Some grown, some sown

Posted 9/28/22

Fall is normally associated with harvesting and cleaning up and getting the land ready for next year.

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Some grown, some sown


Fall is normally associated with harvesting and cleaning up and getting the land ready for next year. 

I’ve never really had any preconceptions about successful fall planting for a same-year yield. That is, I never really credited our northern area as having a long enough growing season to squeeze a fall crop in. Sure, I’ve planted garlic in the fall a couple of years in a row with great success, but that isn’t harvested until June the following year; it’s meant to winter over. 

What I’m talking about is taking a completely new seed or plant and sowing it late in the season, expecting something to grow prior to the snow flying. 

If you’ve been reading my columns, you might recall that there was a patch of garden space that my father-in-law had covered in plastic mulch, which we laid down with our new machine. Well, after a successful corn crop was mowed down, and several hearty zucchini and summer squash plants grew, we decided to plant a fall crop of cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. 

Granted, these were not direct-sown as seed, but were started in our basement on heat mats in starter soil, with a special nutrient mix. For the most part, they were well over a month old when we decided to transplant them into the ground this past weekend, hoping to see them through to fruit. 

As luck would have it, the weather turned off the heat in a big hurry. We’ll see what happens, and learn something.

For the record, I’m still not sure if we will get anything from these plants, but nothing sown is nothing grown.

In the same weekend, we somehow found some extra time and dug up this year’s potato crop. What was even better, though, was that now that the tractor is fixed up, we finally got to use it for some farm work this year. We hooked onto my wife’s father’s single-row, self-driven potato digger and started in. 

With a little juggling of gears and steering, while cranking around in the seat, making sure the machine didn’t get jammed up, we had ourselves a healthy crop. 

The whole family even got involved when my wife’s dad came to help me fine-tune my passes and my mother came by to help pick up potatoes and put them in the back of the lawn tractor. Even my oldest son was there, picking up his share of spuds, contributing to the labor force.

It was a change of pace for me in particular, as I’ve always been used to the groundwork following the tractor, and not being the operator for the bulk of the job. I guess that’s how the hierarchy changes when you own the tractor, or maybe I’m just getting older. The implications are too reminiscent of a midlife crisis, so I suppose I won’t overthink it, especially when I’m just on the eve of completing my third decade.

Speaking of time racking up and fall planting, with our anniversary coming up, that means it’s time to plant the garlic once again. I’ve come to refer to it as our labor of love. 

This year, we’ll be moving the garlic to a new patch of ground, so it will be interesting to see how that affects the growth. But on the other hand, it means we get to replenish the old ground with new cover crops and fresh plants that use the soil biology differently next year. 

That’s one job for which I like being behind the tractor. I’m riding in the low-sitting seats of the transplanter, with my wife riding to my left, boxes of garlic cloves on our laps, ready to sow as we crawl along. 

The way out here, sometimes the cycles of our work overlap; jobs end as others begin. In everything, we always try to keep moving and learning, despite the risk of failure, always more or less present, no matter the level of experience. Perhaps we’ll have fresh fodder for making sauerkraut this winter. Perhaps this little experiment will fail and I’ll take another few years to figure out this fall-planting thing. Perhaps even by the time my sons are old enough to learn these skills, I’ll have figured it out, so they’ll get it right the first time. 

All speculation aside, I’m sure I’ll still be learning new things about all this long into my sunset years. That is the great reward of the way out here—there is always something else to learn.

fall, farming, harvesting, sowing, soil


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