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Time to reflect on the gardening season

The pumpkins are ripe and the corn is a sweet memory – this must mean the season is coming to a close. (Susan Mulvihill)
The pumpkins are ripe and the corn is a sweet memory – this must mean the season is coming to a close. (Susan Mulvihill)

I just love the fall. It’s such a beautiful time of year and our weather has been delightful.

But the downside of fall is that the gardening season is coming to a close. This means it’s time for clean-up and an assessment of how our gardens performed this year.

I mentioned in a previous column that I had several weather-related crop failures in my vegetable garden. The eggplants, peppers, shallots and carrots were big disappointments.

But there were a lot of successes, too. The beets, parsnips, Swiss chard, lettuce, onions and zucchini outdid themselves. This year, I tried the corn variety “Luscious” and it truly lived up to its name.

The “Italian Pompeii” tomato is one of the most prolific cultivars I’ve ever grown. Each tomato is meaty with very few seeds and juice, so they make a delicious pasta sauce.

Even though our summer got off to a chilly start, the pumpkin and winter squash beds are loaded with colorful orbs that I’m anxious to harvest.

The heirloom pumpkin “Rouge Vif d’Etampes” continues to be a high performer that has easily earned a spot in my garden again next year. I also grew “New England Pie Pumpkin” for the first time. It’s looking good so far, but the real test will be in the pies I’ll be making.

Of the new varieties of winter squash that I tried this year, “Red Kuri” and “Buttercup” have been the most productive.

I even grew two artichoke plants after I found some seedlings at a nursery in Leavenworth last spring. We have to grow them as annuals in our climate but they produced about 15 artichokes that were delicious. The plants’ gray leaves and interesting growth habit looked pretty cool in the veggie garden.

In the ornamental part of my landscape, many plants have been standouts by adding interest and color.

I finally have a “Lemon Queen” Globeflower, courtesy of The Friends of Manito plant sale; the round yellow flowers are just spectacular. I grew several different varieties of zinnias for cut flowers and to add some wild colors to the flower beds.

The “Autumn Joy” and “Matrona” sedums are buzzing with activity right now as their profuse blooms are bee magnets. The flowers provide late-season interest along with the fall-blooming asters, “September Charm” anemones and Black-eyed Susans.

A shady spot in my garden has proven to be a good home for a Jack-in-the-Pulpit plant that I bought at Secret Garden Greenhouse last year. The green and burgundy pitchers definitely add a cool factor to the bed.

I grew dahlias for the first time, thanks to a kind reader who shared tubers with me. The deep purple and pink-lavender blooms already have me hooked. That means I need to dig them up a week after a hard frost and store the tubers over the winter.

As I take a mental review of how the garden performed, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that we all jot down notes in our garden journals. This helps us learn from our successes and failures.

My biggest mistake was in not covering the warm-season veggies with floating row covers to provide them extra warmth.

You can bet this reminder is going into my journal so I can get them off to a better start next year.

The covers will have to come off once the plants start blooming so they can be pollinated.

This is my final column for the 2011 gardening season. I hope you have found it to be educational, useful and entertaining.

I will continue to update my blog throughout the fall and winter so be sure to visit And as always, if you have a gardening question, I’m just an email away at