Once a year, right around this midsummer point, I call Barbara Murphy at the Oxford County Extension office in South Paris. She never disappoints. Perhaps I’ve already shared her advice to me when I inquired about the truly nasty bug, a migrant from who knows where, that was eating all my special lilies. She said, in so many words, lose the lilies. There are lots of other pretty flowers.

Summer before last maybe, I asked her what was happening to my tomato plants. Beginning at the bottom of the plant, leaves were yellowed and/or spotted. By the time the fruit was ripening, there were no leaves at all and we picked the fruit before the stalks collapsed. Interestingly, the tomatoes were just fine.

Barbara explained to me that even though, in the fine late August weather, we might have forgotten the heavy rains and muggy heat of early summer, the tomatoes had not.

Oh.

As we roll into August and the long-awaited bright and dry time, will my tomato plants remember the early cold rains and the recent hot and heavy ones? That can happen, Barbara said. There’s currently a whole lot of fungal disease out there. How many kinds of blights and rots? Too numerous to name.

If one of the pesky diseases strikes my tomato plants or yours, not to worry. For one thing, a good half of the tomatoes will be OK. Not only that, “Most people grow too many tomatoes,” she observed. “Really, the average household could get plenty from two plants.”

Heh, heh. We have 18.

Our garden lies in a low place maybe half a football field from the house. This is good. In answer to the question, do you have a garden, I reply with an oh-yes-of-course and an airy wave of the hand in the direction of the invisible garden.

It isn’t as if we have no crops. I’ve already made a big batch of basil pesto and parsley is hung to dry. True, we had to replant beans and zucchini, which are already being harvested In other gardens. Ours is not one of the weedless wonders you see up and down the River Valley. But not bad.

What must remain hidden? The radishes. Any schoolchild can raise radishes, right? Easiest crop this side of chives. But we can’t.

Many readers will never have seen a radish in bloom because their radish harvest comes before the blossoms. Not ours. Radish blossoms are quite lovely, a very pale lavender on a graceful two- to three-foot stalk.

I failed to ask Barbara what might be the matter with our radishes.

Master Gardeners in Our Midst

One day I must find the midpoint of the River Valley from Hanover to Dixfield. Hosmer Field in Rumford may be a pretty good guess. If you’re walking along the Swift River Trail or buying fish or watching a baseball game there, be sure to take a look at the master gardeners team: a large, productive, well-groomed vegetable garden.

This year, Barbara told me, three new gardeners have joined the force. Gould Academy retirees Mac Davis, Bonnie Pooley, and Mia Purcell work on the masterpiece garden with Usrsula and Bob Withrow, Larry Hodges, Steve Hardy, Marcia Pottle, Kelly Zilinsky, Paul Jones – not a master gardener, but a peerless volunteer – and Barbara Murphy, of course.

Like the harvest from Hosmer Field, Rumford Center Church’s crop of God’s potatoes, goes to food pantries around the area. This year, there’ll be corn, too. I wanted to call it Caesar’s Corn – “render unto Caesar” – but the idea didn’t fly.

Linda Farr Macgregor is a freelance writer from Rumford. Contact her:[email protected]


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