Doesn't it seem as though summer is endless when we have beautiful sunny skies and warm temperatures ... It could go on and on forever, and folks would be happy. The days are quiet now since the college kids have returned to school. It still feels like summer but without the youth that keep things lively around the house and yard.
The long afternoons are deceptive because they suddenly turn into evenings much too soon. But then again, there is something about summer's longevity that also makes us eager for this change. Since that seasonal change is here, I am writing this article to always remember these very lovely, summer-like afternoons.
What is so special about these moments?
Butterflies are flitting atop zinnia flowers that are still in full bloom, and gardens are still producing fruits and vegetables. T-shirts, shorts, and bare feet are the order of the day, and folks continue to flock to the local beaches.
The grass continues to shout, "Trim me!" and the swimming pool's crystal-blue water beckons by the minute.
A tall glass of fresh iced tea is a welcome respite from the humidity that we are accustomed to here in the Mid-Atlantic, and yet it is autumn. My endless summer has finally come to an end.
This happens every year, but this year, we had an especially nice summer; in fact, I do not remember any prolonged heat waves during June, July and August nor any devastating droughts like we usually get around here. It was remarkable for those who like to grow things.
Can we rewind? I want to remember this summer forever, so here are the high points from a gardener's point of view:
My husband decided to take care of the tomato plants this year; in fact, he had a brilliant idea to plant them in tires. So we planted four tomato varieties in tires in the garden while placing four other plants in a 5' x 5' planter box.
I ate a beefsteak tomato for breakfast each morning and then again for lunch. That was the only way to prevent from having to can or process them.
The tomatoes were so prolific, however, that I could not eat them as fast as they turned red, so I eventually ended up boiling a bunch of them for tomato sauce. At this very moment, there are still plenty of green tomatoes on our tomato plants that will no doubt have to be picked because a frost could occur any day now.
I had a special surprise on Mother's Day: my college son came home with a gift of two tiny cucumber plants in a wet cardboard toilet paper tube.
To keep these cucumber plants alive in his college dormitory, he had taped the entire tube to his picture window and watered well.
Of course, I transplanted the poor little plants post-haste into the vegetable garden (after acclimating them to living outdoors for a day or so) and kept a record of their progress. Since David returned to school after giving me the cucumber plants, I regularly posted a picture of the growing beauties on Facebook for him from time to time.
The plants matured and yielded one fat, delicious cucumber before succumbing to a disease borne by squash bugs. Those insects also killed our squash plants, but not until after we had harvested so many fruits that we couldn't even give them away.
By the way, that cucumber was the best lunch I ever had.
In addition to the cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes, I also raised stringbeans and got enough of a yield to freeze about twenty-five quarts. We have allowed what's left of the beans to go unpicked now in order to harvest a few seeds for next year.
That was the work, now on to the fun stuff!
Zinnias, zinnias, and more zinnias! I could not get enough of them, especially the ones that looked like pompoms. Although reluctant to cut them as they aged, by the end of summer, I could not cut enough. And just about every bloom that got cut, got saved because I want that party-punch look again!
Thank you, Norma, for letting me gather your zinnia seeds last summer. I believe I will be having zinnias for a very long time. To that end, I am in the process of drying spent flower heads and will have PLENTY to share.
Moving on: To add a fun touch to my front sidewalk this year, I decided to try a small rock garden. The hen and chicks were already established in a spot out front (after they had fallen out of their broken pot), so I simply surrounded them with large stones.
Then I placed dunce cap succulents (Orostachys iwarenge) near the hen and chicks and filled in the gaps with portulacas. By summer's end, the rock garden looked very sweet indeed, making the earlier work that went into the project worth every minute of muddy knees while rearranging heavy rocks.
The Cosmos bipinnatus seeds that almost never got planted surprised me. The seeds were a Mother's Day gift from one of the young men who frequents the house whenever my sons are around, but I was up to my ears in gardening at that time and did not want to add one more thing to my chores. After a slow start of making lots of fern-like fringe without blooms, the flowers are now going strong and are climbing up to the sky like Jack's Beanstalk.
It is no wonder they are called cosmos; my tallest flower is over six feet and shows no signs of stopping.
These flowers are also currently getting trimmed for seed collection just as the zinnias are. It will be great to get more cosmos again next year from the seeds that I like to save.
A Dave's Garden member who traded plants with me this summer gave me some more succulents for my rock garden that yielded beautiful, tiny lavender flowers. What a nice surprise. Another nice lady recently sent me some seeds for the price of postage because it's that time of year again for seed trading. Most everyone likes to receive a package in the mail, and what better gift than the gift of a living plant or seeds.
My pastor gave me some elephant ear bulbs in the spring, but I never got around to getting them planted until well into June (or was it July)? What a delight to find out that their large, showy leaves added a lovely accent to my property, even if planted in a wooden box.
More surprises: John and Karen, good neighbors and friends, invited James and I to come over one summer day and pick as much sweet corn as we could carry home in our van. That corn was delicious to eat fresh and was also processed for the freezer for a treat in the middle of winter.
Speaking of which, the freezer is also full of strawberries, green beans, grated squash, and tomato sauce.
Is it any wonder that I wanted summer to go on forever?