As August approaches, the garden is humming along at a steady pace. My weekly Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association pest report from their crop specialist Eric Sideman began this week with "I would still call this a difficult growing season." Granted, being the pest report, it tends to have a bit of a pragmatic and slightly pessimistic tone, but truth be told I took a sigh of relief when I read that...just like I have each time I hear from another farmer or gardener around here that they've struggled a bit this year too. It isn't just me. But not all is lost - not even close. There are many things doing quite well in this garden of ours, they're just doing it slowly. Slow and steady we might be able to harvest most of it yet before frost comes!
Some notes from my garden journal (which upon reflection, I realize is all about the weeds and the bugs. Which is what gardening is really all about, right? Ah, but with a love of the process and the glory of a basketfull of goodness at the end of it too).....
~~~ Borage is my new best friend in the garden. After hearing that it was a deterrent to the hornworms we seem to always get en masse, I planted it all around my tomatoes this year. Not only do I think it's working, but oh that really is such a lovely, lovely blue. And it self seeds, right? Borage forever!
~~~ My daughter's garden is free of weeds. Mine is not.
~~~ The Potato Lady told me to try planting my potatoes later than usual to miss the emergence of the dreaded potato beetles. We did that (planting in mid May), and my goodness, there are no beetles on my potatoes! I've been pulling a few of the earlies this week for dinner and oh, I think they're so beautiful fresh out of the ground.
~~~ While we are for the first time free of both hornworms and potato beetles, we are for the first time seeing cucumber beetles. Everywhere. Which means we may have no cucumbers and little squash this year. Next year I'll row cover, but for now, we are hand picking and saving a few plants, I hope.
~~~ Kale is a superfood, indeed. We had so much last year, that when the chickens got into the garden this spring and ate the seedlings down to nothing, I decided to just let it go and not worry about kale this year. Wouldn't you know, those nibbled-down-to-nothing seedlings bounced back and are all the stronger plants for it. We're all glad - summer isn't summer without those green smoothies.
~~~ I've been so greatly rewarded by the few flowers I decided to grow this summer. This week, I'm watching the ranunculus closely with anticipation. This morning, instead of weeding the onions, I staked the tall and heavy cosmos stalks. Simple, pretty pleasures.
~~~ I'm finding myself more challenged than ever this year to spend time as I want to in the garden, but it's a lovely life reminder for me in many ways. The garden is there....thriving, perhaps, on a bit of neglect. The plants will grow (or not). And when I do have moments to spend in it, the gift becomes to me. As ten minutes weeding in the garden, I've decided, is equivalent to the same amount of time spent knitting, meditation, or reading. Amidst the chaos that surrounds or the stress that descends, it restores in such a reliable and full way. I am so grateful to be out there when I am - ten minutes at a time.
~~~ This year I tried staking my tomatoes with the Florida weave. I think it gives my tomato plants bad posture - they're slouchy and it's hard to get at the fruit. I'm missing my fencing and t-shirt ties - next year I'll go back to that.
~~~ In years past, we've always mulched with straw. When the price of straw doubled over the winter, and our garden grew by a third at the same time, I decided to try a few other things this year. Using mostly what we could get our hands on around the house, we've got rows of pine needles, straw, hay, leaves, wood shavings and and wood chips. The mid-season winners? Leaves and wood chips, by far.
~~~ One of the greatest pleasures in my summer life is the late afternoon on which I do not know yet what is for dinner...until I grab my straw hat, slip on my garden shoes, and gather the large harvest basket to wander around and gather. As simple as the ingredients and meals may be, they are ours.