Lauterbach: Joys and dismays in an ever-changing garden

Special to The Idaho StatesmanSeptember 26, 2013 

FOOD SUMMER-FLAVORS 2 LA

Surplus garden produce can go to local food pantries.

RICARDO DEARATANHA — MCT

Like many other gardeners, I relish a slow tour through my garden beds each day, feeling joy at some changes, dismay at others.

Garden beds do change daily, sometimes hourly.

Happiness is finding a hidden Delicata squash in the cascade of leaves over the edge of the squash bed and a neat row of lacewing eggs on hair-like stalks on a sowthistle leaf; delighting in the color crescendo of greens on a mature collards plant; catching the scent of a late rose on the Zephirine Drouhin climbing rose bush; and filling my mouth with a sun-warmed lollipop cherry tomato.

Glossy peppers in green, yellow, brown and red are a joy to see, even from a distance. My Basque Chato peppers (huge bell peppers) are more massive and impressive than ever before, now turning red, and my plants are loaded with them. The one I picked weighed three quarters of a pound.

Spaced down the middle of my “greens” bed are vigorous Michihili Chinese cabbages, about 5 inches tall so far.

Celery stalks are robust and thick in the bunches about to be dug for the Idaho Foodbank. The flavor, too, is very good.

Dismay is the sight of the mother lode of squash bugs, eggs obviously missed in daily patrols; what should have been 8-inch long heavy Howard German tomatoes that are instead plum tomatoes afflicted with blossom end rot; and red peach tomatoes, seed obviously crossed with cherry tomatoes, for they’re supposed to be about tennis-ball-sized, covered with peachlike fuzz and delicious flesh.

A very old lilac is coming back from the roots, my helper having cut it back to the ground, and south of that there’s a snowy cumulus of Phlox paniculata.

Trellises at the southern end of three raised beds bore pole beans this year. I prefer to grow bush beans because they’re earlier than pole beans and easy to grow and harvest, but some varieties are only available as pole beans.

A few years ago, when there was a lot of talk about global warming, we were told vines would be growing especially vigorous, marking that change. Pole beans show evidence of this new vigor too. They’ve grown so heavy on my trellises we’ve had to reinforce them, even though they were metal to begin with. My trellises are made of electric conduit pipe inserted into sleeves of galvanized pipe, with hog fencing wired to the conduit to provide support for vines.

We used to buy string netting for pole beans to climb on, but removing the vines was so tedious we usually just discarded them, including the netting. That can get costly. We had the leftover roll of hog fence that we used to make tomato cages, so used that for vine trellises instead.

Bees are having a high time in the sky blue flowers of the chicory I let go to flower early this summer, and they’ve wallowed in my squash flowers — at times as many as three in the same flower. A bed of mojito mint near the raised beds is in bloom, also delighting honey bees and smaller, beneficial insects.

My thornless blackberry vine didn’t bear much fruit this year, but enough for a fruit dessert and numerous snacks.

Peaches were frozen out, most of my pears destroyed by frost, and squirrels have absconded with the few that are left. They also stripped the Mirabelle plums from a little tree. I still have the Italian plums and three ripening quinces.

Plenty of food for us, and much to take to the food bank.

Send garden questions to melauter@earthlink.net or Gardening, The Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707.

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