The summer gardening tasks have piled up since I went away last week. I traveled back home, first to New Jersey and then finally to home base, Long Island, New York, for a surprise birthday party. I’ll tell you all about that and then about the summer gardening tasks that waited for me upon my return.
If you’d like to download a list of summer gardening tasks, click here. There’s a monthly tip sheet you can download and print.
The picture above was taken at Norman J. Levy Park in Long Island, New York. I don’t know if you can see the rectangular building and the pointy tower along the horizon – that’s Jones Beach, New York. Home. Home to many summers. My earliest memories are trips to that beach with my mom, my aunt Mary, my sister and my cousins. My mom kept a giant box of swimsuits in the attic, hand-me-downs from my sisters and neighbors, and “swimsuit shopping” each spring meant traipsing up to the hot attic and rummaging through the box until she found a suit she thought would fit me.
Many years later as a college student working for the local yellow pages, my friends from the advertising department would meet up at “the needle”, the giant brick water tower you can barely see on the horizon above. The Jones Beach Needle is a landmark every Long Islander knows. It’s where you meet your friends for a day on the beach.
My friend Eleanor and I once met there in the evening after work for drinks at the restaurant. We had a lovely time until, walking back through the beach sand, I cut my foot on some unknown object in the sand. It bled so badly that I ended up at the first aid station. I probably needed stitches. I can still taste the strawberry daquiri we treated ourselves to after that adventure!
I really traveled north, however, for a very special event. It was my older sister Mary’s 60th birthday. My niece, Mary’s daughter, called and said she wanted to plan a very special surprise for her mom. What would be more surprising than me traveling to New Jersey?! I loved the idea, and then we hit on the idea of inviting my sister Ann, too. It would be “sisters’ day”. Melissa thought it was a great idea, and so she arranged the whole thing. We couldn’t have done it without her, her boyfriend, Mike, and my nephew Matt.
The look on my sister’s face when she saw my sister and me waiting for her on Melissa’s apartment deck was something I will never forget.
The rest of the trip was a blur of family, friend, and work-related visits that culminated with a trip into New York City for me. I meant to go shopping. I bought presents for everyone else back home and nothing for myself! Honestly, I couldn’t find anything I liked. I never thought the day would come when I didn’t find something…but I didn’t. All my beloved little costume jewelry shops are closed, gone. The little Pakistani dress shops where I’d find cool, modest summer clothing, gone. It’s all condos and chain restaurants. Ugh. If I wanted to shop in a shopping mall, I could have that in Virginia. I never thought the day would come when New York City would start to lose her luster to me, but well…I’m a southern girl now!
And I couldn’t wait to get back to my garden.
Summer Garden Tasks
First, I removed the bird netting from the strawberry patch. The berries are coming in fast and furiously now, but the weeds are so thick I can’t find the strawberries. One of the summer garden tasks I do each July is to thoroughly weed and fertilize the strawberry bed again, as I do in the spring. I finished this early today, and harvested another quart of berries.
The strawberry plants look great this year. I think they benefited a lot from the buckets of rotted horse manure we added during the winter, manure I carted back from a local farm who didn’t mind giving it away. The plants are sending out plenty of runners, which produce young plants.
Unfortunately, the pine berries I planted came up as strawberries. I don’t know if there was a mix-up at the company or what. I plan to call them and ask for a new batch of plants. I really wanted to try those pine berries!
I also picked the first peppers today from the garden, or rather, Hubby did. I can’t believe we are picking peppers before the 4th of July. Usually the peppers aren’t ready for harvest until the end of July. I think starting with very healthy plants from the garden center this year rather than trying to grow my own from seed helped a lot.
The tomatoes are ripening, with many large green tomatoes on the vines. I’m worried about the Colorado potato beetles. They destroyed the potato crop, but I figured they would. I left the potatoes as a “trap crop” for them. A trap crop in organic gardening is when you plant something the bugs like, but with the full intention of letting them have it. In exchange, they are lured away from other plants you want to keep from getting eaten. My plan was to give the potato beetles the potatoes, but since they also eat tomato plants (which are of the nightshade plant family, potato relatives and thus palatable to the beetles), they would leave the tomatoes alone. I didn’t count on them finishing off the potatoes so quickly. Today one of my summer garden tasks was to take an empty detergent bottle, with a little bit of water in the bottom, and gently ease those beetles into the liquid to meet their Maker. This is a simple organic method of insect control, if they’re not overwhelming your plants. If you aren’t grossed out by bugs, try it.
Hubby and I have been dutifully moving the remaining sand from the sand pile in the driveway so we will have our full driveway again. Now that we are finished with the compost pile building project, the sand must be bagged and stored for next year’s concrete project. Hubby just announced he wants to redo some of the walkway in front of the house. He’ll need the sand to make concrete for that. It is always something around here!
Well, that’s all the news that’s fit to share, as they used to say. I’m off to see if I can find the “100 mile flea market” which encompasses several portions of Virginia and runs today. I’m not sure where it actually is, so I’m also heading to my favorite thrift shops to see if I can find some old bits and bobs of china to make into craft projects. I’ve got a plan for those herbs I’m growing. Can’t wait to share them with you!
Every day holds joy. I’m blessed to have had quite the joyful, albeit exhausting trip back home, as well as a joyful return. Nothing, but nothing, beats a loving husband who not only tends the home fires while you’re gone but…get ready for it…CLEANED THE WHOLE HOUSE FOR ME. Sparkling, smelled good, and he even vacuumed and cleaned the kitchen.
I am one lucky woman, I tell you.
Happy gardening! KEEP GROWING!
Jeanne Grunert is a certified Virginia Master Gardener and the author of several gardening books. Her garden articles, photographs, and interviews have been featured in The Herb Companion, Virginia Gardener, and Cultivate, the magazine of the National Farm Bureau. She is the founder of The Christian Herbalists group and a popular local lecturer on culinary herbs and herbs for health, raised bed gardening, and horticulture therapy.