End-of-Summer Harvest

Garden end of summerWhile we have the pleasure of harvesting fresh vegetables year round from our four-season kitchen garden, there is also the pleasure of an extra big harvest of storage vegetables in the weeks leading up to the fall equinox. Toward the end of August, I pulled large globes of Copra and Redwing onions and smaller bulbs of Ambition shallots and dug hills of potatoes, round Yellow Finns, oblong Carolas, slender Banana and Rose Finn Apple fingerlings. All are stored away now in cool, dark places, potatoes in the garden shed closet and onions in the shop. I’ve blanched and frozen many pints of shell beans and corn, roasted, peeled and frozen pounds of peppers and filled jars with dried tomatoes. And in the days around the equinox I packed brown paper bags with dry bean pods to shell later and piled a wheelbarrow high with winter squash. Our exceptionally warm and long growing season this summer made all of this storage harvest especially gratifying.

As my bean-growing friend Carol said, “It was the perfect summer for letting all the dry beans dry in their pods on the vine.” I thought back on our lovely summer as I harvested dry pods of bush beans Cranberry, Drabo, and Midnight Black Turtle and pole beans Aunt Jean, White Runner, Pole Cannelini, Soissons Verte and Good Mother Stallard. The day was perfect, sunny and mild, and the steady work of pulling pods from stems and clearing dry leaves and empty plants from the rows left plenty of time to contemplate the differences between planting and harvesting.

Beans dry bush pole

Beans dry bush closeup

While spring planting brings release from winter and the promises of longer days and warmer temperatures, late summer harvest signals a restful slowing down as the days shorten and cool. I love the promise of spring but I love the fruition and completion of fall even more. The seeds I planted in the green of spring have germinated, grown and matured into plants whose foliage has changed from supple, early green to brittle brown and rust, yellow and gold. And here at the end of summer, the hope and anticipation in those small seeds of spring are more than matched by the great satisfaction of seeing bean pods hanging from stalks and great round squashes rising above their vines.

The final satisfaction of the end-of-summer harvest happens as I pull the spent foliage from the beds, wheel it to the compost bins and then rake away the remaining layer of mulch to reveal the soil I last saw in spring. This year the sunny harvest days were followed by the first days of fall rain so the soil was already taking on the friable richness I associate with spring. In the next few days, I’ll add a thin layer of compost, a sprinkling of complete organic fertilizer and a cover crop, organic rye this year, to protect and nourish the soil through the winter. Scattering the seeds and raking them are the last big kitchen garden tasks for these beds this year. I’ll return to the beds next spring, work in the cover crops and begin planting for the year ahead. But between now and then I look forward to winter and the slow, quiet harvest of winter roots and greens that along with the just harvested storage crops will nourish us through the next season’s meals.

Garden fall soil



8 thoughts on “End-of-Summer Harvest

  1. I think you display the beauty of the garden in all its incarnations. Seeing the rich soil and gravel lined paths and the texture of the drying beans is as lovely as the full and lush garden we saw a couple months ago.
    I too am ready for the break- and will be chomping at the bit come Feb to do it all again! I’m going to take note of some of those bean varieties.
    Great to see you last week.
    cheers… wendy

  2. Thanks again for your wonderful contributions to Lopez Island! At dinner tonight my house mate said he loved the early evening darkness, i said, Yeah thats because you spent the last two winters in southern India. I think winter on Lopez is actually really nice. It is so quiet and peaceful.

  3. Hi Debby… your very recent posting, “ End-of-Summer Harvest “ was one very fine piece of writing… not a hint of resistance as I wallowed in the words….

  4. Good morning Debby and again thank you for your excellent narrative.
    My questions are: 1.) It looks like you let so many bean pods dry on the plants. How many viable seeds do you plan to harvest from them?
    2.) Where do you purchase the rye seed for your cover crop?

    • Two things have helped keep grass out of the garden beds. One is mulch. I mulch just about every row of crops in every bed, especially the edges of the beds. Mulching the edges seems to discourage grass from invading the soil of the beds. The other is edging. We edge the beds once a year, usually in spring when most of the beds have only the end of the winter crops or cover crops in them. The goal of edging is to keep the beds at the original 5×18 foot size. Once a year seems to do the trick.


  5. Hello
    I’d like to offer praise and thanks for sharing your garden. I live over the other side of the world in the Australian Outback so our environments are ‘worlds apart’, however our joy and passion for gardening is shared. I always look to your garden as what’s to come as far as seasons go. You seasons are slightly different, I have a very dry more hot Mediterranean style environment with summers so hot that production turns more to survival. I really enjoy coming to your site and seeing your garden – just beautiful.
    Many kind regards

  6. Hello Debby,
    I am a Horticulture Science student in northeastern Maryland. I just ran across your wonderful blog and have to say how much I love the gardening information and inspiration you offer. Your pics are amazing; I enjoy how your images add so much to your narratives. I would very much like to utilize some of your cold frame images for a pdf presentation on Cold Frames I’m giving for my Sustainable Horticulture class. I need to show that I have approval of all images I use but I understand if not. So many people in my class didn’t even know what a cold frame was! I want to show them what can be done.
    Much appreciated,
    Beth C

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