The Last Summer Harvest

Even though the growing season is dying down, there’s still a lot happening in the Fortress Garden.

by Cyn Cady

Yes, I know. In some areas of the country, it’s still feels like summer: Temperatures have been in the high 80s, and capital-T They have not yet forced us to turn back the clock (which basically ruins my whole life every year). But I can tell that the Fortress Garden is ready to yield the last of the summer harvest and make way for fall plantings … mostly.

There are loads of green tomatoes that I don’t expect to ripen. Will they end their lives as pickles? The legendary fried green tomatoes? Green tomato chutney? The possibilities are almost endless, if you ask the interwebs. I’m still getting lots of green beans, but the peppers and eggplants are pretty much done.

I'm harvesting the last of the tomatoes and pulling the plants out of the garden.
Cyn Cady

But then there’s that one little spaghetti squash I’m still rooting for, and some lettuces still linger, despite the heat. The basil is still going strong (mainly because I am diligently pinching off the flowers), and there are even a few blueberries left—a bit dry but great in salads!

My beloved kale is enjoying a resurgence, and I expect it will continue to produce through the winter. The artichokes are starting to sprout again, a few forgotten garlic cloves appear to be putting up new shoots, and the strawberries are pumping out their fall product.

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I just harvested the last of my green beans.
Cyn Cady

Watching the wax and wane of the Fortress Garden reminds me of how cyclical things truly are. Soon I will be checking to see if the plug spawn I installed this spring into fresh-cut oak logs are producing the shiitake and lion’s mane mushrooms I have been dreaming of.

So, instead of having to close up shop in the garden, I’m ramping up for the next phase. Sure, I’ll have to sacrifice a few still-producing plants to make room for the new crew, but the promise of the new crop makes it all OK. It also gives me the opportunity to review what worked and what didn’t, and make notes for next spring—making sure I rotate crops, adjust planting spaces and add compost material to all the boxes.

The fall garden is less labor intensive, but there’s always something to do: spread new mulch to keep weeds down on the paths, trim back the blackberry and raspberry bushes, and hack out that big dead rosemary bush in the corner. Not glamorous, but it will keep me off the couch. I love my couch, but a little goes a long way.

It will happen suddenly and soon: One day, it’s blistering hot and I’m in shorts and a tank top, installing seeds, and the next, that bite is in the air, the light shifts, and it’s officially and undeniably fall. We’ll be lugging firewood onto the porch, making stew, taking night walks in the chill air, and eating way too many little itty bitty chocolate bars stolen from the kids post-Halloween.

I love the fall, even though I’m still not happy about the whole “fall back” thing, but I’m considering starting a small revolution around that. Maybe next year.

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