In the Late Summer Garden

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(HOST) Commentator Edith Hunter has been spending time in her garden again, making the most of the late summer days.

(HUNTER) I love a vegetable garden at every stage, but it is a special joy at the end of the growing season.

By then the battle with the weeds is over. I am content to let them share space with the mature plants. And I no longer worry about plants that have escaped from their assigned areas.

No matter that grandson Sammy’s pumpkins have snaked their way over to my Silver Queen corn, and that the Hubbard squash have moved in with the sweet potatoes. Like a fishline, I haul in the long cucumber vine that has wandered over to the summer squash. I put my catch – a fat little cucumber – into my basket.

All that really matters now is the harvest. The onions and garlic have been pulled, braided, and hung from the porch rafters.

Three quarters of the regular potatoes have been dug. The 160 leeks are enormous this year. Lots of vichyssoise – potato/leek soup – waiting to be made.

The tomatoes have been outstanding – lucious and huge. This year I showed admirable restraint and planted only two cherry tomato plants. But nature showed no such restraint. Somehow last year’s cherry tomatoes came up as volunteers all through the nearby asparagus bed.

When son Charles was weeding the asparagus in late June and came across the young tomato plants, I suggested he leave a few. Now, I see tiny spots of red among the feathery aparagus plants almost every where I look. It only takes a few minutes to pick a strawberry box full of these delicious little tomatoes.

And as for strawberries, the new everbearing strawberry bed is flourishing. I picked off all the blossoms in June so the plants would grow strong, and now the sturdy plants are covered with blossoms and berries. Not all of them will have a chance to develop before the first killing frost. I pick the ripe ones to freeze for the jam I will make in November.

The goldenrod is in full flower along the garden fence. Monarch butterflies land on the nearby milkweed plants. It has been a terrific year for monarchs. I urge them to get started on their long trip to Mexico. A fat toad jumps out of the newly turned earth where the potatoes were recently dug. A chipmunck runs into the garden house with a dried up pea pod in his mouth.

As I sit in the hot sun and brush my hair back, my hands carry the delicious odors that they have picked up as I have worked my way through the garden. There is the smell of dill, lemon basil, regular basil, parsely, arugala, tomato leaves, and the fat strawberry that I just popped into my mouth.

What an unexpected dividend for time spent in the end of the season garden!

Writer and historian Edith Hunter lives in Weathersfield Center.

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