Summer’s winding down, and so is my garden quest. Despite the fact that warm weather in central NC extends well into October, we don’t seem to have too much left to do with our garden this year. While we enjoy the late summer gardening rewards, we’re already planning next year’s epic gardening adventure.
A few green tomatoes linger on the vine. I’ll still have basil and parsley to enjoy with them when they ripen, and I can still sip a mojito or a glass of mint water in the evening. We also have a whole bunch of peppers coming in.
I’m finding them too hot to handle. Literally.
Hot Stuff, Baby
I’m not quite sure why Jon picked two varieties of hot peppers for our container garden, but we planted both jalapeno and cayenne peppers this year. I have no idea what to do with them. While I like spicy food, I find spicy foods no longer like me. Jon made that discovery years ago.
Oh, and my seven-year-old? Peppermint is too spicy, much less hot peppers.
Nevertheless, I diced up a jalapeno the other day to add to tacos. A tiny bit of the pepper made a nice addition to the leftover steak and squash. I noticed, though, that my fingers burned for hours after I’d cut it up.
Handling the plethora of peppers will take some imagination and a pair of gloves.
Jon has already claimed the bell peppers for his rice and beans, though. We’re just waiting for them to get to reach gold or orange status instead of green.
Last month, we went on vacation for a week and came home to a garden apocalypse. Without regular watering, our zucchini and cucumber plants shriveled up and (at least I thought) died.
Only the zucchini plants had really kicked the bucket. When I picked up the brown leaves one day, I noticed the stems had rotted and broken. I cleaned the dead zucchini plants out of their container and tossed them into the compost bin. I noticed, though, that the cucumber plants seemed in better shape and left them alone to see what would happen.
That was a good decision. They’ve grown back, probably healthier than they were before. While they haven’t produced more fruit, I have a dozen blossoms on the vines.
I’ve always liked cucumbers better than zucchini anyway. If there could be only one, better to be the cucumber. (Especially since we got 7-8 zucchini already but no viable cucumbers).
A Roll of the Dice
Jon noticed an onion and a couple of potatoes that had sprouted in the pantry. Being the frugal guy he is and knowing we had a spare container, he planted them.
He did this several years ago with some potatoes. We got a bunch of gravel-sized potatoes out of it.
Unfortunately, he chose to plant them in THAT container…the one that didn’t drain properly and where the soil always looked swampy. You’d think we were trying to grow mosquitoes instead of plants.
A week or so later, he gave up on the Container of Swampy Death and grabbed the Spade of Relocation. The onion and potatoes took refuge in the big pot with the cucumber plants.
The onion took on too many damage points and didn’t make it. The potatoes? Too early to tell. At the moment, they seem caught under a Stasis Spell, but there’s always the chance for their Resurrection to take hold if we can just roll an 18 or better.
In other words, I have no idea what the potatoes are doing. We might get nothing or we might get potatoes. Worst case, it’s an interesting, cost-free experiment for Jon and Little Bit. And if it works out? Hashed Browns.
More Thoughts on the Future
The only other thing we’re growing is carrots. I picked and ate a scrawny one the other day. It tasted fine, but the difference between a carrot from my garden and one from the grocery store wasn’t nearly as impactful as the difference in garden vs store tomatoes or garden vs store zucchini.
Which brings me back to next year’s garden. Last month, I debated between sticking with container gardening or setting up a raised bed. Now, I realize that I need to put as much thought into what we’ll grow as how we’ll grow it.
Everything we planted this year, with the exception of the basil, was a big experiment. We just picked out seeds at the dollar store, rolling our gardening dice to see what came up. It’s hardly surprising that our results have been a bit random.
Unlike seasoned gardeners, we didn’t necessarily optimize our limited container space. Two tomato plants weren’t nearly enough, particularly compared to 3 pots of hot peppers. I still end up buying tomatoes every week.
So where would we get the biggest bang for our buck? Just what do we buy in the peak of gardening season?
A Peek at Our Produce List
We buy a ton of fruit, but I can’t easily replace that with a container garden. Watermelon might be a possibility, especially if we set up a raised bed, but it takes up a lot of space. After last year, though, I know that any blueberry bushes or apple trees will need to be planted in the yard and protected from the deer.
Fruit trees and bushes have much larger upfront costs, though. If we can get trees or bushes to thrive, we can save a lot of money for a long time. If not, we’ve spent a lot more than we do with 25 cent seed packs.
I like growing fresh herbs. They grow well in containers, add tons of flavor to our dishes, and tend to cost a fair amount in the grocery store. Basil, parsley, and mint stay on the program, but we could use some cilantro for tacos and guacamole.
As for veggies, zucchini grew well before we let it shrivel. I haven’t bought any all summer, but I have bought a fair amount of yellow squash. I buy cucumbers to go with our tomatoes, green beans almost weekly, and okra whenever it looks fresh.
Little Bit finally eats lettuce, so more salads are back on our menu.
Other than that, we buy lots of carrots, onions, and potatoes. They don’t cost a lot, though. Neither does sweet corn in the summer months. Mushrooms cost more, but that seems beyond the scope of my wannabe gardener comfort zone.
So far, the only things I’m absolutely certain I’ll be growing again are herbs, tomatoes, and cucumbers. And bell peppers, because even if we only get 3 yellow peppers, we’ve saved some money.
Those seem like they’ll do well whether I stick to container gardening or open up a raised bed.
If I make the raised bed, zucchini, yellow squash, and watermelon seem like good bets, with cucumbers moving into the bed.
As for green beans, okra, and leafy greens, I need to do more research. How hard are they to grow in our area, and how much room do they need?
I have more thinking to do before I make my gardening plans for the fall. This wannabe gardener can’t wait to see what rewards she can earn from this quest.
What do you grow and why? What can I do with all those hot peppers? What’s the best way to handle hot peppers? Do you replant sprouting root vegetables from your cupboard? And most importantly, do you ever think of your life in RPG terms?
*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich.*