The kids and I are splitting our days between lazy time and purposeful before-school-starts-again time. Half the day is given over to books, movies, and computer games, while the other half is used to fulfill some chore that needs doing before the 21st, when our days will once again be filled with schoolwork and homework. This encompasses anything from eye appointments to haircuts to shopping for school supplies. Some days we take off and do something we haven't done before, like tour the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. It's been fun, but for a restless person like me, it can be hard. I crave, and thrive on, schedule and routine. I actually enjoy being busy. I don't like large swathes of free time with nothing to fill it. And yet I know it's a luxury and I should embrace this short period of freedom. I'm trying.
One of the things I notice when I'm bored is that I want to spend money. Fix things. Make things pretty. Re-do entire flower beds. This would require funds we do not have. As any parent knows, August requires a robust bank account. Even public schools require many hundreds of dollars at registration time - student body cards, new PE clothes, donations to the PTA - all worthy things, just not exactly cheap. And the after-school activities start up again and therefore the fees start up again. So going to the nursery and buying a bunch of perennials? Um, no. Not a priority.
The other thing I want to do when I'm bored is eat. Mainly sweets. I find myself looking up recipes for chocolate mousse and Victoria sponge. Kate and I ducked into a See's the other day and came home with a box of soft-centered truffles. Oy.
One thing that keeps me busy is trolling the summer garden every day, weeding where necessary (though in summer, with only drip irrigation, there really aren't that many weeds), pulling out dead plants and flowers, tying up stray tomato vines, or harvesting whatever is ripe. We're eating tomatoes and peppers nearly every day, and any excess is either canned or frozen. Cucumbers are coming more slowly now, and the beans are in a lull after my last exhaustive picking, though basil can be harvested every other day and made into freezer pesto (just a huge bowl of basil thrown into the food processor with a cup of CA organic walnuts, a few cloves of our garlic, salt, a cup of grated parmesan, and olive oil to bring together into a paste).
But honestly, my mind is already turned to the fall and winter garden, what and how to plant, and when.
I started brassica seeds in July: Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, and cabbage. I transplanted most of them the first of August into compostable plastic cups, and they are growing well in a protected space that gets morning sun and afternoon shade. I've given a couple of plants away, but most I will transplant into containers in the next month or so. I've decided to do everything but garlic and shallots in containers (reason below). I have all those one gallon pots that I grow tomatoes in, I can fill each one with fresh potting soil and one plant. I'll have a ton of containers on the back patio this fall and winter, but that's ok.
Some of these brassica starts have a leafminer problem.
See that white trail there in the leaf? That's a very small maggot making its way through the tissue. Most leafminers are the maggots of moths or flies. I could have covered these with a light cloth to prevent the flying critters from laying eggs on the leaves, but I didn't realize I'd need to, having never had leafminers before. So I decided to spray them with Neem oil, which is organic, and smothers the maggots. Hopefully that will do the trick.
I've also planted romaine, carrots, and beets directly into 10-gallon containers for a fall or early winter harvest. I plan to do some butter lettuce, kale, chard, and spinach once it gets cooler - those can go all winter. I have a fall crop of peas in the potato bed and should be able to harvest both peas and potatoes in a couple of months.
There is a volunteer pumpkin coming up in one of the olive tree containers...
... and I've got kabocha squash and other pumpkins finally coming up next to the garage, where the sweet peas and lupines have been.
I have pre-ordered both my garlic and shallots from Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, and will use two of my 4x8 beds for those, probably planting them in October. Last year, I left my tomatoes in through the beginning of November, but we really didn't get much of a harvest from them in October or November. Just not enough light and heat. So I'll cut my losses this year and take them out in October sometime and start my winter planting.
All the other raised beds will be given over a cover crop of winter wheat and crimson clover. Both should survive our mild winter. If they don't, they'll provide mulch when they winter-kill, having first improved the soil as they were growing. If they live, I'll crop some wheat in the spring, which should be a fun and educational experience, as well as providing food for us and straw for the garden; the clover will provide nutrients for the soil and flowers for the pollinators, as well as covering the soil to prevent erosion from winter rains. I'm excited to try something different over the winter. No row covers will be needed, which will save us some expense (it's time to get new row covers, and I'm happy to put that off for a year - the plants in containers should be protected enough not to need cover, but if they do, I'll use a sheet) and also some labor.
Meanwhile, we have not-quite two weeks left to enjoy our freedom. I'll continue to try and embrace it, without eating too much chocolate or purchasing any big-ticket items. We'll see how well I do. How are YOUR fall garden plans coming?