My little section of upstate NY has received more than 10″ of rain since July 1st; we’ve had storms or gentle rainfall 2 out of every 3 days this season.  Our precipitation record is more than double the average amount for July and August — the rivers and lakes are high (though not swollen), the ground is saturated, and some of the low-lying areas have had problems with flooding.  And yet today was a gloriously perfect late summer day.

I spent the morning and early afternoon at a local park with my family; AnimaLovers, a local animal aid organization, was holding a fundraiser and adoption day, so The FamiLee Jewels set up a booth and sold jewelry to support the pets.  Mauri, a fellow vendor from At The Warehouse was also in attendance with her vintage aprons; we had a glorious day of meeting hundreds of dogs, browsing the adjacent Farmer’s Market, listening to live music, modeling gorgeous jewelry, and discussing Claudia Strasser’s The Paris Apartment.  Delightful, relaxing, and stimulating — and topped off with a surprise visit from my perfectly adorable nephew and his Mom and Pop!

Apart from my 2-day camping trip earlier this month (which was uncomfortably damp given rain saturating the northeast), it’s been a very long time since I spent an entire day outside but today was one of those days; Mom picked me up at quarter after seven this morning, and when I got home, I headed right out to the garden — dusk and mosquitoes chased me inside about 45 minutes ago.  After enjoying sunshine and laughter all day, I was inspired to take charge of my overgrown garden and take stock of my progress on the Growing Challenge and my Companion Planting work with Team Pattie.

When I say “overgrown,” I mean choking on unchecked growth and sprouting weeds.

I’ve been snipping herbs all summer, but haven’t actually thinned any plants out at the root level.  That problem is solved as I uprooted every other parsley and basil plant in those rows and harvested the last of the fennel bulbs.  I made little bouquets and left one on the doorstep of each of my neighbors, and gave Brian and Jen next door the fennel to enjoy with their grilled fish packets.  (Score for my Team Pattie goal — I wanted to grow enough food to give some away!)  With the tall herbs thinned and trimmed, the oregano has access to better sublight, so should continue to grow.

Next I tackled the zucchini: 8 plants that continue to grow, but which have clearly been troubled by too much water (from all that rain!) The leaves are mottled rather than dark in color, and I haven’t been reaping many veggies at all.  I pulled out three non-producing plants, trimmed the dead leaves and stems on the remaining five, and harvested 3 zucs for making chocolate chip-zucchini bread in the morning.  That makes two patches that are now neatened up and offered breathing room.

Next to the zucchini, my row of carrots had also been the recipient of too much water.  The tubers are large, vibrant, and flavorful, but the greens are overshadowing everything.  I thinned the row, pulling up a bunch of carrots that are reposing downstairs, awaiting Monday night’s stir-fry, and another bunch that I gave to my neighbor Jenn down the block. (Score the Team Pattie goal again!)  I also did something unorthodox and experimental — I tied the leafy, leggy, green tops of the carrots into bunches.  None of my notes on growing carrots say anything about trimming back the greens so I didn’t want to take a chance on chopping them down and destroying the growth pattern of the roots.  Instead, I knotted them together with garden twine — I have a little row of carrot soldiers marching south through the bed. Now that they’re no longer flopping everywhere, my tiny Evergreen Bunching Onions may have a shot at growing larger than the diameter of a pencil lead.  We’ll see.

I weeded the tomato plants, trimmed off all of the yellow (too much water, again!) leaves and stems, pinched the false stems, wove some new growth through the cage, and added soil within the cage in an attempt to strengthen the roots. I dead-headed the marigolds, which are now knee-high! I watered and mulched the cucumber and eggplant pots, and pinched the dead leaves.  I’m hoping for at least a few veggies from each plant — thus far I have blossoms and not much else. The watermelon required no care, but I’m afraid I won’t have a fruit — just beautiful leaves, incredibly strong, long vines, and lovely little flowers.  Picking beans and pinching back the vines is on tomorrow morning’s agenda — my hands were exhausted by the time I’d finished everything else.

In terms of the growing challenge, I’m incredibly pleased with this progress and am ready to call the season a success.  With the exception of the tomatoes and half of the marigolds, everything on my list above is a plant grown from seed.  The watermelon seeds were a gift from Pattie, flown to me by airmail from Georgia. i started the marigolds indoors in February and transplanted them to the garden bed in May. The cucumbers and eggplant are miniature container varieties, sowed in pots late, and everything else was sowed directly in the soil of my raised bed in the spring.  Oregano, Fennel, Chives, Carrots, Onions, Beans, Cucumbers, and Eggplants are all brand new crops for me — while not all are providing edible produce, all of the plants are growing and surviving.  I’m eating the fruits of my labor, sharing the bounty with others, and have learned new skills and some Patience. I’ve attained my goals, and then some.

And in terms of moving — as Melinda and Brian experienced earlier this year when they uprooted themselves from a rural house with a 1,000 square foot garden to an urban home with containers — I’m planning on leaving all of my garden pieces behind.  Since I’ll be moving to the city in April, I will be able to plant seeds in pots in some semblance of outdoor space (pots on a fire escape or balcony, or window boxes?) when I get there.  I’ll bring houseplants, and arrange to grow some mint and basil in pots in my kitchen, but nothing like the massive earthenware pieces I currently have will fit into a little studio.  So…

I emptied the pots that had housed wildflowers (now dried and dead) onto the surreptitious compost heap and packed them away for transport to Mom’s potting bench. The Baker’s Rack that has served as my potting bench for two seasons is now clean and sparkling, ready to be listed on Craig’s List for sale tomorrow (when I can get a photograph in good light).  I’ve weeded the grill bed and scrubbed down the fire pit/grill; sold it this evening to neighbor Jenn, and will deliver it to her this week. The storage bench (containing shovels and training frames, seed starting materials, extra pots, my hose and other tools) has been moved to the patio — awaiting a truck to be relocated to Mom and Dad’s for their use.

I still have my comfortable patio chair on the balcony, with my little window boxes of flowering vines — the morning glories and moonflowers and marigolds that I grew from seed last February.  I’ll have a few more weeks to enjoy breakfast in that nook before I move to pack up those pieces as well, but for now I’ll head out there with a cup of rooibos tea and a citronella candle, to enjoy what’s left of the evening.

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