September does not bring an end to gardening on the Crystal Coast like it does for my friends in New Brunswick, Canada. This last week of September 2016, they have already had a couple of frosts. Frost is not the biggest enemy of fall gardens here. Usually excessive moisture and heat cause more problems than cool temperatures.
Our fall garden here on the banks of Raymonds Gut just off the White Oak River is finally all in the ground as October arrives this coming Saturday. We have a few small beds and have planted buttercrunch lettuce, onions, Romaine lettuce, cucumbers, green beans, rutabagas, broccoli, Swiss chard, tomatoes, and kale. We still have peppers growing that we planted last spring.
The biggest gamble in fall gardening on the coast is timing. If the weather turns back hot as it did this year, you can lose your lettuce plants. We have planted lettuce twice and it appears that what I put in the ground this last week in September is going to survive. Of the dozen and half lettuce plants I put into the ground earlier in September only three or four are going to make it and one of them is about to bolt.
We are enduring another very wet summer and as of September 29 have recorded 33.43 inches of rain since June 1, 2016. It was so wet and so very hot that we pulled out tomato plants that usually bear well into September. The heat that I wrote about in early July and late July stayed with us through most of September.
This is our tenth summer on the Crystal Coast and it was far hotter than normal with almost no breaks in the heat waves. We had a long period when the temperatures at night did not get below 85F. It was that kind of weather that stopped our late tomatoes from setting fruit. Still it was a great beach summer and there was no shortage of vegetables. Local produce stands were overflowing with the bounty from the area's soils.
Last year my fall gardening post showed my tomato plants being planted in a raised bed. While we managed to pick large tomatoes the last week in December 2015 and cherry tomatoes the middle of January 2016, we did not get a lot of quantity for all the work. I decided to change tactics this year. This year I have planted my tomatoes in pots and have the tomatoes in a wagon so I can haul them in during the heavy rainfall that has plagued us during the last couple of fall gardening seasons. So far the plants are thriving and I should easily be able to protect them from the early frost that we sometimes get in November. They already have some small tomatoes on them so I have high hopes.
You might notice that the picture at the top of the post showing lettuce that I recently planted looks very similar to a picture that I posted in early spring when we first put out our spring lettuce and tomatoes. While this fall the bed has buttercrunch instead of the Romaine last spring, is an amazing few square feet of ground. That small garden bed produced lettuce in the spring, tomatoes all summer and now will provide some more lettuce and cucumbers before its winter rest. December can be a great month for gardens here on the coast but we will give that over producing bed some rest this year from November until March.
Most gardeners will tell you that not every season is great for every crop. Our garden here on the coast is no different. We had plenty of tomatoes this summer but not the over abundance that we usually have. We had more cucumbers and beans than we have ever gotten. We also had a few nice cantaloupes. We had so many heads of lettuce in the spring that it was a chore to find homes for the overabundance.
Gardening is usually not as easy as it looks but it is far more rewarding than most people imagine. There is nothing like fresh produce from the garden. When we finally bring in our rutabagas in late January and call it quits for a month, it is always a reminder that we will will soon be planting once again with the hopes that we can have another bountiful season.