And Now to Next Year.
No sooner has the garden been put to bed, most gardeners are already thinking about next year.
Should I plant more potatoes? Can I increase my squash crop by letting them climb up the fence? What can I do to be sure to better thin my root crops this coming summer?
And, yes, the seed catalogues have already begun to arrive. I got my Pinetree Garden Seeds one yesterday. This is an excellent place to buy seeds if you are just starting out. The packets are small and inexpensive (www.superseeds.com ). Other ones to peruse are www.territorialseedcom , www.totallytomato.com , www.vermontbean.com , www.Johnnyseeds.com  (some of the best pictures), www.seedsofchange.com  (also great photos and mostly organic) and www.fedcoseeds.com  (most economical).
If you have never had a garden before, it is really important to start small. What are your three or four favorite vegetables? Tomatoes tops the list for many.
If this is so for you, buy your tomato plants from local nurseries next spring. I love the heirloom varieties. These are the tomatoes that our ancestors grew when taste was the most important feature (not shelf life and transportabililty). My favorites are German Head and German Johnson. These varieties are quite meaty and large and nothing beats them in a BLT. Brandywines are also heavenly but they are a bit fussy to grow. Cherry tomatoes can easily be grown in pots. All need quite a bit of Sun.
Summer squash and zucchini are relatively easy to grow.
They take up a lot of space as they grow out along the ground away from where they were planted. Zephyr (from Johnny’s) is particularly delightful—I often cut it up and steam it, then serve it with butter, grated cheese and a bit of salt. Yum!
Lettuce is also pretty easy to grow.
I buy a mix (Johnny’s Allstar Gourmet Lettuce Mix) and broadcast the seeds in a square of ground. Broadcasting means that—instead of planting in rows—I just throw them everywhere. When they start to come up, I thin them. The first, tiny thinnings go to the chickens, but soon, they are quite edible. I plant lettuce every ten days or so throughout the summer as I much prefer the young plants to older ones. Lettuce gets bitter as it ages.
Pumpkins and winter squashes are quite easy to grow. They take up a LOT of space, though, as they vine across the land. I love the Waltham butternut (a common variety) and I plant pie pumpkins for my Thanksgiving and Christmas pies. They are easy to keep as well. After leaving them in the Sun for a few weeks, I bring them inside and sit them on my wooden beams. They usually last through the entire winter.
So start thinking about what you would like to grow next summer. Make notes and peruse the seed catalogues and web sites. You may be surprised at how much variety is available.
And, just because, some more lovely summer pictures…
Celeste Longacre has been growing virtually all of her family’s vegetables for the entire year for over 30 years. She cans, she freezes, she dries, she ferments & she root cellars. She also has chickens.
Celeste has also enjoyed a longtime relationship with The Old Farmer’s Almanac as their astrologer! A personally autographed copy of her book, Love Signs, is available in the Almanac.com General Store . You can also find an ebook version on Amazon.com for $2.99.
Celeste is currently writing a new book on how to live lightly on the Earth. It is due out sometime this spring.