Mid-Season Garden Blog: Abby, the Beetles, ‘Volunteers’ & More


Here is an on-the-job shot of our gardening supervisor, Abby. She joined the family late last fall so we do not yet know if she is also a garden tomato lover like our other German shepherds have been. We had one, Heidi, wouldn’t even wait for an offer, but would sniff out a fat ripe one herself, pluck her pick delicately from the vine and tote it intact to a spot of grass and shade.

You can see a bit of grapevine in the background. As in Garden Blog: Deck Photos, this year I once again weave the volunteer wild grapevine through the deck railing as it grows, machete as necessary and, for now, flick Japanese beetles off the leaves twice a day.

Warning: Bugs after the jump.

The mating season’s been going since the very end of June. I thought maybe it peaked last week, but the bugs were just laying low during the thunderstorms.

The grape will survive because it grows fast in warm weather, almost crazy fast, and the new growth is flowering this year.

Not everything is thriving. The cool, wet spring stunted the peppers and they never recovered; they look like bonsai. With the third planting of pole beans I finally hit upon the idea to fashion cardboard “collars” to keep the sowbugs from nibbling the sprouts to death, but the beanlets still have some catching up to do. I had to resow carrots and beets, too.

On the other hand, we grew beautiful radishes and spinach like crazy until the heat hit, and at the moment are enjoying an abundance of lettuces and chard, beet greens and onions.

At right are onions and arugula picked a couple days ago.

Below, we have a grow box of carrots, a lettuce called “Vorellenschluss” and nasturtium.

A nasturtium blossom tastes like a very mild radish.

The tomatoes are doing fine, due to getting ahead of the fungus with a copper-based product called Soap Shield™. Besides the anti-fungal action, it breaks down into a fertilizer for the heirlooms, which have names like Black Prince and Lemon Boy. Tomatocherry Garden, a small tomato with a slightly heart-shaped profile, has grown up higher than the six-foot trellis and has more blossoms than leaves. Its fruit is just beginning to ripen.

I took pictures of the tomatoes but they turned out blurry and ambiguous, like the ones you see of Nessie and Sasquatch. Maybe next time!

The raised flower beds under the pines are maturing. A short sedum now covers most of the concrete block holes. Enough perennials and self-seeders are established to assure continual, sometimes dramatic, changes throughout the growing season despite the shade.

The raspberry bush, center right, is a second-year volunteer just as the deck-residing grape is. The birds plant what they’ve eaten elsewhere, thus claiming a role in shaping the landscape around here.