Over the weekend, I lost two things: The Milwaukee Brewers' postseason run and my vegetable garden. One was involuntary and heartbreaking, the other was necessary and somewhat therapeutic. The former loss will not be discussed on this blog, the latter is a much easier, less-sore topic, so I'll go with that.
It's been fall for a few weeks now, and almost exactly when the first official day of fall hit, I called it quits on my garden. Basically, it was getting chilly, and my plants had produced quite enough quality product throughout the summer - they were slowing down, they had run their cycle, and they gave me a good season that made my summer just a little more exciting (Disclaimer: there may be of a hint of hyperbole in this last sentence).
In their saddened state, on an afternoon with near-perfect fall weather, I pulled out my gardening tools (a stirrup hoe and a pitchfork) and decided to clear out the bed to prepare for winter.
Things were looking pretty bleak back there - it was time to do some hacking.
I started by hand-pulling any large plants, vegetables and weeds and threw them all in a large trash bin I rolled in from the alley.
I feel bad to have let so many banana peppers go to waste at the end of the season - I just ran out of uses for them! I was astonished to see just how large the root and stalk of the pepper plant had grown.
And was also surprised to learn that banana peppers turn bright red when overripe.
What a beautiful, probably gross-tasting vegetable!
After all the big stuff was ripped out of the bed, I went through with my stirrup hoe and used it to shake up the soil and pull up any roots beneath the surface. The stirrup hoe is a pretty fun, very effective tool for gardening - you just rake through soil back and forth quickly (not too dissimilar from the motion the little sweepers make with their brooms while curling - forgive me, I don't know their technical terms). Then, it pulls up all the little plants, roots and all.
After my run with the stirrup hoe, I went through and picked out all the little roots and vines and plant pieces and threw those out, too. Then, just to make sure I had the entire bed thoroughly cleared out, I brought in the pitchfork and really went to town mixing up the soil and ripping out any deeper, more stubborn roots.
When I was done hacking away at the soil, I was left with a very sad, bare garden bed.
I felt a little sad while pulling up my plants - they came so far since Memorial Day, when I planted the garden. I'd watched everything grow and became so proud as they flourished in my little first-time garden. As I dumped all the dead or dying plant pieces into the garbage bin, I felt a little like I was throwing away my children (except not really, because that is weird and also extremely grotesque).
But as I was clearing everything out, I also became excited about the garden I'll plant next year. Next year, it will be much more thought-out, well planned and well marked. Banana peppers will be out. Red peppers just may take their place! Things will be shaken up, for sure.
But for now, I bid a fond farewell to my tenure as a vegetable gardener for a year. I can't believe I brought this
And then took it back to this.
To everything there is a season.
Turn, turn, turn and whatnot and so forth.
After the ground begins to freeze, I plan to throw some compost onto the naked bed to keep the soil rich an nutrient-filled over the winter. If you've got any tips on what to do to help your garden soil flourish in the offseason, please share! Remember, I'm still a complete novice here.
In the meantime, I've got two maybe slightly under-ripe watermelons I've saved, and probably about 15 jalapenos. If you've got a sweet or spicy tooth, just let me know and I'd be happy to share the last of my crop with you.
How do you get your garden (flowers or vegetable) ready for winter? Any super-special tips I should know about?