It’s hard to believe that another month has passed so quickly, but here I am writing the August edition of ‘What’s Growing on in the Garden.’ Just as in July, it has been a busy month, as chores such as weeding, watering, and harvesting continued to occupy most of my time. These peak summer months are always hectic as we try to keep up with our gardens. The rewards, however, are worth the effort, as we haul in the ripened fruits and enjoy the abundant flowers.
Weather played a significant role in the garden once again this month. We had several weeks of high temperatures with no rain, making frequent watering essential. I watched as lawns turned brown and trees dropped leaves, all due to heat stress and drought. It was hard to believe when just last month we had too much rain. However, the weather is fickle, and as I write this, Tropical Storm Henri has dropped over five inches of rain and counting in our area. Naturally, the plants welcome the rain, but there is a fine line between watering and wading. Plants, after all, do not come with rubber boots.
Last month’s weather, with its excessive rain and high humidity, brought disease and pests. Despite my best efforts of hand-picking cucumber beetles and warding off fungal infection, I had some losses. The bacterial wilt transmitted by the cucumber beetles devastated my cucumber plants, and they all had to be removed. In addition, vine borers did some of my pumpkin vines in, and several tomato plants succumbed to Septoria leaf spot.
Yet, despite the rain and humidity, other crops seemed to flourish. I saved a few tomatoes, and the banana peppers are prolific, yielding an abundance of fruit. The beans this year are also doing very well. I am growing four varieties of bush beans, two varieties of dry pole beans, and three varieties of dry bush beans. I have harvested over twelve pounds of bush beans from two small rows in the past few weeks, and they are still going strong. Many friends, family, and neighbors have shared in the abundance.
All of our berry crops have also done beautifully this season. The blueberries have just finished fruiting after two months of production. We smashed our previous record of harvesting 50 pounds from our twelve bushes by nearly 20 pounds! Yes, somehow, we grew, picked, froze, shared, and devoured 70 pounds of blueberries this season. I’m surprised my skin hasn’t taken on a blueish hue after all the berries I’ve eaten. And, just in time for the end of blueberry season, our raspberries and blackberries are starting to bear fruit. We grow fall-bearing raspberry varieties Autumn Britten and Caroline, which are excellent for fresh eating and jam making. They are also abundant so far this season.
When it comes to the garden, August is typically a month of looking forward. When harvests are at their peak, we busy ourselves with preserving the abundance. As I look towards winter, I occupy myself with preparing, freezing, and canning most of what’s coming out of the garden—tastes of summer, all to be enjoyed in the upcoming winter months. I smile as I stock the freezer with peppers, tomatoes, berries, corn, and more, and I think about a time in history when preserving food for winter was a necessity instead of a nicety.
The flowers in the August garden are still flourishing. Cosmos and zinnias abound with their bright and cheery demeanor, swaying in the breeze. Dahlias, grown for the first time in my garden, do not disappoint as they start to bloom in an array of jaw-dropping color combinations. I find myself longing to spend time among them, harvesting and arranging many bouquets to bring indoors, hoping to enjoy them just a little bit longer.
There are hints that summer is winding down and that fall is just around the corner. I know that these hectic moments in the summer garden are fleeting. Soon, it will be time to plant our fall and overwintering crops and look towards planning next season’s garden. But, until then, I will continue to enjoy the splendor of our garden’s peak. I am eating as many vine-ripened tomatoes and fresh beans and berries as I can, while I can. So, now you know what’s growing on in my garden, what’s growing on in yours?