Magical Earth: Abundance galore!

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Hot temperatures and just the right amount of rain have resulted in a major jungle that I call my garden.

Not only is virtually every vegetable far exceeding its usual size and production, but two are exceptional.

The cabbage patch could hide a nursery full of dolls of the same name, and the self-seeded light green patty pan squash threatens to overtake everything in and outside of its path.

I’ve never seen such a plant in all my years of gardening.

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So far, dozens of dainty or large greenish squashes have been picked and given to all those who might like them (or not!) and it is still producing. Anyone who drops by for whatever reason has been gifted with at least a few of these squashes. And, of course, we are eating them as quickly as we can.

Summer squash do not can well, but they can be cut up, blanched and frozen to add to soups. But that’s about it for preserving them. How I wish the tomatoes were as prolific as this squash plant is.

A seed somehow planted itself in the 20-foot-by-4-foot raised garlic bed and took off from there. Thankfully, we were able to harvest all the garlic before this monstrous plant really got going.

My jungle of corn stalks and pumpkin plants is lush. I’ve found several fairly good-sized green pumpkins so far, and I expect there are many more hiding in the vines.

The greatest challenge I have right now is finding the time to harvest and preserve the multitude of beans, herbs, potatoes and other vegetables that must be taken care of. I am not complaining, but this year nearly everything is ready for harvest at the same time. This is usual, but I don’t usually have so much to pick and store or preserve.

A quick trip through the winter squash patch shows an abundant year there, as well. Tiny sweet dumplings, green and colorful acorns, a few delicata and a couple of butternut all promise great eating in the fall and winter months.

Meanwhile, the wild raspberries are nearly done for the year, while the wild blackberries continue to produce. They are being stored in the freezer until I have time to make jam. Very soon, I’ll be picking the Wealthy apples for jelly-making.

Other developments and suggestions as the gardening season progresses:

* The vegetables planted in straw bales are doing OK, well enough that I will try planting a few vegetables in them again next year. Cucumbers are hanging off the sides of the bales, one sturdy tomato plant is covered with green tomatoes and the yellow patty pan squash plant is also producing lots of fruit.

* If your basil is beginning to blossom as mine is, make sure to pick it very soon and either dry for future use or make into pesto. Parsley can remain in the garden until after the first few frosts, then it can be frozen or dried. Dill should be picked before it goes completely to seed, then dried.

* Start harvesting carrots, but not too many. I have found that the best way to preserve them is wrapped in newspapers and stored in a cool place. Leave many in the ground for as long as possible so they can be used fresh. Canning with a pressure canner is also an option.

* Wild flowers, such as Queen Anne’s lace, pink clover, goldenrod and black-eyed Susans, are at their peak, allowing for glorious kitchen table bouquets. Consider drying a few for later displays or to create lovely greeting cards.

* As each crop has been harvested, clean up its patch. Such action reduces a major garden cleanup at the end of the season.

* Second crops of beans and summer squash should be blossoming now. New fruit will appear before the first frost hits. Second and third spinach and lettuce crops are likely done for the year, but the fourth and fifth crops are promising to provide salad greens well into September and October.

* Reassess the types and varieties of vegetables planted in this year’s garden and use that information when you start planning the 2016 garden. But remember, just because a particular vegetable did well this year, doesn’t mean it will do well next year, and vice versa. And also, reassess the size of your garden. Try to plant only what can be well cared for.

One of my favorite things to do when I am wandering in the garden is graze. I like to taste the many lettuces and spinach; pull a sweet carrot, wipe off the soil and munch on that; and test-taste a fresh cucumber, a green pepper or a sun-warmed tomato.

While many vegetables and greens are ready for the eating in late June and throughout July, August is when virtually everything is ripe. This is when we dine on all-vegetable meals.

It just doesn’t get any better than using gifts from the magical Earth to create entire suppers from our backyards.

Eileen M. Adams has been gardening for decades. She is always amazed at what the magical Earth can provide. She may be reached at petsplants@midmaine.com

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