I am thankful I have a very large, blue, plastic barrel in back of the house filled with rainwater.

With all this lovely, but dry weather, the garden vegetables are crying for some moisture.

Anyone with a garden should definitely have such a water-filled barrel available to them, particularly if you draw water from your own well. It has been so dry lately that we have sometimes lost running water.

This has been a tough year for keeping all growing plants well-watered. Another way to assure that the plants are getting enough water is to mulch them. I generally apply layers of newspaper, then hay around my tomatoes. Such actions also keep the weeds down.

Another way to ensure well-nourished garden soil when it lies fallow is to plant buckwheat or clover. This year, we didn’t plant the entire main garden, but just two-thirds of it. The other third was planted in buckwheat, which is flourishing quite nicely.

Soon, we will turn it under so that next year’s soil will be all the richer. Because buckwheat grows so quickly, it also helps discourage weeds and grass in the unused portion of the vegetable garden.

Meanwhile, the perennial flowers and many of the early greens are flourishing. We’ve had many lovely salads using fresh spinach and lettuce, radishes and some of last year’s onions, which wintered over quite well for use in salads.

Green and yellow beans will soon be ready to eat with a little olive oil or butter, and salt and pepper. I also like to saute them in olive oil with a bit of garlic and serve them over vermicelli or angel hair pasta.

Roasting green and yellow beans, as well as nearly every other vegetable, is another flavorful method for cooking. Roasting allows the flavors to become richer.

Although the entire garden seems to be doing well despite a lack of moisture, one family of vegetables will produce no matter what, it seems.

And that is the cruciferous family of broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. If a gardening year is so bad that few vegetables are produced, I can still always depend on the cruciferous ones. One year, we had fresh cabbage right through Christmas because they remain well in the refrigerator for months.

Our huge bed of garlic is nearly ready for harvesting. This is something we so much enjoy because garlic goes well in so many dishes.

Meanwhile, both the wild flowers and the perennials are making a most welcomed spectacle of themselves.

The dependable, wild orange day lilies have sprouted up all around the perimeter of the house, my favorite wild daisies have seeded themselves in even more places than usual, the Queen Anne’s lace is blossoming in all its glory, black-eyed Susans are growing in abundant clusters, the wild blackberry and raspberry canes are now showing tiny green berries, and small clusters of tiny, green grapes are dangling from their support wires.

The hostas, planted in a shaded bed around a maple tree on the front lawn, are sending out shoots that will soon turn into tiny, delicate lavender flowers. The hens and chickens perennial plants have produced several tall, purplish flower clusters, and the perennial day lilies are appearing everywhere.

Fresh basil is ready for stirring into pasta sauces and the dill plants are promising to flavor many jars of pickles.

Mid-July is certainly a great time to be a gardener. So much of what we faithfully planted in May is now coming to fruition.

It’s so much fun to walk into the garden and pick fresh vegetables and herbs for supper.

Here are a few things we should be doing in our gardens right now:

* Mulch around as many plants as possible to retain moisture.

* Keep vegetables well-weeded.

* Plant buckwheat in a fallow garden spot.

* Pick a large bouquet of wild flowers for a kitchen table centerpiece.

* Be thankful that the magical earth is once again providing us with healthy, nutritious sustenance.

Eileen M. Adams has been gardening for decades. She may be reached at [email protected]

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