Saturday, December 05, 2015

December garden (and my applique quilt!)

Tomatoes, in December!
In my December garden, there has been one frost, which killed off the pumpkin vines, the nasturtiums, and the one tomato growing in the ground. My remaining tomatoes, in planters next to the house, continue to ripe, one by one.  I even picked a red one today! 
Today's tomato harvest
I can't remember the variety, but they are some kind of salad tomato. Throughout the summer I watered them with diluted urine about 2-3 times a week, and then just normal watering the rest of the time (using collected rainwater when possible). I stopped all watering at the end of August. I also began gradually picking the leaves off at the same time, to encourage the fruit to ripen.  Finally I got my first tomatoes in September:  only enough to eat fresh, which we proceeded to do.  Since then, I have picked about 5-6 tomatoes per week on average, even up until now (December).  I try to pick when they are just turning orange, and then ripen in the fruit bowl (generally overnight), as the slugs will munch them if fully ripe on the vine.  Most of the fruit has been significantly bigger than the one shown above, thankfully!
Main veg patch:  the green bits are Brussels and kale
Compare this photo above with the one from my last post;  the runner beans on the fence are still gently ripening a few more seeds, once they have done so, I'll let the dead vines fall to the ground for in-place composting.  I've already mulched a bit for winter with some moldy straw, and you can see the Brussels sprouts have made a little bit of a comeback from the caterpillar devastation;  in the previous photo they were nothing but bare stems and stalks.  They actually have leaves--and sprouts! now, which we'll be eating at Christmas. 
My pride and joy
After all the amazing growth and vigor of my pumpkin vines, I only got one mature pumpkin.  Last year I had two spindly vines which managed to produce me one each.  Ah well.  This one is bigger than either of them, though admittedly not by much!  The vines actually produced lots of pumpkins, and I kept picking off the small new ones, to encourage the older ones to grow bigger (not a very successful tactic for me, as it turned out);  we ate the small ones as baby summer squash.  At one point I had about five biggish pumpkins growing, but one by one they turned moldy and fell off.  I don't know why.
Garden cabbage

Last year I grew my pumpkins in planters next to the house;  this year I planted them in the ground.  I think, comparatively speaking, growing in planters was better for me;  they took up less space, and I got more mature pumpkins.  I think being in the ground meant they had unlimited access to water and food (it rained a lot, and I'd enriched the soil with plenty of chicken manure), so the vines put out rampant growth at the expense of fruit.  When in the planters, water and food was limited, so the plants put all their effort into making fruit.  That's my theory, anyway.  I don't have a lot of garden space, and to have so much vine growth without any pumpkins was just a waste of growing space.
Love apple quilt:  finished!
Now it's December, there's not much light during the day.  We get a lot of rain and cloud cover, and the sun isn't up for long anyway:  I think we're getting about 8 hours of daylight.  It's not been particularly cold yet, though we've had a few cold days and nights, but winter crops are growing slowly, if at all, because of the lack of light.  Some of the kale has recovered from its caterpillar ordeal, as have the cabbage and spring broccoli, and have strong new growth--all of which I will probably harvest in spring.
Hand quilting stitches, shown from the back
So though still mild, this winter is mainly a time for reflecting on the past year, eating the preserved harvest, and making plans for the upcoming season.
My kitchen window