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Last veggies of fall

My trips to the farmers market in Hartselle were short-lived this past summer when a bountiful crop of tomatoes played out earlier than usual and their fall replacements failed to meet even my family’s needs. 

An unexpected surgery kept me away from the garden in June and resulted in the early season loss of squash, cucumbers, field peas and pepper plantings. I simply had to give up on them after grass and weeds took over.  

Not to be outdone, I planted vegetable crops in early July, hoping they would produce before cold weather. 

Weather conditions were favorable, and they have produced bountifully with the use of insecticides and a minimum of cultivation. We have harvested enough squash, green beans, okra and field peas to feed our family and fill our freezer. Had we doubled or tripled the size of the plantings, we could have stayed active selling at the market. 

A new addition to our garden is a 100-foot row of mixed greens and curly mustard, which I planted on Labor Day. The cool weather of late has given them a burst of growth and made them ripe for a first picking. They’ll make a tasty fall addition to the dinner table, paired with a slice of tender onion and a piece of cornbread. They’ll taste even better when picked and cooked after the first heavy frost. 

With planting, cultivating and harvesting the garden a done deal, it’s time for the cleanup.  

I’m taking advantage of cool, rain-free days to remove weeds, dead plants and wood framing from the garden space and replace them with decomposed leaves from the prior winter. This material will not only enrich the soil but also help it conserve moisture and make it more pliable. 

An early winter project on my “to-do” list is the assembly of a small greenhouse, which was given to me by my granddaughters as a Christmas gift last year. My plan is to use it to store summerhouse plants and grow tomato and other vegetable seedlings from seeds planted well ahead of the normal outdoor growing season.  

This method is used by my son, Clifton B. Knight, who lives in Decatur, and other local vegetable growers who are able to reach the market with locallygrown vegetables to sell in early spring.