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The Urban Gardener: Time To Harvest, Time To Plan

Saturday, September 20, 2014


Herbs + tomatoes: baskets of bounty of late September mark the urban garden.

We just don’t accept shorter and cooler days as hindrances in the garden. The near narcotic awakening of bumblebees puzzles me and I wonder if they started the day in those pollen filled outfits or had slept in them, their bed a marvel of purple asters. For my fellow urban gardeners, there are surprisingly abundant free resources throughout the year. I enjoy the floral colors, the nutritious pears and raspberries I’m still picking and a mountain of kale all easy to grow and grown by picking up brown bags of leaves and through either shredding, the best method, or dig one spade full deep and turn under a thick clump of leaves or the least effort and depending upon the site, easiest, method of simply piling leaves up. Either way now is a great time to harvest the garden and prepare the soil for winter’s important contribution to the garden.

Gardens succeed on so many levels. I can much of my tomato crop and many herbs right up until this week. Into each flavorful jar is packed a stewed mixture of roughly chopped heirloom tomatoes, such as Brandywine and Black Krin, a thick savory tomato. I add lots of herbs from the kitchen plot, chives, leeks, and flat-leaved Italian parsley. Plant a culinary parcel. Chives, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, leeks, and many others are simplicity itself to grow and ask only for sunshine, moderately fertile soil, and a gentle hand that snips the ends of plants for harvest. Perhaps the details among the garden’s plants make the difference when harvesting fruits and vegetables for flavoring our homemade dishes. The steamy canning kitchen works a magical transformation that captures the sunshine of summer and packs it into quart canning jars. Don’t accept slacker fears of actual labor in life as anything more complex as lazy.

I learned to can a couple years ago and use the method to preserve a wide variety of foods, some commonplace such as marinara sauces, enormous twin pots steaming and savory fragrant and others less apparent, such as many bean relishes that allowed preservation and conquers the traditional bias of frozen to canned.

Going back and forth from the kitchen is a slow process. I save the “Mortgage Lifter” tomatoes for the last jar, the one that needs topping off. I grow Mortgage lifter in a huge four legged planter that I can barely look up into. The planter sustains a good crop of tomatoes, nasturtiums, and a few Four O’Clocks. Tall planters in the garden offer subtle advantages: no back strain to plant and water.

Harvest is from a gardener’s friend, the four foot ladder. Tall planters also reduce or with the right thickness of mulch, discourage all but the most hale and hearty weeds. Tall planters are important partners in the garden and taller or shorter, but custom matched to the most frequent user.

I start preparing next year’s soil on a near daily routine of snipping into small pieces the extra growth everywhere. I let it all fall where it may. I never have bare soil in the garden and virtually all that is removed from the garden is returned to it.

The fragrant garden is remembered when all other details lose meaning. I grow fragrant plants and you must too. It’s important for strongly scented plants to enter the garden. Insects are sensitive to the fragrances of plants and will find themselves avoiding everything in the most strongly worded sections. I like to cut back the thick and long stemmed beebalms, wormwood, lemon balm, chamomile, rose geranium, and whatever else is in bloom and quickly tie them onto a rope slung high in the garage rafters. This ancient method works beautifully. Each year I save so many different fragrant plants that potpourri begs for a better way to describe our achievement. My annual Christmas gift is a potpourri from my garden.

Soon, composting takes on greater purpose. Fewer plants will remain to harvest . Stakes, wires, wooden trellis will all be down. A thick mulch will ultimately snug all in for the deep rooted cold.

Leonard Moorehead is a life-long gardener. He practices organic-bio/dynamic gardening techniques in a side lot surrounded by city neighborhoods in Providence RI. His adventures in composting, wood chips, manure, seaweed, hay and enormous amounts of leaves are minor distractions to the joy of cultivating the soil with flowers, herbs, vegetables, berries, and dwarf fruit trees.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on September 28, 2013.


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