By late July, the perennial ornamentals are gorgeous — and surely in need of continued care — but they grab my attention only briefly as indistinct flashes of color, as bobbing forms choked with buzzing or fluttering pollinators.
I am captive to the summer harvest, instead.
It takes all of my concentration and care to find the pole beans, the bush beans, the wax beans, and cucumbers while they remain young and tender. Zucchinis the size of my thigh appear overnight. Before I can say “boo,” pole beans long as licorice ropes, pods fat as a thumbnail, dangle smug and inedible before my near-sighted, bi-focal’d geek’s face.
Every harvest season, the cleverness of our hunter and gatherer ancestors strikes me anew.
The children have long since locked their jaws against green beans and against cucumber salads. This means I don’t have time to spend among the flowers. I am locked in the kitchen with the canning kettle and the vacuum packer, shuttling back and forth between the stove, the herb bed, the oven, and the garage freezer. My cupboards are beginning to jam with jam and are slowly populating with pickles because I’ll be damned and dining with the Devil before I let half a year’s work go to the pill bugs and beetles.
I worry about the tomatoes, all of which are late ripening varieties. Whether or not I harvest a dozen sorry-looking fruits, or a bumper crop big enough to put up sauce depends on the next 30 days of weather that will invite every disease known to man.
I’ve Japanese pumpkins forming on vines, but have lost one whole plant to insect-vectored bacterial wilt. I’m blue in the face holding my breath, hoping against hope that I can hold off the pests long enough for the fruits on the remaining plants to ripen. I know prayer is useless. I consider voodoo, but the new chicken tractor my husband and I are working on isn’t quite ready for feathered inhabitants.
Why have my potatoes not died back to the ground yet? What are they doing under the straw? Maybe I should dig them up now, immature tubers notwithstanding… Perhaps I should leave them in the ground to develop the fat starchy tubers I love. But if I roll that set of dice, will I crap out with Snake Eyes? Will Late Blight wipe out a crop never intended to be in the ground late enough to catch it?
Nightly, now, a raccoon interloper breaks off a single stalk of corn… warning me that s/he and I are in a waiting game for that perfect moment of ripeness. I know I’m going to lose: I’ve planted an heirloom variety that surprisingly, marvelously, unexpectedly, has cranberry colored corn silk. How am I supposed to tell if the corn is ripe if the tassels don’t turn brown?
What I want to know… what I really want to know… is who ate my gooseberries?
Now, mosey on over to Fertilizer Friday at Tootsie Time’s place. Find out how other July gardeners are managing their harvests.