In the garden, as in life, endings and beginnings are easily confused, one for the other.
Right around this time of year, landscaping and yard service companies start cruising my neighborhood. They come in search of easy prey: nice middle-class homeowners eager to keep a tidy yard, and concerned about the danger large trees supposedly pose to telephone and electrical wires, the roof, or the neighbor’s five-figure fully winterized RV. They’ll leave flyers in your mailbox or dangling on the doorknob. In my case, they come on up to the stoop and ring the doorbell, having greedily eyeballed the monstrous pin-oak that towers over my house, the phone lines, and the neighbors’ houses on two sides.
“If we top your tree before leaf-fall,” encouraged one sly salesman, smiling his honey-sweet money-shredder smile: “you won’t have any raking to do. We’re insured.”
Get thee behind me Satan, indeed.
There’s nothing quite like coming home from a long, hard day’s work to find a tag on your doorknob from the water department telling you that the water main has ruptured… on *your* side of the meter.
I have always done the majority of my gardening during the spring and summer months. September usually finds me in a gardening postpartum funk. Green tomatoes linger on raggedy vines that straggle in the mulch. Wildflowers slump out of bounds. The awful lilac bushes go white with powdery mildew.
Clearly, the gladioli have come into their own.
Although the Dinner Plate Dahlias are definitely about to up the ante.
The prairie natives offer a more subtle beauty.
But mostly I am pleased that despite the terrible weather, the 8 seed potatoes I cut into pieces and planted back in March produced about a bushel of potatoes.
I was sure the crop was a complete loss.
That’s all the garden news that is fit to print on Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday! More next week!
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.
Where We Have Been
New readers following my philosophy of organic pest control can click here for links to the entire series as well as for a brief synopsis of the argument as it has evolved in the four previous installments.
Friends, we have to talk about weeds. Soberly. Perhaps even tenderly.
Weeds can bring the hardiest of gardeners to tears; they can turn a reasonable adult into a tantrum-tossing two year old. They can make a sanctified granny take the Lord’s name in vain. Brace yourselves, because I’ve got to tell it straight-from-the-hip the way I see it: weeds are an integral part of a functional, maximally biodiverse ecosystem. As such, they are also part of the organic gardener’s ecological pest-control tool-kit.