Late Summer

by Scott Duncan

As we get to the end of August, the good growing weather has held, the rains came at just the right time and in adequate amounts, and the harvests have been very satisfactory. Some might even say spectacular! In my experience, at least, gardening on Delmarva in 2014 has been a very good year. The blackberry crop (photo) came in beautifully beginning mid-July, helped along by the netting I threw over the berry patch to keep the birds at bay (photo), followed by zucchini, yellow squash and the first tomatoes.

August was also a banner month for sweet corn, melons, and green beans (photo) in addition to the other vegetables still producing. Overall, the garden area (photo) looked lovely in the late afternoon sunshine.

I even had a bonus. Early in June I noticed a volunteer, with leaves looking very much like a squash plant, emerge from among the tomatoes. Because I bury all our vegetable waste in various spots around the garden during the year the appearance of a volunteer is not so unusual but I didn’t recognize this plant until one of the flowers eventually developed into a fine fat pumpkin (photo).

The biggest disappointment this season is that the beehive didn’t make enough honey for me to share. Nevertheless, the hive looks very strong and healthy so I have high hopes it will come through the winter in good shape. To be sure, I’m letting them keep all the honey they produced.

In mid-July, I paid a second visit to the three gardeners I introduced in my last report, to see how they have fared. Joel Simpson, on the Virginia eastern shore, also reports having a good year despite a few setbacks. In his heavily shaded garden space (photo) he raised corn, string beans and pole lima beans (photo) (both of which he successfully transplants, despite the caution of “experts”), and numerous varieties of tomatoes (photo), and potatoes. I was particularly drawn to the way Joel strengthens the frame for his pole beans – he strips the bark off Poplar saplings and uses it to bind reinforcement posts (photos) to the main one to make a very sturdy support for the plants.

Unfortunately, Joel lost his entire wheat crop to army worms, whose larvae can inflict considerable damage to grasses, and some of his potato plants produced poorly because of the dense shade.

As a first year gardener Sue Bromm, in Mardela Springs, understandably had her ups and downs. After a successful start with asparagus (photo) early in the season, many later vegetables “just never came up”. She suspects that the topsoil used to fill the pool planting area might be the culprit. Her garden looked quite nice (photo) but germination was spotty and her tomatoes and cabbage never got going (photo). Nevertheless, she still has hope for her corn patch and watermelons, and looks forward to harvesting a number of bird-house gourds. She’ll follow that up with some additional late season planting of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, radishes, turnips and kohlrabi.

It was a real pleasure to wander with Michael Richards around his spacious garden, near Camden, DE. Everything looked so beautiful and healthy (photo). His corn plot (photo), lima bean area (photo), and tomatoes (24 different varieties – photo) were all spectacular although he could only muster an “okay” when I asked him how the season had been so far. By the time of my visit in mid-July, Michael had harvested and frozen four “pickings” of beans and had started eating the first batch of corn, with much more to come.

My next visit to these three Delmarva gardeners, as well as a wrap-up report from my own garden, will be in late September. Until then, if you have any questions, please email me: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)