The abundant greens, fledgling tomatoes, huge pumpkin plants and tiny beans are all surpassing anything I have grown in past years.

I hope I’m not jinxing myself, my garden and our lush back fields by saying that this is probably the best vegetable garden, the most beautiful wildflower clusters, and most prolific wild berry crops I think I have ever seen.

All this glory is not because of anything I have done. It is most certainly the sometimes startling results of our magical earth at work, with a cooperative weather pattern that seems to add water and heat when needed.

As far as I can say, I’ve pretty much taken care of the garden as I always have: Weed when needed, water before a plant shows signs of stress and apply fertilizer if a plant looks like it needs a boost.

As any gardener can confirm, every growing season is different. Some years, there’s not enough rain. Others, such as the past two growing seasons, have resulted in so much rain that nearly all my cucumber and summer squash plants molded, and those that managed to produce tiny fruits, drowned before the fruit matured.

Yes, it’s only the end of July, so lots of not-so-great weather events — think hail, high winds and torrential rains — can still turn what looks like one of the best years ever into another very poor growing season.

But for now, I have dreams of tons of tomatoes to can and to make salsa and juice with, a variety of pickles for the first time in three years, and feasting on spinach, lettuce, carrots and beets well into October.

The end of July means the second or third crops of certain vegetables — greens, beans and even carrots (for a mid-autumn harvest) — should be planted now.

With our growing season lengthening because of warming trends, more second and third crops can be planted here in Zones 4 or 5. (The lower the zone number, the colder the climate and therefore the shorter the growing season and the fewer the types of crops that can be successfully planted and harvested before frost.)

Within just my nearly 50 years of either growing or watching others grow gardens, I have seen great changes in the length of the growing season, as well as in the number of once nonexistent insect and plant pests and types of weeds now appearing.

Late July is no time to ignore the garden. This is the time to:

* Harvest the garlic if that hasn’t already been done;

* Keep a close watch on potato and cucumber beetles, and eliminate as needed. Also, because the climate seems to be changing, start looking for those ugly, gray squash bugs now, rather than in August. A horde of those can wipe out entire winter squash and pumpkin crops;

* Harvest the broccoli heads before those lovely green tightly packed heads suddenly blossom into tiny yellow flowers;

* Begin preserving vegetables for fall and winter eating. The best vegetables to preserve are the young, small ones: Pick the green and yellow beans while they are still very thin, then either can or freeze them; harvest the broccoli, and cut into desired-size pieces (after soaking the full heads in salted water to kill any hiding insects);

* Continue to thin carrots, beets and turnips to allow the remaining roots to grow;

* Keep a close watch on the tomato plants for any signs of blight; treat with a copper-based spray to try to prevent devastation;

* Keep onions well weeded and fertilize again; pull one up every so often, slice thinly and add to a scrumptious green salad;

* Begin to assess which crops should be grown again next year, and those that probably shouldn’t because they are not thriving. If you’ve kept the seed packets, you’ll also know whether to try a different variety of a particular vegetable;

* Enjoy entire meals consisting of vegetables and herbs growing in the garden. I have found no greater satisfaction than serving such a supper every so often. One of my favorites is to dig a few tiny potatoes and cook them, cut up some fresh parsley to add to the cooked potatoes, then add salt and pepper and either olive oil or butter;

* Dig the early potatoes, which are usually red Norlands or other red varieties; hill with more soil or apply another layer of hay if growing under hay rather than in hills;

* Take photos of the garden. In the dead of winter, such pictures can boost morale, as well as help plan the 2016 garden;

And above all, take time to enjoy what the magical earth and your own two hands have produced. Pull up a lawn chair under a tree not too far from the garden, pour yourself a homemade ice tea or lemonade, and relax and enjoy.

Eileen M. Adams has been gardening for decades. When the season winds down in October and the last jar of vegetables, pickles, jam or jelly is canned, she begins thinking about the next season and what the magical earth may provide. She may be reached at [email protected]


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