The Ladies' Tea Guild

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Gardening operations for September 1858

Grandma's Graphics.

This is from one of the many long-winded instruction books available on Google Books: Inquire Within For Anything You Want To Know, from 1858.

1038. SEPTEMBER.—Flowers of the month.—Clematis, or traveller’s joy, arbutus, and meadow saffron.
1039. Gardening Operations.—Plant crocuses, scaly bulbs, and evergreen shrubs.  Propagate by layers and cuttings of all herbaceous plants, currant, gooseberry, and other fruit trees.  Plant out seedling pinks.  Sow onions for spring plantation, carrots, spinach, and Spanish radishes in warm spots.  Earth up celery.  House potatoes and edible bulbs.  Gather pickling cucumbers.  Make tulip and mushroom beds.

Yerba Buena, another herb that I killed!
I'm not sure how much of this information is applicable to California gardens, but I'm currently working on these things in my little bit of earth in the back yard:

  • trying to get more (and larger) tomatoes from my 10 tomato plants, which I had hoped would have buried me in delicious tomatoes by this time of the year, but it was not to be.  Despite additions of Miracle Grow in the water, and carefully digging and loosening the soil prior to planting, I have gotten maybe a dozen small tomatoes -- ranging in size from 1 to 3 inches in diameter -- but to be fair, 4 plants are cherry tomatoes.  I think the soil is just too heavy, and even though I dug it up well this year, and amended and loosened it really well last year (well, actually, my housemate's boyfriend did it for me), the tomatoes are just not what they should be.  I have also been careful to rotate the tomatoes to different spots in the yard (they won't bear if you plant them in the same soil two years in a row without heavily amending it).  And I have 5 Brandywines, which gave me 5-inch diameter tomatoes when I planted them a year or so ago!  Sigh. Not sure what else I can do this year. 
  • Trying to keep my little pot of green onions from languishing on me ... and trying to keep them trimmed and using up the greens! 
  • Reviving my mint plants.  I have 4 varieties of mint in 4 separate pots, and unfortunately we had a few hot afternoons where I forgot to water them!  The pineapple mint is o.k., the spearmint will come back with the cooler weather, but the peppermint and bergamot mint may be gone.  I'm going to cut the dead stems way back and keep the roots watered, and see if they sprout again.  Hopefully they will, once the winter rains start.
  • Getting my fall crop of lettuce into the ground and keeping it alive this time.  I tried to do continuous plantings of lettuce all summer, but it was just too hot, and no matter what I did, I couldn't keep the other seedlings alive for more than a week.  I have another set of seedlings on the windowsill, and when they're big enough I'll try setting them out.  Fourth time's the charm, right? 
  • Planting a second crop of basil.  I love sweet basil, and I planted 5 plants this spring, and while they smell and taste great, the leaves are really small, like 1 inch long, tops.  I tried planting them in the ground last year and they never grew more than 2 inches tall (heavy clay soil) so this year I planted them in one of the large terra-cotta pots we have, and they did better, but still not as big as I would like.  Maybe they're too crowded, though, so when my second set of seedlings (3 plants instead of 6 this time) are big enough, I'm going to pull out the older plants (and try to preserve the basil) and plant the new ones.  Although the weather has been cooler than usual for most of this month, we still usually get enough heat around here to keep basil and tomatoes going until November. 
  • Planting at least one variety of beans.  I like beans, and plus, they're supposed to be good to plant in dirt that had tomatoes in it, because they're supposed to help loosen and add nutrients to the soil.  At least, that's the idea; we'll see if it makes any difference to my tomatoes next year! 
  • Saving seeds from my little pepper plant for next year.  I finally had success with peppers this year; I've tried planting them from seed, seedlings from the garden supply store, and from 3-inch tall seedlings purchased at the Master Gardener's sale, and they failed more than one year in a row.  As in, the seeds never sprouted, and the seedlings grew so slowly that they only started setting peppers in September, so the frost came and killed them before they ever got ripe.  Maybe pepper plants just grow really slowly?  Anyway, I bought two seedlings from the Master Gardener's Sale this spring, one a sweet pepper and one a medium-hot one, both supposedly traditional Italian peppers.  I planted them both side by side in the same ground; the sweet pepper plant never grew, and eventually died, but the medium-hot pepper plant seemingly thrived, and is now giving me a small crop of 1-inch red and green peppers that are spicier than I thought they would be!  I'll see about drying them (and making more recipes that use hot peppers ...) and save some seeds to plant next spring.  

I'd like more herbs and vegetables (trying to make myself eat more veggies more regularly -- I like them when I eat them, it's just getting them from the fridge to my plate that seems to be difficult), so there are lots of plans for next spring.  As you can see, I'm just starting on the whole "spring and fall crop" thing.

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Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)