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Intrepid Urban Farmer: Extreme Sport for Nerds

Autumn is here! 
 
And, once again, way too soon. I just started thinking about the big job of clean-up and already I feel as if I am behind the eight ball. You would think, after twenty years, I wouldn’t be caught short. But, I always am.  
 
I always start out with a few preliminary tasks, i.e, pruning out dead or diseased vegetation, digging up annual bulbs, etc... And for some reason, after doing these few things, I develop this false sense of time. I am WAY ahead of the game (not true!). I get it in my head that I have WEEKS to get everything done. Delusional. The weather will change well before that.
 
I haven’t caused this problem, have I? It’s nature. But, unfortunately, it’s MY nature. Will I ever change?    
 
The race is on. I have many projects that I want to accomplish and wet, cold weather is breathing down my neck. Onward!
 
I have to finish cleaning up all of the season’s tomato plants. But wait! There are still tomatoes, lots of them, on the plants! I can’t take them out yet! This is the Sturm und Drang of my life (I am prone to exaggeration, on occasion).
 
As some of you may know, this past couple of years I have started to keep track of my tomato yields, by count and by weight. A friend who was over, observing my plants commented, “This is sport to you, isn’t it?” It has become that.
 
Tomato growing as extreme sport… for nerds. 
 
I have gotten completely caught up in the fervor to exceed last year’s numbers. This adds to my angst. To prune or not to prune. It’s a big question!
 
I guess what I will have to do is make the official count based on ripened tomatoes and then start a green tomato count. That’s fair, isn’t it? Now, I will have another mark to hit next year. And on it goes.
 
I have eggplants and peppers, green beans, basil, zinnias — all manner of plants that need to be pulled up and dealt with. And, again, these plants have plenty of fruit still coming on. It is so hard to decide when to pull the trigger!  
 
I have three different compost piles that needs to be alternately added to, turned or distributed.  
 
Garlic will need to be planted. That’s easy and quick to do, mercifully.
 
The only way to face all of this and try to get it done is to make a list:
 
—First, for God’s sake, just make a decision!
 
—Do the final harvest and deal with it. Cook it, give it away, throw it at people. Kidding.
 
—Knock down the plants and compost them, or put them in the trash.
 
—Stack all of the tomato cages and assorted plant supports and disinfect them. Store them for the season.
 
—Try to get a few soil samples to the Kenton County Cooperative Extension Service.
 
—Get the results of your soil testing and decide what needs to be done in the way of amendments. 
 
—Work with the different compost piles. 
 
—Get the finished compost on the section of the garden that needs it. In my case, it is the most recent extension that I have made to my plot. This corresponds to the old survey line between my two lots. My original garden plot is directly behind my house. I had the good fortune to know a nephew of a previous owner. He informed me that his Uncle Red always had a big garden and had truckloads of cow manure dumped into my back yard! Providence! Thank you, Uncle Red!
 
So I have a bi-polar garden. One side is very rich and loamy and the other is a work in progress. Each year it gets a little better.  
 
—Make a serious attempt to get the entire garden tilled this fall. Any amendments added will have a chance to mellow and incorporate well into your soil. Straw, newspaper, green sand, compost, any pH adjustments — all are better utilized by your plants with this added time.
 
Now, I have to admit, I seldom get this done. It is always  too wet and too cold by the time I get to this point. But, I will try again this year. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. I am a sinner. 
 
—Get the Garlic planted. Definitely.
 
—Clean and disinfect all tools.  
 
—Put down the shovel, step away from all of this and reflect.  I have to give myself time to get over the fact that I put way too much work into this ridiculously consuming hobby that I’ve become obsessed with.
 
Every year, the period of reflection ends and the seed catalogues start showing up in the mailbox.  Which new tomato hybrids will show up and what Heirlooms will be available?  I can’t wait!
 
Ginger Dawson is The Intrepid Urban Farmer. Read her column every other Sunday at The River City News. Questions? Email: [email protected]
 
Photo: The author's tomatoes/Ginger Dawson  
 
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