My flower bed turned vegetable garden is in the last stretch of the growing season.

I harvested the last of my green beans this week and pulled the plants up out of the ground so they can begin to dry and rot. A few of my onions have been pulled and over the next couple weeks I’ll likely pull the rest.

Winding down

The only thing I still have growing are my pepper plants and my potatoes. The peppers — green and red bell varieties, plus one plant of hot banana peppers — did surprisingly well. They first bore peppers around July 4 and have continued to grow and produce ever since. Some are now above waist high, which is as good as I can remember growing.

I’m not sure what my potatoes are doing under ground, but above ground, the plants are still leafy green and continue to flower. I haven’t spotted a single Colorado potato beetle yet, though maybe I should keep quiet.

My blackberry plant did little more than grow long and curly and I harvested a modest two berries from it this summer. However, I’m confident the plant will yield much more fruit next year, now that it is well established.

A good year

All in all, I had a very good first year growing vegetables in my flower bed. I enjoyed a plentiful supply of fresh vegetables in July and August, and I made sure to blanch and freeze some of the green beans and peppers.

For a few days, I had a mess in my kitchen like never before — pots steaming with boiling water, and bowls full of ice water to cool what I had blanched. And there were pepper seeds and green bean pieces and remnants all over my countertops.

I only managed to burn myself once, and it resulted in little more than a nasty blister on my finger. I didn’t cause any fires, although I reminded myself on more than one occasion where my kitchen fire extinguisher was positioned, in case I needed it.

I guess that’s how it goes when you do these things for the first time, and from what I understand, freezing vegetables is nothing compared to canning.

I borrowed my mother’s pressure cooker to cook the beans and peppers I wanted to eat immediately. The pressure cooker cut the time to boil in half — probably even less — because boiling alone seemed to take forever. She showed me how to operate it, but I still kept my distance the first time it pressurized. When it finally began to hiss and let off some steam, I knew I was doing things right.

Lessons learned

Next year, one of my biggest goals will be to apply pesticide to my green beans “before” the bugs attack. They got a little out of hand this year, even after I began treating them in July. I don’t like using pesticides, but I prefer that to having the bugs eat off the leaves, and biting my legs when I’m in the patch harvesting.

Honestly, a lot of what I did this year worked well, and I hope to repeat it again next year. I only grew four pepper plants, but for one person that’s a lot of peppers to eat. My onions would do better if I moved them to a place where they got full sun, but that’s not easy with all the shade from trees and buildings.

My potatoes may be the biggest mystery crop as they look good on top, but like all root plants, I won’t know for sure until I dig them up.

But I’m not complaining, just learning. And I’ve learned a lot this year.

I’m grateful for what I have and to have grown it myself. And this fall and winter, I’ll be even more grateful as I unthaw some of the freshness of what I have preserved.

Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties.
Chris Kick
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