for which I chose those varieties – Celebrity, Green Zebra, Stupice – and for the always magnificently flavored and productive Sungold.
I grew other varieties this year, but wasn’t particularly impressed with either their growth or flavor – although Tangerine was plentiful enough to always add brilliant orange chunks to my plateful of red ones. But the flavor was mild and undistinctive; good for color but that was it.
Nice to have the additional tasteful harvests of figs and beans and squash and peppers, which are my always-have-to-grows. And, I harvested 6 jujubes – “Chinese Dates” – which I loved when we lived in Davis. Crunchy and very sweet like an apple now when still mottled green and brown. If I’d left them to mature more, they’d shrivel and turn completely brown and taste even richer, looking and tasting like dates.
I feel so virtuous about my harvests when I see the prices at grocery stores or even farmers’ markets, recognizing how much more of all these vegetables and fruits I eat because the plants keep producing – that I certainly wouldn’t if I had to purchase them!
Recommendations for every garden
My recommendations to new gardeners is three-fold: 1) Try at least once to grow everything you’re curious about, just for the experience, but 2) In general, grow what your family will eat, and 3) Grow what will produce a lot of food for a long time in the space and under the conditions that you have.
For example, 1) Grow corn once just out of curiosity, but its long season to maturity and need for a lot of space preclude the value of the one or two ears of corn you’ll get, 2) Grow something new each season in the hopes that your family will enjoy adding its nutrition and novelty to its list of regular ingredients, but don’t keep growing it if they don’t like it, and 3) Grow indeterminate tomatoes because they’ll keep producing until frost, but don’t struggle to keep them alive through the winter since they’ll taste no better than store-bought and are therefore a waste of garden space and effort; instead, grow what thrives during the chill!
Moving on to the Fall garden
September is transition time. We never know what the upcoming two months’ weather will be, so we take advantage of preparing for both more summer and the shift to cooler weather. That way, whatever comes, something will be successfully growing in our gardens.
In case the weather stays hot, I plant any summer crops that I can conceivably get a crop in about 60 days.
For the most part, I count on getting an early start with both seeding and transplanting cool-season crops. I purchase from my favorite nurseries whatever seedlings I can find of baby bok choy, broccoli, broccoli raab, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, cilantro, kale, leeks, lettuce, parsley, and spinach. The point is to get growing as much as possible as soon as possible, so you can start eating them as soon as possible.
At the same time, I also sow seeds of all of these, since they’re available in so many more varieties than commercially as seedlings. I also sow seeds of beets and carrots and kohlrabi directly where they’ll mature because they need to immediately put down their tap roots so they’ll develop straight and long deeply into the soil.
Sweet peas are also best sown directly where they’ll grow. I put them on the far side of my edible peas’ cage, which is on the downside of a hill and therefore not very accessible. Even if both types set pods at the same time, the poisonous sweet pea pods are fuzzy so easily discernible from the edible pods that are smooth.