Approaching the Autumnal Equinox

The Autumnal Equinox is next Thursday, September 22. The middle of the month was Sept. 15. Therefore, it is time for fall planting of cool season crops in southern California. It is also time to harvest fall crops.

Oh look, more blackberries. A crop that usually ripens in July, but… global weirding. No, I didn’t weigh this harvest either. I washed them and gulped them down.

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The apples are getting ripe and the night critters are helping themselves to my crop. This is the first year that my semi-dwarf Gala apple tree has produced fruit. But the rats or possums got to these two apples before I did.

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The Asian pears are ripening as well. Some are the size of large marbles and fall off the tree. The rats and possums are devouring the rest. They seem to choose the biggest ones to eat.

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I managed to harvest just barely enough Asian pears for a nice pear tart for the humans of the household.

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Meanwhile, the Garden Box of Endless Fascination is producing green beans! These are Contender bush beans, one of my favorite varieties.

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I managed to get a photo of the surprise acorn squash that is growing in the garden box. It is a surprise because the plant sprouted from a seed in my compost.

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My little pumpkins are slowing their growth. They are now at 13 inches and 10 inches in circumference (not diameter) and just beginning to turn from dark green to… orange, I hope. It looks like they are pie pumpkins, but it will take two of these little guys to make a pie. Good thing there are two of them!

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Other mystery vines are producing their first pumpkins, but I don’t know if there is enough time left in the summer season for them to ripen. We shall see. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. This little guy is just a couple of days old.

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The pumpkin below is what they look like on the day the flower opens. It takes a couple of days to see if the female bud has set fruit.

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The mystery squash is looking more like a butternut than a cushaw at this point. I see tan just barely beginning to appear on it.

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This is my entire butternut harvest from my back garden bed–another volunteer from the compost bin. It weighs just one pound, a tiny little guy.dsc_3418

But I was going to talk about fall planting, not fall harvests. Some people plan their gardens carefully, selecting seed varieties from multiple catalogs and mapping out what is going to go where. My garden is more of a serendipitous happening, hippie style. Feeling in the mood for fall planting, I went to Home Depot and Armstrong Garden Center and bought the following seed packets. My choice, therefore, was limited to what they had in stock.

I got some Toy Choy (baby bok choy), big bok choy, mustard spinach (aka Komasuna, a delightful Asian green), Mammoth Melting Sugar snow peas, and Snowbird snow peas, which is a new variety for me. Neither store had sugar snap peas, unless Oregon Sugar Pod II are snap peas. (I’m old, I forget stuff.)

I got two varieties of parsnips, All American and Turga. I found some seeds for dwarf blue kale and Chioggia beets. All of these are heirlooms, which means that I could save seeds from them if I wanted to. You can’t do that with hybrids because they don’t breed true. Unless, of course, you don’t mind getting something strange from the saved seeds. Remember, you are listening to a gardener who lets completely unknown squash seeds from a compost bin grow in her limited garden space.

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I also bought some transplants because I like instant gardens. But first, one needs to clean up the beds and prepare the soil for planting. So much for instant.

Below is the bed cleared of old foliage. Only an overgrown clump of chives and a miserable bell pepper remained. I will let the bell pepper overwnter and hope it produces a pepper or two next summer. Oh, and I found four tiny garlic sprouts that I planted in the spring from cloves, knowing full well that they need to be planted in the fall. No surprise, the little garlic plants languished.

I removed the soaker hose, dug the bed up, added Sure Start organic fertilizer, hoed that in, and then topped the bed with Miracle Gro Moisture Control fertilizer. OK, so my garden isn’t totally organic. I don’t use pesticides, and I do add a lot of organic amendments to the beds. Usually I would have added my homemade compost, but my husband is the one with the good knees. He can bend down and get it out of the composter, but he was out of town.

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The next morning, this is what my newly planted bed looked like. I strung the bird netting over it after dark (which is when I finished planting), because if the house sparrows and house finches get to the lettuce, it will be gone in a day.

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I divided the big clump of chives into several smaller clumps. I am told that we are supposed to divide the clumps in half every year, but I spread those chives out a lot farther than that. Then I planted nine hybrid cauliflower. What kind of hybrid? Who knows. That is all the label said. And why nine of them? Because it was a 9-pack, not a 6-pack. I don’t think we need nine cauliflowers, but the heads that I grow are usually small, so I think it will be OK.

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I also planted nine Lacinato kale. I don’t need nine kale plants. Oh well, it is what it is.

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The plant below was a surprise. I have never seen purple mizuna in the store before. I have never grown it or eaten it, just the green mizuna, which I really like. It is great in salads, stir-frys and soups. I hope this red variety is as good as the green one.

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I planted two six-packs of lettuce, Red Oakleaf and Red Sails, two of my favorite varieties. The poor little plants below are suffering from transplant shock, but will be fine by tomorrow. I will be planting Black-seeded Simpson and Deer Tongue lettuce in another bed from seed that I saved.

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In case you are wondering why I have lettuce growing in a tomato cage, the cage is merely to hold up the anti-bird netting.

And so my battle continues in my effort to grow food while combatting birds, squirrels, rats, possums, raccoons, disease, drought, insects and random acts of nature due to global weirding.

 

About Lou Murray, Ph.D.

I'm a professional writer/photographer, avid gardener, and active environmentalist living in southern California. I am retired from writing a weekly newspaper column on environmental topics in the Huntington Beach Independent, but I am still teaching at the Orange County Conservation Corps. This blog chronicles my efforts to live a green life growing as much food as possible for my husband and myself on a 4,500 sq ft yard that is covered mainly by house, garage, driveway, and sidewalks.
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4 Responses to Approaching the Autumnal Equinox

  1. Mary Mueller says:

    WOW!!! Great Job!

  2. Thanks, Mary. My back is really feeling all of that work I did yesterday.

  3. Norma Chang says:

    You sure get quite a lot of harvest in the space you have. We had an untimely freeze early in the year that zapped all my Asian pear flowers no pears this year not even one.

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