Though you wouldn’t know it from the weather, fall is in full swing here in Missouri Despite temps in the 80s, fall is in the air – the humidity is down slightly, the sky is bluer and the days are shorter.
It has been a hard year for the garden, with wild temperature swings and periods of flooding rains followed by drought-like conditions. Drought really took over the past few months and it has been a struggle to give the plants enough water.
One of our tomato plants in the garden died, and the other two are just limping along. The cherry tomato is still producing fruit, but not nearly as much as it was in the height of the season. And the one heirloom we tried this year, a Gypsy, has only one healthy section. It has a couple of ripening tomatoes on it and I’ll probably pull it out as soon as they are ready to pick. The cherry tomato will get a reprieve until we get frost, as long as it keeps producing. I might even run out with a sheet to protect it from our first few frosty nights. As long as it doesn’t get too cold at night, it should keep producing at least a few tomatoes until we get a hard freeze.
We have one tomato plant in a pot next to the patio and it is going strong. Unfortunately we don’t like the fruit from that one as much – they are tiny, don’t taste like much and their skins tend to split when you pick them. I think I am going to harvest all of the red tomatoes from that one, stems and all, and roast them with the stems on. Then that plant will head to the yard waste bin.
Our ten basil plants are down to two. Most of them were at the end of their short lives and were unable to take up enough water to keep their leaves from wilting. I managed to harvest enough for another batch of olive oil and basil pucks for the freezer before most of them wilted.
We did have one surprise from our lackluster gardening season – a volunteer cantaloupe vine has taken over our compost bin. It came up in late August and we decided to see what was growing before we rooted it out. Until it set fruit, we weren’t sure what it was – though we suspected a zucchini or a cantaloupe. It was an exciting day when the fledgling fruit was big enough to identify as a cantaloupe. The other promising melons on the vine shriveled, or succumbed to the deer, but we have one cantaloupe ripening. We are supposed to get some cool nights next week, but I’m hoping we still have enough warm days for it to ripen soon.
Gardening season is winding down for me. Soon we’ll harvest everything and put the garden to bed for the winter, under a blanket of compost and shredded leaves. I hate to see the summer plants go, but it is almost time. I am already planning for my early spring garden. The circle of life continues, even in a suburban garden.