Gardening in the cold mountains of the Catskill is a big challenge but if you learn to embrace the late spring and early fall frost you can get a lot of wonderful produce. Northern European fare excels up in our rocky soils—think Ireland or Norway. This summer we seem to have had the best luck with pumpkins, carrots, potatoes (even with a late blight), beats, corn, basil and lettuce.
We harvested everything from the garden two days ago because we were faced with our first real frost. We cut up all the lettuce plants, plucked the pumpkins from their long vines, pulled up the carrots and beats and put them all in the cellar. We will have a large amount of produce to eat well into the fall and early summer.
My mother is a wonderful gardener but she seems hell bent on growing tomatoes which either turns out alright or horrible. Unfortunately this year ‘horrible’ describes her ordeal with them. They were disseminated by blight but even before this they were thwarted by a rainy summer.
I have been trying to convince her to think of using a greenhouse to extend her season but it is a hard sell because it would be pretty costly. I was first introduced to greenhouse gardening in Iceland where I worked two summers on a vegetable farm in northern Iceland. Iceland benefits from having free geothermal heat and energy so they have been using greenhouses to grow produce for decades. The system is simple: you start plants in the green house and transfer them to a field in the summer.
The farm I worked on was only 30 miles from the arctic circle so you can imagine how important the greenhouse was at extending the growing season. What I found so interesting about the farm was that they did not seem to think it was ridiculous that they were growing local produce in a northern climate. They were using innovative techniques to produce food and it seemed perfectly natural—and it was. Sometimes I feel that we are so stuck in the idea of efficiency and producing the most food on the least amount of land that we lose sight of the fun that can go into growing food. Innovation and creativity are starting to happen here too and I look forward to seeing more green houses in our gardens!