As we near the end of August I am so very thankful for a long and productive season in the garden. February is when we begin to dream about this day – planting seeds, rooting cuttings, planning rows. As always, a lot of work has gone into our small patch of organic Eden. Some days were happy, some were frustrating, others were just downright back-breaking. But in the end, lessons are learned, food is abundant, feeling thankful is prevalent and many, many a dawn has been spent simply inhaling the beauty of a garden in full swing. And so, as the gardening season here in Oz begins to wind down, I look back on the good, the bad, and the down right weird…
If you follow my blog, you will remember that this summer was the first time in 15 years of living in Oz, that we managed to thwart The Ever Annoying Squash Bugs, which I wrote about in a recent article called Controlling Squash Bugs Organically–A Simple Solution. I can’t tell you how happy it made me to finally win one over on those little creeps! However, one victory in the garden does not a pest-free summer make! For in the void came more than one serious challenger.
It began with a raccoon. We saw it move it’s kits into a hollow tree near the house, but thought little of it, since we often have raccoons living in the woods. But when she began to raid our very humble patch of corn long before the ears ever began to silk – we knew we had a fight on our hands. Apparently, this raccoon not only knew that corn was tasty, but she apparently also had a certain amount of experience with live traps (no surprise there) and more eerily, which days we chose to go into town to shop. But once the corn was destroyed, she took off. Or perhaps it had something to do with Dean barraging her hollow den tree with large insulting rocks all of one afternoon… I’m just not sure on that one.
Then there were the Kentucky Wonder pole beans… Oh, how we love fresh, sweet green beans. The first few harvests had been picked when the bean beetles started in. I quickly got them under control, but to my utter dismay, a whole horde of Japanese beetles suddenly took over where they left off and within days had nearly defoliated the entire row of beans.
In 30 years of gardening, I have never knowingly had a Japanese beetle in my garden. If there was one, it was just passing through. But this? This was a full-on invasion and mass destruction. I just couldn’t believe the damage that these beautiful shimmering beetles were capable of. Of course, I’d heard of them – but you just can’t believe it until you see it. They never stopped eating or carousing. My goodness – the gluttony!
I would go out in the morning and again at dusk and pick them off by the handful, or tap them into a bowl of soapy water to drown, or just toss them on the ground and step on them as fodder for the ants. I tried all kinds of things to get them to go away, but patience (ha ha), perseverance (what else have I got to do around here?), and a cold front finally gave me the upper hand. Today, the beans are growing new leaves and we are, for the first time all season, harvesting delicious green beans every single day.
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We had a fantastic tomato year and most of the crop has been canned already. A few plants linger in the hopes of more green tomatoes before the first frost. We grew mostly beefsteaks this year, but among those that were not was one that was supposed to be a meaty Roma type. But when the fruits began to set, the Roma turned into a Rubic’s Cube. When the first “square” fruit came on I thought it was an anomaly, but then they all came out that way. The fruits were large, elongated, and strangely square with a pointy end. Inside, the fruit was nearly hollow with very few seeds. I have no idea what to call them, but I saved the seed just to satisfy my curiosity. I’ll plant one next year to see if it’s still square.
Alas, the summer is nearly over and we finally decided to take down the cucumber trellis the other day. Upon our trellis grew about 6 or 7 Straight Eight cucumber plants that produced bushels of beautiful white-spined fruits. We sliced, diced, and pickled our way through the dog days of summer and when it got to be just too much for the two of us, we begged and cajoled friends and neighbors into taking bags of them home.
The homemade trellis we have grown our cukes on for the last 3 or 4 years (which you can still see part of in this early spring photo), was fashioned out of sticks and wild grapevines that I gathered from around the woods and fastened together using galvanized wire.
When I started building it, I thought I’d really gotten in over my head and that it would be a wonder if it didn’t just fall apart as soon as I stood it up. But it’s been hanging in there for years now and it’s looking like it’ll go at least one or two more seasons with the addition of a few fresh strands of grapevine. I’m always a little sad when we take it down, because not only does the vine-covered trellis make the back porch feel like a little grotto, but I will also miss watching the hummingbirds that always stop and check out the cucumber’s prolific yellow flowers.
We’ve still got a good month of growing left in our garden and enough time left to make an run at a fall crop or two. There’s beans to pick and plenty of seed saving left to do. But for the most part, we are starting to say our goodbyes and spending more time down at the river’s edge before the icy days of winter beckon us closer and closer to the warmth of the wood stove.
But until then, happy gardening.
© 2016 Jill Henderson Feel free to share with a link back to the original article.
Save money, become more self-sufficient and avoid GMO’s by saving seeds! This excellent resource for beginning and hobby seed savers takes you step-by-step through every aspect of saving your own seed in plain English.
Jill Henderson is an artist, author, and the editor of Show Me Oz . Her books, The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs, The Garden Seed Saving Guide and A Journey of Seasons can be found in the Show Me Oz Bookstore. Jill is a contributing author for Acres USA and Llewellyn’s Herbal Almanac and her work has appeared in The Permaculture Activist and The Essential Herbal.
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