The summer in review

The other day we had a hard freeze where I live. I knew it was coming, but I felt devastated anyways. My Dahlias had been profusely flowering in a last gasp attempt to be productive, my Yellow Bell Pepper was forming new baby peppers. All this flurry of life had given me a strange denial hope of the season’s real timing. It shouldn’t have. Annuals often grow like crazy just before they die; it happens every year.

This end of season sadness forces me to reflect on how great the season was. In this essay I will review my work this summer. The project range is wide, each as unique as the space and personalities I work with.

One client I have worked with for 7 years now. She is wheelchair bound, spends a lot of time in the house, and so we’ve worked together for years to co-create a butterfly habitat for her and her family to enjoy. This year we added some Yarrow, Meadowrue, Cup Plant, Mexican Sunflower, Liatris, Bee Balm and Hollyhock to the mix. We grew container plants on the patio, some herbs for tea and/or cooking, and also some tomatoes in easy reach. There was a lot of work done this year controlling semi-invasive plants; such as Wild Geranium, Artemis and Evening Primrose. We planted new Butterfly attractors where the overgrown invaders had lived. Within the past few weeks we’ve put down seeds that need to stratify over the winter: Coneflower, Swamp Milkweed, and Foxglove.

A new and wonderful client from the Saratoga Lake area found me. He has been interested in making his property more productive, and in connecting to the community through growing edible gardens. I suggested we grow hops to sell to a local brewery, and my client wanted large beds of herbs and vegetables. We had a big pumpkin patch, and grew Roma Tomatoes, Leeks, Mint, Chamomile, Basil, Lemon Balm, Bee Balm, Sage, Lavender, Tarragon, Rosemary, Catnip and Nasturtium. In late August, the healthy and gorgeous pumpkin patch was hit swiftly with Powdery Mildew, which was spread by Cucumber Beetles and Squash Bugs. A mad scramble to organically best these creatures and this disease followed. I would arrive at sunrise with rubber gloves and a pail of soapy water to capture sleepy, slow to move Cucumber beetles and Squash bugs and drop them into the sudsy water. I experimented with many different methods for Mildew removal. My favorite was a simple mixture of Apple Cider Vinegar and Water, sprayed on the leaves and pumpkins. It purported to alter surface pH, hence making the surface inhospitable for Mildew. I also like a Neem Oil, Dish Soap and water mixture. This works for both, disease and insect control. Flat wooden boards were placed under the young pumpkins for dual purposes: to prevent Mildew from covering the pumpkins and also because the Squash bugs would collect there in the early mornings and could be easily captured for soapy water sequestration. We did not get the hops started early enough, and decided to forego planting until spring of 2012, although we have the field ready to plant via the lasange gardening plot technique. This property was tremendously productive, although the pumpkins produced less fruit than expected (approximately 20 mature pumpkins were counted,) The tomato output was astonishing: hundreds, maybe thoudands of tomatoes were harvested. The other herbs were just as prolific and high quality, many were sold at the new Malta market.

To be continued.

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