Autumn Glory Turns to Winter Wonderland 2018

It’s been a long, sweet summer.  Beautiful weather (though of course no rain really, an official drought), great sunsets, lots of time to spend at home with John getting ready for our wedding festival.  The wedding day was absolutely perfect in every way, even more than we expected.  Unbelieveable fun!

Visit the backyard kitchen garden for more great guides.

I somehow still kept up the garden, surprisingly, and my two jobs in Ithaca.  Thank goodness for the long days up here; this summer I’d typically only come indoors after sunset, around 9:30, not leaving a whole lot of time for dinner, relaxing, and sleeping.  Luckily my body made the shift too and it all fell into place.  It was a grand ole time.

We didn’t have a camera all summer, which might be a blessing in disguise. Now that I’m packing in the photos before the first frost, everything looks amazing.  No scorching sun and 90-degree days with no rain for months.  Every plant is mature and getting regular rain and the nights are cool.  Things are happy.  I think I’ll go ahead and share our slice of paradise:

Sometimes I’m not super enthralled with the cosmos ‘picotee’ I’m growing, but I love how wispy and prolific they are.  They’re not super consistent with the colors and edging, but there are a few special flowers that catch my eye, perhaps enough to keep me planting them next year.  That’s right, I’m already planning next year’s garden!

The 40-degree nights are making the kale and baby bok choy look like they’ve been reborn.  Big stocky leaves almost untouched by cabbage moth caterpillars.  The slugs have been a little more well-fed, though.

Learn more about reclining garden chairs for 2018 here.

This variety of kale, Vates Dwarf Scotch Curled, was seeded in midspring.  I tried to plant a fall crop that didn’t germinate well for several reasons, but it seems like it doesn’t matter…these plants look great!  I had even planted some fall lettuce right up against the kale since I figured I’d be ripping the kale out a few weeks later as the lettuce sized up.  But then it just looked too good to end its life so soon.

Glad it’s still with us.  The lettuce doesn’t seem to mind being partially shaded by such a heavy feeder; in fact I know that the big-leafed kale gave the lettuce quite a relief during the hot days of summer when I transplanted it.

And a new addition to our homestead:

Ducks!

We have two ducks, a lady on the left here (a Magpie and a phenomenal layer), and the drake on the right is a Cauyga mix, an adventurous but sweet guy who already flew over the fence and across the street.  We clipped one of his wings to ensure he wouldn’t stray too far from his lady.  They are total BFFs.

They go everywhere together.  They seem to enjoy hunting for slugs with their bills right next to each other…the kind of behavior a chicken would get pecked in the face for.

But ducks are not chickens.  Oh no.  We thought we could just slide them on into the chicken coop one night with the chickens, and they would all become one happy extended poultry family.  For three mornings we woke up to blood-curdling chicken screams at the break of dawn, only to come outside and see the alpha chicken chasing Magpie around the coop while she was attempting to lay her morning egg.  Terrorism.  We immediately built them a sweet little duck hut in a ladder in another section of the yard, complete with his and hers swimming pools.

The chickens and the ducks still don’t love each other, but they do often wander around the yard 20 feet away from each other.  Thankfully the drama has subsided.  I think the chickens are taking a “know your enemy” approach.

Another new addition to our homestead is our wood-fired sauna, a.k.a. our wedding gift.  This is by far the best wedding gift, better than a bunch of “stuff” that would lie around and break.  And the evening saunas are complete luxury.

Oh yes, and those are the rest of the leeks that we’ll be eating this fall and winter.  We harvested a ton for the wedding that we planted in our generous neighbor’s field…so tasty!  We will forever be addicted to leeks.  They are one of the most versatile members of the onion family, and so hardy.  And these are the same ones we’ve nurtured since January!  Pretty much members of the family.

And that brings us to the greenhouse, who we all met this spring as the Gigantic Leek Transplant Producer.  It has spent the summer in full tomato production. We’ve got big beefs and sungolds looking super healthy.  John made some hardware cloth screen doors to keep the indoor temperature down and the chicks at bay.

And the flowers!  Who said that spring is the season of bloom?  It’s autumn-heavy here in our backyard, with all sorts of annuals holding it down.  Nicotiana sylvestris self-seeds here, and I really have a hard time weeding it out since it looks and smells so nice!

I think you can smell them from here:

And the zinnias.  True workhorses of late summer.  I love this heirloom green one, it’s such a weirdo in the garden, and blends real nicely with other pastels.

I’ve grown Benary’s giant purple zinnias for a few years, and just this year I thought they looked a little too hot-colored in my pastel-ish garden.  Autumn is teaching me otherwise, though.  They do look great in a fall garden.

And the morning glories!  A newfound obsession.  Heavenly blue really outdid itself this year.  The highlight of a summer morning is counting these puppies.  The record number of simultaneous blooms on this one vine was 46!

I must mention the roses, too, since they are also beautiful and prolific!  One rose blossom is a little more sacred than a morning glory, and really stops you in your tracks when you spot it.  Thanks for reblooming, Pearlie Mae!

And this is Ilse Krohn Superior, who’s about to give us a fall finale:

All in all our prettiest garden yet.

I’ve been thinking how to make it even more beautiful and bountiful next year.  I’m going to expand my zinnia color spectrum, and add some gomprena, and stick with the vines.  As far as food goes, we got maybe 20 pounds of potatoes (all the best kind too: Rose Finn Apple fingerlings!), we’re swimming in beans (Maxibel filet beans), and we have all the carrots, kale, and lettuce we want right here for the harvest.  It’s been a wonderful growing season, aside from the garlic debacle of course.   Wow, it’s such a good year I almost forgot about the crop failures!  Now that’s saying something.

Thanks for reading!

Darren Turpin

Gardener at Backyard Kitchen Garden
A passionate gardener with a speciality in growing fruit and vegetables on a budget!

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About Darren Turpin

A passionate gardener with a speciality in growing fruit and vegetables on a budget!
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