The End of a Season

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

This is the hardest part about gardening for many gardeners. I am no different. There comes a time in every garden where the tomato and vegetable plants that you have treated with loving care for months must be ripped out. The season is done, over, kaput. Whatever. I have a hard time admitting as much. In fact, I still haven't ripped everything out yet. Here it is -- almost January 1st, 2009 -- and I have rotting tomato plants still standing in beds in the backyard.

Mud is the problem here. The culprit. I have yet to put in an appropriate ground cover such as bark or decorative rock so I can reach said planter boxes without sinking in the muck that is Natomas clay. You think it's funny? Step into that backyard, and that pair of shoes is instantly ruined. They officially become "backyard shoes" -- never to be worn anywhere again except the backyard. And that's only if you can dig them out of the muck, which is no easy task if you hit a soft spot. And Lord knows, I've hit them.

But, back to the subject. There comes a time when everything has to come out. You pick the last vine-ripened tomato. You enjoy that last salad produced by the backyard garden. That last heirloom tomato martini. That's it. No more for the year. And it's kind of hard to take -- at least for me. I love my summer garden.

The end, unfortunately, came rather early for us. I may be posting about the end now -- in late December -- but everything really wrapped up in mid-to-late October. That windstorm in late September was a telling sign. That really changed everything. That one-day blustery wind from the north ripped apart most of my PVC tomato cages, tore fruit off the vine and generally made a gigantic wreck of the garden.

Three days of rain then followed that wind. And although the nice weather returned somewhat following that rain, the damage had been done. Blossom End Rot set in with a vengance. BER took at least 50% of the remaining crop in some plants -- less in others and completely took over the three Roma varieties. BER is a curse. It just happens, despite the best advice you get from long-time gardeners. But the wind and rain really wrecked what I had hoped would be a late-summer, early fall kind of crop. Venus and I managed to salvage some of it, but half the crop was either on the ground -- stricken with BER or split wide open from the heavy rainfall. Worse yet, the bugs were starting to eat away at many of the tomatoes that had split open.

That wasn't the only problem. The weather was also changing in a strange sort of way. It was starting to get very cold at night -- much colder than usual for September and October. The mornings were cool. There was dew and frost on the ground. That's normal for late fall and winter in the Sacramento Valley, but September? That also didn't help. The tomatoes that were saved during that final harvest were not very good. In fact, for some, it was like I was eating store bought BLAND.

At that point I knew "the jig was up." The 2008 summer garden was all done. Time to pull it all out. And, as I mentioned earlier, that job is half-done. I will complete it at some point this week.

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