Magical Earth: Hail the rewards of August

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As August draws to a close, much of the harvest is done. Chances are the green and yellow beans have been harvested and canned or frozen, wonderfully fresh salads are being served with most suppers, and the sweet corn is now finding its way into boiling water and the dinner plate with lots of dairy butter.

August is why we plant vegetables gardens and do all the weeding and other work needed for a successful harvest.

For me, as usual, some vegetables have done much better than others. Beans are a vegetable that the beginning gardener should always plant. Regardless of the weather or voracious insects, beans will be a success, as they are for me this year.

Several varieties of tomatoes are growing rapidly. We’ve eaten a few in salads, but I’m waiting for enough ripe ones to can. If I can nothing else, dozens of jars of tomatoes must must find their ways to my pantry shelves.

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Having a fence built around the garden this year has truly been worth the cost. As much as I love my geese, I didn’t want them again to wipe out my lettuce and spinach when my back was turned, and the fence prevented that. I give my wonderful feathered friends lots of greens from my garden, but I want to dictate how much to provide to them.

The fence also kept out deer. Although they could have easily jumped over it, they didn’t. I think lots of wild foods were available to them this year.

A major absence of Japanese beetles has also helped with this year’s harvest. For this, I give thanks to the milky spore we set out a few feet from the garden. It was expensive, but well worth it. Not only has it protected most of my crops in this year’s garden, but also for the previous two years. Hopefully, it will still do its work during the 2018 gardening season.

Our Italian basil has done well and will soon be made into pesto. The parsley, too, is flourishing. Last year, we made a parsley pesto to add to soups and stews. Perhaps we will do so again this year. I’ve used some of both fresh herbs in salads and tomato sauces.

The garlic harvest this year was exceptional. While I plant and care for the major part of the garden, my husband is in charge of the garlic. During the past few years, he has planted cloves taken from some of the biggest heads of garlic he has grown each year, and it has paid off tremendously. Our garlic could compete with any other that might appear at our local agricultural fair.

Along with the prolific vegetable garden are the multitudinous number of wild flowers. For me, a lovely bouquet of Queen Anne’s lace, goldenrod and yarrow is on par with any commercially purchased flowers.

Looking around the perimeters of of house and fields, I see bell-shaped, bright orange jewel weed, sweet-smelling red and yellow hawkweed, a few black-eyed Susans still blossoming, dainty, daisy-like fleabane clusters, and myriad other beautiful or fragrant gifts from the earth.

Our two very old apple trees — a Wealthy and a Baldwin — continue to provide a wonderful crop for baking into pies or crisps, and for making jelly. Back when this house was built nearly 200 years ago, virtually every farmhouse had an apple orchard. Through the years, the field in back of the house where they were planted has browned up. But the old Baldwin, at the edge of the back lawn, and the Wealthy, beside the garden, continue to produce — not as many apples as decades ago, but still enough to use.

I love the way fruits and vegetables ripen in a cyclical manner. The raspberries and blackberries are done for another year, but the apples are just coming into their own. Several more vegetables have yet to be harvested. I pull potato plants as we need them, along with carrots and beets. The third lettuce crop is providing fresh greens for salads.

Some things to think about before the garden is cleaned up for another year:

*Plant another crop of lettuce and/or spinach, and perhaps a few more radishes. There should be time to grow these before the daylight shortens too much and the cold weather takes over.

*Clean up the crops that are done for the year. This makes it much easier to clean up the whole garden when everything has completed its growing cycle.

*Assess those crops that did well and those that didn’t, and make adjustments, if necessary, for next year’s garden.

*Thank the magical earth for providing lots of fresh food during the summer and autumn, and for the canned, frozen and stored food that will be eaten during the winter and spring.

I want to thank so many people for identifying the blue/purple stake-like flowers that appeared in my flower garden. They were liatris, or gayflower. I still wonder how they got there, but they were lovely and I hope they reappear next year.

For now, I give thanks to the earth for all its bounty.

Eileen M. Adams has been gardening for decades. She learns something new every year. She may be reached at petsplants@midmaine.com

Italian parsley, ready for the picking. 
Baldwin apples ripen in the trees.
Garlic bulbs hang to dry. 
The summer’s moderate weather has helped sunflowers grow tall.

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