Gardening between summer care and fall rush

Gardens are in transit now. The frenzy of planting and caring is over, and the frenzy of preparation for winter is yet to come.

The cucumbers have outdone themselves. I only planted seeds in one row of about 4 feet and have made 11 quarts and 14 pints of dill pickles — the cucumbers, dill and garlic all from the garden.

Tomatoes are eaten whole or used in salsas with bell peppers, shallots, garlic, basil, cilantro and parsley, all from the garden. First zucchini has been pulled up and second zucchini planted the end of July is growing well. Second spinach also is growing well and I’ve eaten some already.

The martin gourds are so heavy the vines are collapsing the chicken wire that surrounds the garden. They started producing gourds early enough that there should be some with thick walls to make into bird feeders and wren houses. The luffa gourd, on the other hand, started flowering mid-August and most of the flowers are male so it’s unlikely there will be much of a luffa harvest.

The four flowers planted from seed have grown differently. All were planted in late April. Zinnias have been blooming exuberantly for a while and make a great cut flower. I took a class last fall in making dried flower wreaths so planted celosia (magenta flowering head like a cock’s comb). The flowers are being cut and dried for a future project and, surprisingly, make a nice cut flower. The heliotrope planted for its fragrance is finally blooming but is not particularly fragrant. Canterbury bells have lush growth but so far no hint of a flower.

There are apples on the apple tree but they are small, as are the pears. I do not water trees during drought (we had a couple weeks of heat and no rain) so I guess there was enough moisture in the soil to keep the apples but not for them to grow much. Some years when we have extended drought, the trees just drop all the apples and wait for better times.

The rhubarb continues to grow well. I harvest rhubarb as needed. In the spring rhubarb is combined with strawberries in jam and cobblers. Now I just made rhubarb ginger jam and later in the fall rhubarb will be combined with apples in apple sauce and pies.

There has been enough rain that the lawn continues to need mowing, although it is mostly buckhorn, sedge and foxtail if you haven’t mowed for a while. I have decided to reclaim the sidewalk from the encroaching lawn and use the strips of grass and soil that are removed to pad the tree roots that are sticking up and play havoc with the mower. Once the job is done, hopefully the string trimmer will keep the edge neat.

Houseplants on the deck get a last feeding and repotting if necessary before they start moving inside. That is a big production, part of the preparation for winter frenzy. I don’t encourage growth during the inside time, just survival, so this is their last chance to enjoy the fresh air, sunshine, and rain. I enjoy those same things.

Enjoy your garden.

Susan Carty is a local gardener and a professor emerita of biology at Heidelberg University.

Contact her via:newsroom@advertiser-tribune.com