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As many years as I have gardened, I never get over the joy of going out to the garden to see what grew, what ripened, and what I can harvest to bring inside. Whether it is beautiful flower or luscious tomato, I am still like a kid finding the chocolate Easter egg. This was a beautiful July harvest from several years ago.
This year I planted a few heirloom (open pollinated) tomatoes, but more hybrid tomatoes. Regardless of taste, it is just impossible to beat the productivity of hybrid tomatoes. My 8 tomato plants produced over 150 lbs of tomatoes. I dried, canned and froze tomatoes. I made salsa and pasta sauce. We roasted tomatoes with garlic and basil, and ate loads of fresh tomatoes including handfuls of my favorite Sun Sugar cherry tomato, every day. I still gave away baskets of tomatoes and on September 4th as I write this, there are still more tomatoes ripening on the vine.
I have to admit, I have had enough tomatoes now, especially with their shelf life being only a bit longer than a banana. One beautiful thing about winter squash is that after you bring it in from the garden, you don’t have to do a thing with it but store it in a cool dry place until you are ready to eat it – even if that is 9 months from now. I can cook it on cold winter days when I am longing for a hot bowl of fragrant butternut squash soup.
I had an older gentleman gardener once furrow his brow while touring my garden, and ask if I ever grew anything ordinary. He was not used to my burgundy okra, orange tomatoes, purple pole beans & yellow skinned cantaloupes. Heck. Half the fun of gardening is discovering the different varieties that don’t always show up in the grocery stores. I search seed catalogs every January to find at least one weird thing I have not grown before! (Burgundy okra and purple beans still turn an appetizing green when cooked.)
A visit to the Atlanta Botanic Garden’s edible garden this summer inspired me to reconsider growing apples. After years of successfully growing raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, plums, figs and Japanese persimmons, I now look at the last of my pitiful apple trees with great disappointment. With their cedar apple rusted leaves, wormy insides, and Japanese beetles that turn the leaves to lace, what can you expect? And trying to spray a 20 foot tree? Forget it! Even when I could beat the deer and squirrels to the ripening fruit, I never got the big juicy apples that I find at fall farmers markets. I know the best apples grow in the mountains. But seeing these beautifully espaliered trees, only 7′ high, growing in Hotlanta, makes me think I should try it again – their way!
Here are more ways to train your
dragon apple or pear trees. This would be a nightmare to maintain if you try to do it with “semi-dwarf” trees (yes, the 20′ ones). David Vernon, owner of Century Farm Orchards in Reidsville, NC sells many very dwarf apple trees that will make this design work perfectly. He grafts heirloom apple varieties on “Bud-9” rootstock to control the size of the tree while producing full size fruit. You can order trees online now to pick up at his farm on weekends in November. See more on his website at Century Farm Orchards.
Fall is a great time to plant fruit trees and berries, build raised beds for your spring garden, move shrubs, plant spring flowering bulbs and so much more. If you already have a vegetable garden, it is time to pull up tired summer vines and plant transplants of collards, kale, broccoli, and lettuce. Seed turnips, arugula, escarole, spinach and more lettuce now too. Add more compost before you put the new plants in. (Compost fixes everything.)
Happy gardening! May you dine in great contentment from your own organic garden.
Gardening Enthusiast, Educator, Speaker, Blogger
Ellen Ashley teaches an annual program of “hands-on” gardening classes on her 10-acre property in Summerfield. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.