The Winter Eggplant
I ran across a great quote in the article The Bean Acre by Jennifer Loyd, in the Colorado Gardener newsletter, Education Issue 2014.
“Although he [Josh Olsen] has been happy each year with his harvest, like a true farmer, he is never satisfied… Tomato yield ‘makes or breaks how you feel about the season’.”
I heartily agree. Last summer did not turn out as I’d hoped, based primarily on my 2013 tomato yield. One factor was the weather. I anticipated another summer of drought, and believing they would conserve water, left season-extending teepees around my plants well past our last frost date. Foiled by nature, we had a bounty of rain. The tomatoes caught a fungus, and the peppers failed to thrive.
Another factor was the terrible Black Forest fire. Smoke blanketed the city. Then forest fires south of us were followed by smoke from California fires. Is there anything left to burn? I was sidelined for a chunk of the summer with asthma.
The salad greens did better than the tomatoes. For one month, I was eating salad entirely from my garden. People in more garden-friendly climates may be puzzled by this, but it is an accomplishment in the arid (normally), high-elevation Colorado foothills. Beans in both non-green varieties and the standard green thrived. I grew one wonderful Minnesota Midget cantaloupe. The corn was fun, but took up more space than I’m willing to sacrifice.
Snow is falling right now. I planned to clean up some raised beds this weekend. That’s not going to happen. So I set up my indoor shelves and grow lights, and started broccoli and spinach seeds.
Why try, when we Colorado gardeners face such adversity? If you’re a gardener, I don’t have to explain. The smell of damp soil, the feel of dirt under your fingernails, the vision of seedlings pushing their way out of the dirt, are intoxicating. Seed catalogs arriving mid-winter are more exciting than any trip to the mall. Something will grow, even if it's just a radish or zucchini. It’s worth all the effort for the taste of that first home-grown vegetable.
Last year, the eggplants failed me entirely. First my seedlings, then the store-bought starts, they died one by one. I do a considerable amount of container gardening on our deck. One eggplant, started from seed, was late to begin a growing spurt. Before the first freeze, I brought the tenacious little plant inside.
The eggplant loves its spot beside the houseplants. I never dreamed it would survive the winter indoors. You never know with home gardening. The reliable outcomes you expect end in disaster, and then some little miracle like a winter eggplant happens.
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