The Mid-Summer Pause

Apparently it’s quite common on the West Coast to get a few days of cooler, rainy weather in the middle of our long hot drought of a summer.  We’re going on day 4 of cooler temps and drizzle in the air here on the homestead, and I’m finding it very strange.

On the one hand, the garden needs the deep drink.  Many plants (like the weeds!) love this little top-up, and I have now learned that tomatoes don’t need sunlight to ripen, so I’m reassured that there will be little lasting impact there.  On the other hand, I’ve found myself instantly adjusting back to fall/spring weather, as if the 6 weeks of summer we’ve had are all we’re getting, and it’s time to start hibernating more and cleaning up the garden.  The fall and winter garden that felt absurd to plant a few weeks ago now feels exactly fitting.

I’ve been struck, though, by the realization that what I have always thought of as summer crops–tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers–are, on the cold wet coast, really a blitz at the very end of the summer.  Those crops ripen here toward the end of August, and in a good year, we keep picking them through September and sometimes even into October.  My sense of when summer even takes place is changing!

Here are some snaps of the “summer” crops–everything was planted late because of the super-cold June, so hopefully there’s enough warm weather left to get a good harvest.

Baby zukes!
Siletz tomatoes are LOADED...
The Roma Jungle--there are bush beans in there. So much for "interplanting"!
The main potato crop
The first pie pumpkin flower

These last few days have felt like a real break.  A bit of a vacation from summer, if you will.  There’s nothing major to harvest at the moment, but there are plenty of salad greens, chard, beets, and carrots happy in the garden until we need them.  So there’s certainly enough to eat (next year I will plant some spring brassicas, cause that’s what everyone else is eating right now!).  The tomatoes are ripening slowly, so there are a few to snack on each day (still the yellow cherries), but the real overflowing tomato bounty hasn’t hit yet.

So instead of digging in the garden, I’ve been reflecting, reading, and planning for next year.  The garden that we’ve inherited is now 10 years old, and there are some very overgrown perennial beds that look like weed-infested jungles.  Trellis structures that were adequate when vines and climbers were small are now buckling under thick gnarled trunks.  And layouts and plantings that made sense to previous owners are not working for us–perhaps because we’re trying to grow so much food.  At this point in the growing season, I’m looking for good access and easy maintenance, which I don’t have in many sections.

Does this look like a pathway?

I’m taking measurements and drawing pictures, and getting ready for a big fall dig.  Maybe when October rolls around and we’re ready to think about something other than canning, it will be nice to have some plans ready to go.  Stay tuned!

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