Monday, September 22, 2008

Goodbye summer....

Lola and I just said goodbye to my folks, who came to visit over the weekend, and goodbye to summer on this Autumnal Equinox. Fall hasn't wasted any time getting here. On Saturday, we were sitting in the living room with the front door open when a sudden gust of wind blew clouds of yellow leaves all over the block. We hadn't even noticed they had turned. Mom and Dad came to keep us company during the first weekend of cycle 4 (of 6). Today, they returned to Clinton with a half-bushel of another fall staple--green chile--in the cooler we had borrowed from them during a visit to Kansas. We used it to transport frozen cherries back to Colorado. Now I guess we have to buy a cooler! No more mooching off the parents...

The summer and spring 2008 were strikingly cool and dry here, and the extreme weather has had drastic effects. For example, a friend of ours who is an environmental scientist says that ladybugs are rare this year, and that the aphid/ladybug interaction that usually happens on wild plants is quite muted. Other tiny predators have entered the ladybugs' niche.

For us, one of the major effects has been on tomatoes. We didn't do much with the garden last year, because the discovery of Jerry's Kids came right at a time when stuff needed to be planted. This year, I vowed we would have tomatoes and put muscle and care behind the vow. A friend who raises heirloom yellow tomatoes gave us seed, and I raised a bunch of little plants from seed and planted them back by the lilac bush. As seedlings, these tomatoes grew slowly, so I broke down and bought some cherry tomato plants from the garden store and planted them where I hoped they wouldn't cross-pollinate with the heirlooms (right--Mike-n-Ronda, note Suzie's new garage in the background). Then, something unexpected happened. In the cold frame where we had lettuce and spinach, volunteer tomatoes that I didn't pull up grew like gangbusters. I swear I did nothing to help these plants except allow them to grow and give them something to climb on when they got big enough. They appear to have come up from the compost I spread in the cold frame this past March, and they are likely to out-produce the plants I actually worked to create (below left).

I say "likely" here, because most of the tomatoes are still green. Gardeners who know this area say that everything is about three weeks behind. It won't be long before we make a panicked run on our poor tomato plants, cutting the green fruit down and letting it ripen in paper bags on the windowsill. I'll try to photograph the haul when this happens. According to the Weather Channel, we will have at least 10 days of temperatures between 40 and 80 degrees. Let's hope they're right and that frost is slow in coming!

In the meantime, we have spinach and lettuce growing under the makeshift cover I made for the cold frame out of an old box spring and some plastic. I guess Lola's "ReadyMade" magazines rubbed off on me.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a little diaappointed that you didn't manage to work some refrence to the contribution Kansas rabbits have made to your future gardening effots into your discussion


September 23, 2008 8:34 AM  
Blogger Pete said...

Dad, you're right. Kansas rabbits have given generously of themselves toward our gardening efforts. Although those contributions are now (and were always) behind them, we here in Colorado deeply appreciate the rabbits and the people who helped get their contribution to Colorado in a pair of surprisingly odorless five-gallon buckets.

September 23, 2008 1:29 PM  

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