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“If you have a garden and a library, you have every thing you need.” — Cicero
Last week Gray Zeitz, from Larkspur Press, gave those in attendance at the public library for Wednesday @ One a bookmark with this inscription and it motivates me to write about my garden in these waning days of productivity. I have a very small space in an area that must surely have been an outhouse, where each year I plant lettuce, spinach, and onions for my spring salads. Then come a few tomato plants, Roma beans, and a couple of pepper plants. I’ve put out an eggplant on occasion but find it’s generally just easier to get one from the farmers market when I want to roast some vegetables. I harvest enough for my needs and can generally share tomatoes with friends.
This was my best year for tomatoes in a long while. I think it’s because I staked them better than usual. I wish I knew what too often happens to my beautiful ripe red tomatoes. Clinging to the vines like precious stones, they announce that they are ready to be picked. I reach in, only to discover a squishy mess on the back side of the fruit. Something has taken one big bite out of each tomato. I really doubt if it’s a terrapin as some have suggested as I have never seen one in the yard.
So I think that slugs could be the culprits, but why would they skip tomatoes down low to bite out of those higher on the plant? Then again, maybe it’s the squirrels, but they should be well fed as they gorge themselves on black oiled sunflower seeds, safflower seeds and peanuts (and drink out of the birdbath) from the feeders. If rabbits are venturing this close to the house, they are at risk, for my two cats have been known to successfully pounce on the interlopers.
So I don’t know what does the damage, but I do know that this year, I have had very few nibblers, so I have eaten many delightful tomato, fresh basil, and flat leaf parsley dishes.
My bird feeders are an important part of the garden nearer my back door. This year, I enjoyed sitting out on the new deck built by the wonderful carpenters who do the work I need done around here, and my early mornings and afternoons are precious to me as I watch the many different birds come to feed. It’s so interesting to see the dynamics: which birds are ground feeders, which ones chase others off the feeder decks, who prefers oiled sunflower to safflower, the many different kinds of woodpeckers that visit. I have made an observation this year. Immature cardinals have black beaks and no mask. I have watched as the mask has developed over the summer and the beak has begun to lighten. Last week I had a visit from a Harris Sparrow that, according to my Peterson’s, doesn’t come to Kentucky. I wonder why one day the yard will be full of cardinals and another day the blue jays will be plentiful. Chickadees and tufted tit mice are always around. I especially like watching the nuthatch go head first down the trunk of the nearby pine tree before hopping over to the feeder. I have a finch feeder but seldom get the yellow finches while dozens flock to my neighbor’s feeders.
As damp foggy mornings signal the end of my gardening season, I have pulled the bean plants, started bringing in the green tomatoes, and picked the last of the peppers. The marigolds still give me their sunny faces each day; the cosmos are at the end, falling over in their bed; the zinnias that have graced many a bouquet are fading. The knockout roses still bloom adding their bright hue to the garden, but the crepe myrtle has retired for the season. I have blueberry bushes to transplant and soon, leaves to rake.
Yes, my garden and my books. ..what delights they hold for me!
Jarrett Boyd is a resident of Carrollton, Ky., who retired earlier this year as director of Carroll County Public Library.