Well it’s official: we just hosted our final in-person workshop of the 2022 Backyard Gardeners season. It’s hard to believe that the growing season and our time with our gardeners is already coming to a close. While we can’t extend the time we get to spend with our gardeners, we can extend the time we spend in our gardens and that’s exactly what we talked about at our final workshop: season extension. We invited our gardners out to Grow Ohio Valley’s Big Wheeling Agrarian Center to hear from Tapah, our farm consultant, about fall planting and season extension. He explained how at the farm they can keep kale growing all winter long (even in feet of snow, thanks to continuous hay mulching that acts like a thick blanket), how home gardeners can extend their season using hoops and row cover, and what gardeners can do now to prepare their gardens for spring. The guests even got to pick a few assorted squash to take home with them! While it was a really great and practical workshop, I think the real highlight of the evening was simply getting to share an evening on our farm with our backyard gardeners and some of our Grow OV staff.
By the time our gardeners arrived the sun was setting and the day was cooling off, producing one of the delightfully cool, late summer evenings that you dream about all year. Some of our staff came out to meet the gardeners and help us get set up for the potluck dinner to take place after the workshop, and I have to say, the farm rarely looks nicer than it did on this night. A few long tables set up in the field, adorned with tablecloths and fresh picked flowers and a spread of homemade potato salad, green bean casserole, pasta and fresh sauce, kale salad, vegan jerky, zucchini bread, and more made for a beautiful and delicious dinner. Over the loud hum of crickets and cicadas you could hear gardeners and staff chatting about farming, food, our upcoming harvest festival, and, of course, life.
As dusk approached it was time to pack up so our guests wouldn’t have to drive up the crazy gravel road that leads to the farm in pitch darkness. Everyone lent a hand in cleaning up dinner, and as they left gardeners picked up some hoops and row cover, and squinted to read the labels on the packets of fall seeds. It was a really beautiful evening to signal we’re nearing the end of the season and the chill that had settled by end of the night was a good reminder to savor every last warm day, every last fresh tomato, and every last interaction with this cohort of backyard gardeners before the season really ends.