Magical earth: Nature still providing late-season bounty

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The leaves on our old maples are beginning to turn their bright shades of red and gold, the lawn is no longer growing enough to require mowing, and a definite chill has been in the evening air.

It’s almost the end of the gardening season.

This hasn’t been the best year on record, but then, it certainly hasn’t been the worst.

Potatoes have produced prolifically. Anyone who is just starting to garden should plant them because when all else fails, potatoes virtually never do. I know we will have a couple of baskets stored in a dark, cool closet that will most likely get us through March.

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Although it’s unusually late, the corn is finally ready for the picking.

The vast majority of the tomatoes are still green, while a few have ripened enough to eat. Canning will hopefully take place in a few days.

Carrots, beets, parsnips and other root crops can remain in the ground for a few more weeks. In fact, sometimes, if such crops are particularly plentiful, some gardeners mulch them with straw so they can be harvested well into the winter.

Our Italian parsley has done well, but unfortunately, the basil wasn’t as abundant as usual, so that means little, if any, pesto this year.

The dill plants are prolific and heavily laden with seeds, but sadly, the cucumbers did virtually nothing, so I don’t see dill pickles in our future this year.

The elderberries are well on their way to ripening, although they won’t be ready in time for me to make jelly for entry at the Farmington Fair, but I will have their jelly made to give as Christmas presents for those who appreciate their unique flavor.

As I look around the exterior of the garden and on the lawn, our burning bushes will likely be spectacularly red this year.

My geese wiped out all the squash plants I had planted in the separate patch I set aside for vine crops. This year, I planted them by themselves, but that particular patch was not secured with a fence like the rest of the garden. (After trying to grow a garden and raise geese, I finally learned that the geese can outsmart me every time, so protection was necessary.)

I’ve picked and frozen the rest of the wild blackberries and plan to make jam and/or pies soon.

During all this, I must remember to keep weeding the garden. Although the growing season is nearly over, keeping the garden free of weeds helps tremendously when preparing and planting next year’s garden.

Our wonderful old Baldwin and Wealthy apple trees are producing well, so I also see apple jelly and apple pies in our future. Lots of mint has been growing to add flavor to lamb or made into jelly.

As the season draws to a close, I look back at when I started its preparation in March. Each growing season is different. Some years, we have so many tomatoes or cucumbers I can’t can or pickle them all. Other years, we remember to be grateful that we have a few for salads.

And as each gardening season draws to a close, I begin planning for the next year.

I reduced the size of the garden this year, so that means I have a ton of seeds remaining to be used during the 2018 season. Although every seed won’t germinate from old packs, enough will, so fewer seeds will need to be purchased. When using older seeds, plant thicker than recommended on the package.

Some other things to consider as the season draws to a close:

* Did you have enough or too many seeds for this year? Should a different brand be used?

* Keep weeding. You will be thankful you did when next year’s garden is ready for planting.

 * Are there varieties of a particular vegetable that should be eliminated or added?

* Seed catalogs for next year have already begun arriving. Take a good look at each to decide which seeds, if any, should be purchased. Store leftover seeds in a cool, dry place.

* Thin out blackberry and raspberry canes so that those that remain receive more nutrients; trim apple trees of dead or dying branches.

* Serve your family an evening meal comprised entirely of the bounty from the garden.

* Thank the magical earth for providing us with healthy, nutritious foods.

Eileen M. Adams has been gardening for decades. She is always surprised and thankful for what the Earth gives. She may be reached at petsplants@midmaine.com

Elderberries are slowly progressing to their blue/black ripeness.

Freshly dug potatoes

This year’s surprise plant was the sorghum.

The first leaves are turning bright red on our burning bush.

The dill grew well this year; sadly, cucumbers were almost nonexistent. A pickle-less future awaits.

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