My annual fall gardening report


It seems to me that it’s time for what has become my annual fall gardening report.

For the past few years readers have showed interest in my struggles with various challenges I’ve faced with my amateur backyard gardening, and each fall I’ve provided an overview of my successes and failures during the growing season.

One reason is that apparently some folks have experienced similar difficulties and are looking for solutions to their problems, while another set are entertained by my circumstances and my sometimes ineffective attempts to resolve the issues. Regardless, I try to share my experiences for what they’re worth.

Some readers may recall that earlier this year I reported how I had a major problem with squirrels eating my green tomatoes. I’ve had a bit of this difficulty in past years, but this year those voracious varmints were completely stripping both my in-ground and patio container tomato plants of all the tomatoes. This was truly disconcerting because this year showed great promise for tomatoes.

In past years I have struggled with tomato blight, that nasty growth that attacks tomato plants and causes them to wither and die. I have been careful to provide all the countermeasures I could, such as changing the site of my in-ground tomato patch, using all fresh soil in my container plants, and using an anti-fungus spray to ensure my plants were protected against this scourge.

Well, this year I was apparently successful in my efforts because I found no indication of blight and the plants were strong producing clusters of both cherry and “regular” green tomatoes — to the great delight of those rapacious rodents. When I reported this a reader steered me to a countermeasure known as “Hot Pepper Wax Spray” that employs cayenne pepper in a wax solution. Using this spray on the tomatoes coats them with the hot pepper which the squirrels can’t stand.

Well, fairly late in the season I began using this treatment and found that it really works. As a result I was able to salvage a small crop of ripe tomatoes, but mostly I have harvested them green to ripen indoors. Next year I’ll spray early.

OK, moving on.

Some readers may recall I’ve had a problem in the past with ravenous rabbits merrily munching their way through my green and yellow beans — sometimes right in front of me. Last year I designed a portable fence to put around my bean patch to defeat these brazen bunnies and it worked well. This year I strengthened it a bit and reinstalled it with great results. My bean crop was so abundant we had plenty for the table, for sharing, and for processing for the freezer.

Oh, my success hasn’t been so much because we like green beans but because I just plain didn’t want to be beaten by those cute cottontails. A bit of pride, I suppose. One of my favorite garden vegetables is the sweet banana pepper. These are rarely found in grocery stores although occasionally farmers markets may have them. Anyway, I put out a dozen of these plants every year which usually produce enough for my table taste.

Well, this year I had the biggest crop ever. Not only did I have plenty for my own needs but also for sharing, and for the first time, I now have a number of jars of pickled peppers. I didn’t do anything different this year so just chalk it up to the weather — and that neither rabbits or squirrels like them.

Our flowers, such as the usual Moss Roses and Marigolds, have done well this year despite the drought. The hanging baskets, which I plant myself, were unusually showy during their lifetime, but my patio Petunias have been truly spectacular — an absolute riot of color. I have taken some pride in showing them to our infrequent visitors, but, you know, I don’t think I did anything different with them this year, just the usual watering and dead-heading as necessary.

I’m running into a problem with my Geraniums. Each year I move them indoors for the winter and then back outdoors in the warm weather. Well, this year they are so huge I don’t know how or if I can repot them and bring them inside. One planter holds a multi-year survivor of these semiannual relocations while the other has a “newby” I purchased last spring. Our youngest son helps me with this two-person chore and I sure hope he can come up with a solution. I truly would miss having those brilliant blooms this winter.

Well, there you have it — a quick overview of my backyard gardening experiences this year. I don’t claim any expertise in my endeavors — to the contrary I admit to being a rank amateur. I guess I just enjoy growing things and getting dirt under my fingernails.

At least that’s how it seems to me.

Bill Taylor

Bill Taylor, a regular contributing columnist and local area resident, may be contacted at [email protected].

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