HERE WE ARE ON THE FINAL DAY OF SEPTEMBER in the Year of Our Gourd. It’s a rainy and cool Sunday on our rock and I’m calling it: the official end of the gardening season on Center Island.
It’s time to report back on how our garden grew, since I know you loyal readers (both of you) have been on the edge of your seats since I posted that piece about our horticultural hopes for what heretofore has been, well, a rock farm.
To sum it up: Good thing we weren’t counting on filling the freezer.
For those of you, ahem, vulgar enough to keep score in such matters, I mentioned that we harvested 102 big ripe tomatoes from my brother’s New Mexico garden recently (and here they are in living color).
From the tomato plants that a friendly neighbor bestowed on us on Center Island, we enjoyed, uh, one ripe tomato before we left for Taos.
But, hey, another was starting to turn a promising pink. We had high hopes for a warm Indian Summer and a rousing finish to the crop upon our return.
Dream on, Farmer McGregor.
We assumed that our island’s munch-mouth deer wouldn’t get bold enough to clamber up on to our cedar deck, which is three steps above ground level, so we left the bucket-grown tomato plants there while we were gone, and our conscientious cat sitter kept them watered. Apparently all was fine until the day we returned to find that a daring deer had indeed climbed on to the deck, like that morning, and positively denuded the tomato vines. Nothing left but sticks. Sigh.
Our experiment with growing pole beans and snap peas from large pots on our upper deck — off the loft, a place no deer could reach without pole vaulting — held promise. Both batches of plants happily climbed the arbor I had strapped to the deck railing and curled and coiled toward the sky on the supplementary maze of strings I stretched here, there and everywhere.
The only problem was that the upper deck gets only about 25 minutes of sunshine a day, thanks to our towering Doug firs. I guess there’s a reason farmers don’t leave trees in the middle of their fields, eh?
So it was pretty much the end of August before the peas and beans even flowered. (I’m sure I saw them shiver occasionally, just out of the corner of my eye.) So far, our bean harvest has totaled: 9. Snap peas: 2. Sigh.
A friend recommended lettuce as a fall crop for our cool, marine-climate island. He even passed along some of his favorite artisanal lettuce seed, which I dutifully sowed six weeks ago in a large planter of rich nursery soil.
Germination rate: Zero.
I’m sure they were wonderful seeds. I think our place just has too much shade and too many cooling breezes. Too bad we can’t bottle some of that and sell it in Phoenix.
For next year, we’re thinking seriously of putting up a little greenhouse. Not just for starting seedlings, but for growing tomatoes and a few other veggies all summer long in a warm, deer-free environment.
And, who knows, we might even put a couple beach loungers in there for those cool July days when we want to work on our tans. Hey, we’ll grow mint for the mojitos.