There’s still time to harvest fruits (and veggies) of gardening

We’ve had rain and some of my garden plants are greening up and looking perky. This is bad timing for them, because cool nights are coming.

I watch the night low temperatures on the weather forecasts and when they dip near or below 50, the tropical plants have to come in. There are a lot of tropical plants on my deck enjoying summer temperatures and light, but now they need to be prepared for a long indoor season. Mostly this preparation entails reducing pests with chemical treatments.

Growing a vegetable garden provides lots of vegetables, but we need fruit in our diets, too, so in addition to the three apple trees that were here when I moved in, I’ve planted an apricot, a pear and — most recently — a plum, a peach and a columnar apple. The apricot blooms each year in March, then a killing frost finishes anything that might have set.

This year, we had a long, cool spring without a late killing frost, and I harvested (yay) three apricots. The pear tree is several years old, but had not bloomed, so last fall I threatened it and did some serious pruning. It bloomed this spring and set many fruit.

In the future, I will know to thin the fruit more than I did. The July drought and too many fruit set meant the pears were small. Small or not, the pears were sliced and put in a dehydrator.

Drying fruit concentrates the sweetness and, because,the skin is left on, there is lots of fiber. Apples are wonderful dried. I cut off a little of the skin, then cut slices, which are put into a bowl of water plus lemon juice to prevent browning, then into the dehydrator. Depending on the thickness of the slices, and how chewy or crisp you like your dried fruit, it takes about a day.

Bulb planting time approaches, fall crocus (the source of saffron) ordered during the summer have arrived and already are planted. Bulbs are going to stay put a long time, so it’s worth the effort to prepare their beds. I excavate the soil, put in a layer of good potting soil augmented with bone meal, then the bulbs, a bit more good soil, then the soil I removed.

Then the planting is covered with a squirrel barrier. Even if they don’t eat the bulbs you just planted, their curiosity requires them to dig them up. When my old stove died, I saved the racks inside and also the old grill racks from the charcoal grill; even old screens work. Those stove racks are also great for traction when vehicles are stuck in the mud.

Second spinach is getting picked and eaten, second peas are starting to bloom. Everyone has tomatoes and, with the rain, they are blooming again. Some coriander reseeded and is coming up and dill surely will be.

The farmers market will be my destination for winter squash and cabbage, with the squash kept in the basement until needed. Enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Susan Carty is a local gardener and a professor emerita of biology at Heidelberg University.

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