GARDEN PHYLLISOPY – September 2006

By Phyllis Galowitz

The weather has been gorgeous, perfect for gardening; not too hot, not too buggy, not raining, but maybe too late to save what’s left of the vegetable garden after the devastation caused by last month’s flooding. Nights have been cool and if I were a good gardener/mother, I’d cover my tomato plants at night with a blanket, to protect them, as I cover myself from the sudden chill. I’ve only picked two tiny cherry tomatoes and one zucchini at this writing, on August 13th. Is this the end of summer? I could still plant lettuce and broccoli and peas and possibly get a fall crop, if I hurry and if I have the time.

That’s the trouble with gardening. When conditions are perfect, other things seem to get in the way. There’s summer company (which I love having) or necessary trips to Albany, Cooperstown, or Kingston, which I also love taking. The scenery is always worth the trip! Of course, those trips are perfect for visiting farm stands to buy the things I haven’t planted or for picking berries.

The containers on our terrace have been the most successful for growing herbs and tomatoes and they’ve survived the flood and heavy rains. I also enjoy their location, right outside the kitchen door, where I can run out and snip some parsley as I’m cooking.

Last night, Amy and Ian stayed for dinner, unexpectedly. How nice it was to be able to use the first zucchini of the season, an onion harvested from the garden, and some freshly picked herbs. The two cherry tomatoes were sliced in half so that we could each have a taste—m-m-m! I must collect more large containers to have ready for next year’s garden.

It’s time to divide overgrown iris, Oriental poppies, and peonies. It’s time to give the perennials a dose of liquid fertilizer to replenish the nutrients that have been washed away by the rain. It’s time to harvest herbs, in small batches, to freeze or dry for winter use; make some pesto; harvest onions, as the stems turn yellow and brown, and leave them to dry in a shady place with good ventilation for ten days to two weeks, then store them in mesh bags in a cool place, like a cellar.

Mulch around mums as you’re planting them to give them some protection against cool nights. After they die, don’t cut them back. Apply a thick mulch, such as evergreen boughs or straw to keep them uniformly cold. The dead branches will keep the mulch in place. The longer the plants have been in the ground before the frost, the better chance they have to survive the winter. In the spring, if they’ve survived, uncover them as soon as they’ve started to grow again and cut away the old branches. Divide when the new shoots are four inches high and plant 18 to 24 inches apart.

I’d like to share another of Cara’s wonderful birthday cards to me with you, where she playfully but lovingly makes fun of my gardening trials which I’m sure are yours also!