Final Sowings

by Ken Greene

Labor Day Weekend has come and gone, and there's now no denying it: summer is on its way out. September ushers in beautiful days, cool nights, and the widest array of garden-fresh vegetables available at any time of the whole year. From peppers to pumpkins, cukes to carrots, tomatoes to turnips to tatsoi: the September bounty--and its sweet, sweet weather--are a gardener's reward for a season of hard work.

ENJOY THE FRUITS OF YOUR LABOR. While some crops may have already petered out, and others may have suffered from pests or diseases, your garden is almost certainly full of good eating right now. The most important garden task of September is to enjoy this feeling of bounty, to be grateful, to savor your fresh and healthy foods.

CONSIDER WINTER. Alas, September does not last forever, and within the next two months, much of the garden will be felled by frost and cold. Now is the time to put into place your winter plans: Where might the surplus root crops be stored? What can be transplanted into a cold frame to give fresh greens all winter? What should be canned, pickled, dehydrated, or frozen? A little attention now will yield delightful eating when the world is snowy and cold.

FINAL SOWINGS. You can still plant a number of seeds for harvest in late fall and early winter. Try spinach, arugula, tatsoi, bok choy, mustard greens, lettuce, and radishes. Got a cold frame or hoop house? Plant these crops mid- to late-September for fresh young greens all winter long.

By September, your season's worth of garden lessons has become obvious. Note what crops have done well, and do your best to figure out what went wrong with those that struggled (hint: many of this season's garden maladies had to do with the prolonged heat and drought, so inadequate irrigation may be to blame). Write it all down, and be prepared for next year. Becoming a proficient gardener takes several seasons of trial and error (and error, and error...). The failures can be a little rough, but when you sink your teeth into a fresh tomato, super sweet pepper, crunchy cuke, or heirloom melon, you know it's all worth it.