It’s been extremely hot the past few months for the Seattle area (high 80s the last couple of days) and we’ve broken the record of days with no rain, so it feels a bit of a relief to be leaving August behind. We’ve lived in South Carolina, so while this weather may not be hot and miserable to the same degree, it’s too warm for those of us who grew up in the temperate, rainy Northwest. I’ll take an overcast, 50 or 60 degree day over 90 and sunny almost any day. Though don’t ask me that in April after we haven’t seen the sun for months on end.
As this summer wraps up and we head into fall – and hopefully cooler weather – it feels good to have had another successful gardening season. The last few years have been a bit more reserved as we adjusted to gardening with a small human, but we still had a great year for produce. Largely in part thanks to the perennial plants I started 3-6 years ago, we ended up with quite a bit of produce over the last few months. The last few months we harvested asparagus, rhubarb, herbs, garlic, and all types of berries with just a little bit of pruning and additional compost, along with the more typical annuals – carrots, onions, tomatoes, peppers, squash, lettuce, etc. Things are starting to slow down now as the days get shorter, even though they aren’t cooler yet. While we do plant a little in the fall (garlic, onions, overwintering carrots), most of the beds lay dormant and gardening tasks quiet down for the year.
In addition to canning some of the produce for an early start on Christmas presents, I also gifted my dad homegrown raspberries for his birthday in May (though he had to wait until they were ripe to actually get his present). Raspberries are hands down his favorite fruit and they are insanely expensive, even in season. Every time I brought him a container of raspberries, he raved that they were the best he had ever eaten. No matter what it is, grocery store produce can’t compete with home grown, and even farmer’s markets come in a far second because they have to pick ahead of time in order to have their berries for sale the day of the market. When the berries come straight from the garden, it can be just minutes or hours before they’re eaten, and the shorter the time from vine to mouth, the better they taste.
When my mom’s birthday came around in mid-July, the experience with the raspberries made it easy to decide what to get her, and I specifically planted two Sungold cherry tomato plants in my garden for her gift. My parents are in the middle of a building their home and so they haven’t started a garden yet at their new property, but they both love fresh garden produce and have had large gardens in the past, which made it really easy to decide what to get them this year. I honestly don’t think we could have done better for birthday presents this year, and it cost us nothing other than the time to pick the produce.
Picking garden produce is extremely satisfying, and gifting it to others who really appreciate it makes my heart happy. While my parents might have a garden next year (definitely the one after that), it was the perfect gift for this year. Their gifts were free, consumable, and offset purchases that would otherwise have been made from the grocery store (and likely from large conventional farms driven in from across the state at minimum, from a different country at worst). I honestly think I get more satisfaction giving away my garden produce to people who enjoy it than I do even eating it myself. And I enjoy growing my own dinner quite a bit. That, and I get great pleasure in reading the prices of organically grown local produce at the grocery store or farmers market and calculating how much we’ve saved. I mulch and deep water the garden and partially water from a rain barrel, so we keep our water bill low year round and thus don’t pay much to water our vegetables.
In all, we probably gifted my dad $50 or more in raspberries and at least as much in tomatoes to my mom, saving us some money on birthday presents and gifting them some really delicious produce. By being mindful about the gifts I give – and giving is non negotiable and very important to me – I’m able to give better presents for less money. It just takes a little more planning and effort than running to the store last minute to pick up a gift that no one wants or needs. And by giving food that’s excitedly accepted, I know that the gift won’t eventually end up in the trash.
Lest it seem like we give away all our produce, we do grow quite a bit for ourselves as well, and have harvested potatoes, garlic, tomatoes, blueberries, strawberries, onions, and beans in the past week alone. Along with the quarter cow in our freezer, we are able to create whole meals out of what we’ve grown in our yard, plus a few spices (and even some of those spices are local – like the best sea salt you will ever eat. There are few things more satisfying than knowing exactly where every ingredient came from for the meal you’re eating.
My son loves to be out in the garden and we recently planted a pot with “his” beans and checked it every week and watched his baby plants grow until they were finally large enough to start picking last night. He was so proud to pick something he grew himself and had to run inside to show his daddy right away. While he’s usually a good eater in general and not picky, especially for a toddler, he tends to pick around his vegetables to a certain degree. When we’re out picking fresh produce right out of the garden, he munches happily since he’s able to pick it himself. Hopefully through gardening with his mama, my son will grow up with an appreciation of where his food comes from and an interest in growing some of his own. At very least, he won’t be the college student who has no idea what a carrot top looks like or how an asparagus grows out of the ground. For now, though, it means we all get more time outside digging in the dirt, which makes us all happy.