Last updated: October 30, 2017
“About Aug. 15th the grasshoppers came and destroyed everything
left in the gardens eating even the onion tops. All the corn
and vegetables in this county and several counties east were
destroyed by the swarms of grasshoppers….”
- Assistant Surgeon S. G. Cowdrey, August 1874
After the challenging weather of summer, the Fall weather has been (mostly!) pleasant and good for gardening. In late September and October, we were picking cucumbers and the tomato plants were vigorously producing tomatoes. When we cleared the garden in mid-October there were two cucumbers and numerous Yellow Pear tomatoes to be picked. It was a warm weekend and hard for a gardener to pull up the flourish tomato plants! However, it was possibly Jan's last visit to the garden in 2017, so the garden had to be cleared. Now our garden is ready to "rest" through winter.
In some ways 2017 was a challenging year for the garden. In late August/early September when we have usually been picking many tomatoes, our plants were not actively growing and looked finished for the year. When the garden was cleared in mid-October, the plants were actively growing with many immature tomatoes. Our second crop of beans, which we expected to flourish, vanished from the garden. (The landscaping work around the fort had removed some of the summer vegetation and our garden became a resource for hungry rabbits. Unfortunately, the "bunny fence" which keeps rabbits out of the garden in spring had already been taken down as we were not expecting a SUMMER rabbit invasion!)
So, now it is time to think about which vegetables did well and should be grown next summer, how to improve the garden in 2018 based on our experience this year, and to hope the growing season in 2018 will be less challenging. (Perhaps we should also hope the local rabbits will find the new landscaping vegetation to their taste…and stay out of our summer garden!)
Early each year we search the seed catalogs for the coming growing season and make every effort to find varieties that could have been grown by the original gardeners at the fort. If we are fortunate we read in the catalog description words such as "grown by Thomas Jefferson". Often the task is not that simple!
Some catalogs only state the seed is "heirloom" with no information as to when the variety was first commercially available.1 Or, the description may indicate the variety was grown in Europe before the 1850's (but doesn’t indicate when it was available in America). Names have changed over time and while we have access to 19th century seed catalogs and gardening books, it is hard to determine—for example—if the Yellow Turnip-Rooted or Yellow Castle Laudry beets recommended by Fearing Burr Jr. in 1863 are the same as Golden Beet offered in a 21st seed catalog.
With the Holiday Season in view, it is time for gardens—and their gardeners—to take a well-earned rest!