The abundance of fresh greens, spinach and radishes began in June. Then in July, came a few herbs, replanting of more greens, early beans and red Norlands potatoes.

Now, August brings the real abundance, and proof that all the hard work and sore muscles have paid off.

Anyone with a home garden knows that few other activities ought to be planned during this month — and keep the calendar open for a good part of September too — because the harvest is in earnest. Depending on how much you have planted, canning, drying and freezing may consume a great amount of time.

I am up to my ears in green and yellow beans. And every day, I wander out to the garden to discover what new vegetable may be ready for harvest. Plus I’m keeping watch on the tomato ripening progress. I’ve been watching one large tomato turn yellow, and within a couple of days it will be red and ready for the picking.

Those who don’t garden may have difficulty understanding all the fuss derived from that first sweet, red, juicy, homegrown tomato. But the rest of us know full well that tomatoes are probably the real reason we plant gardens.

Of course, fresh sweet corn picked and plopped in boiling water and salt is another huge benefit. My corn is tasseling and I’ve discovered many ears in various stages of growth.

The pumpkin vines and leaves are now huge, promising equally large orange, ribbed balls of bright joy to come in late September. Promising, that is, until yesterday, when we discovered another brown, hungry woodchuck. The first one was hauled away to another town in a Hav-A-Heart trap, and this one, too, will likely be captured and released far from my garden and anyone else’s. But, the critter discovered that not only are beans, broccoli and cauliflower delightful lunches, but s/he decided it liked the tender shoots at the very end of my pumpkin plants. That, of course, is where pumpkins develop and grow.

So, the pumpkin count may be down quite a bit this year.

I must also keep a very close watch on my goose flock and their goslings. Whenever I let them out to graze, I must be with them. If I’m not, they will wipe out the pak choi, lettuce and spinach in the blink of an eye.

I rediscovered that fact once again last week when I turned my back for only a moment. That was plenty of time for them to descend on my beautiful specialty heads of green and red lettuce and completely devour them.

Unconcerned about my challenges with wild and domesticated creatures alike, the Magical Earth is at the peak of spinning its glory during the month of August.

The sunflowers, both intentionally planted and those that seeded themselves, are beginning to bloom. The annuals, such as marigold and calendula, are sending up bright blossoms of orange, red and yellow, and the last of the perennial lilies are sending out their fragrant scents.

Our large potted bay leaf plant has produced hundreds of leaves that will be dried and used in soups and stews throughout the winter. The hot peppers are turning red, and the cucumber vines promise a few jars of dill pickles.

Despite the abundance of produce now ready for harvest, many tasks should be completed during this month to help keep things humming along:

* Try to keep the vegetables well weeded. The more weeds mixed in with the vegetable plants, the less energy that will go into producing more fruit.

* Continue to deadhead flowers so they will blossom into fall.

* Trim back the non-producing branches of the tomato plants. Some gardeners also recommend removing some of the blossoms at this time of the growing season so the plant’s energy will go into producing larger fruit.

* Harvest cabbage and cauliflower, and keep a close watch on any broccoli side shoots so they can be picked and either eaten or frozen before they become tiny yellow flowers.

* Order garlic for planting in October. Review this year’s crop and order the varieties that produced best. Save a few garlic heads from this year’s crop to plant, too.

* Survey the perennial flower beds. Keep well weeded, add compost and decide what varieties to plant in the fall. Order the flower bulbs.

* Plant one last series of crops, such as lettuce, radishes, green or yellow beans, beets and chard.

* Make sure producing plants receive at least one inch of water a week. At this time of year, the vine crops, such as winter squash, gourds and pumpkins, should receive particular attention because they will be the last to be harvested.

Early- to mid-August is also a wonderful time to just look around. Since many of us live in the country, chances are the wildflowers are at their peak.

Delicate Queen Anne’s lace, tiny white yarrow plants with intricate leaves, large patches of black-eyed Susans and several varieties of goldenrod are all ready for picking or just enjoying.

Cattails may be found in wet areas along the sides of back roads. These unique plants will last for months as an indoor autumn bouquet if they are picked while they are still young and hung upside down for a few days to dry before placing in an autumn arrangement.

The magical earth has been so very good so far this year. I hope everyone with a backyard garden is having a chance to enjoy the earth’s abundance.

Eileen Adams has been gardening for decades and still gets excited when she sees a tomato begin to ripen, or tassels and silk appear on the corn. She may be reached at [email protected]


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