It’s been a rough summer in the old back yard.
With more days of 100+ temps than days of rain, only the hardiest plants even bothered to hang around for August. The shaded areas fared better, except for the hostas. The slugs around here have had hosta breath all season and it’s been Chipmunk Central underneath the large hosta leaves. I hear the little rodents chattering constantly as they do gawd-knows-what under the that leafy canopy.. probably boozing it up with the beer I put under there to kill the slugs.
It was supposed to be the summer of heirloom tomatoes– Pink Brandywine and Mortgage Lifter. But, when we stayed at the beach for several weeks and I wasn’t around to tend them, Mortgage Lifter grew into a tangle of spindly, suckery stalks and a tomato horned worm stripped the Brandywine so bare that the poor plant tried to hide behind the basil in embarrassment. I let it watch the worm execution as therapy.
Still, we have a staggering tomato crop. Oh, not actual tomatoes–not so much as one little green one–but we now have at least a dozen tomato plants in very strange places all over the yard. Whenever I remove one of those suckers which bisect the right angle between stalk and leafy branch, I hang onto it, sniffing its distinctive, summery scent as I walk around the garden. When I see something that needs my attention, rather than discard the sucker, I poke a hole in the ground there and insert the leafy sucker. I think they’ve all taken root.
One bear hugs a small, scraggly spruce, another dangles from the flower basket on the side gate…others grow among the rose bushes or lean against the gladioli. A couple even str-e-e-e-etch from underneath the deck, trying to reach sunlight from the gardenia cuttings I’m trying to root there.
Not a chance we’ll ever see a tomato from any of them.
The Black and Blue perennial salvia which thrives in the heat is one of the reasons I walk around sniffing tomato leaves when I’m working outside. That stinky salvia smells like flop sweat. The bees and hummingbirds love it, so I planted some in the narrow bed between driveway and fence, to keep it from spoiling the sweeter scents of the garden, but every time I open the gate, the plant reaches out and rubs against me, depositing EAU DE FLOP SWEAT scent on my clothing.
After I wrote the previous paragraph and thought how stupid it was to keep a plant I dislike, I set aside my laptop and took my camera outside to take a before photo, with the intention of yanking out El Stinko. I had the camera to my face when this happened:
- Pardon the blur, but Mr. Hummer came out of nowhere and buzzed me, almost giving me my own outlay of flop sweat. I got the message:
Don’t even THINK about it, Sister!
- The plant stays, I guess.
Another insect favorite, the perennial swamp sunflowers, have risen to the occasion–seven feet tall or more. They’re the bees’ knees!
Having lost our peaches and strawberries to the damnsquirrels and rabbits, I was determined that they weren’t getting the figs. I assembled an impressive arsenal. Plastic newspaper bags cut into strips flutter on the branches along with battered aluminum pie pans. I even tossed plant clippings on the leaves to camouflage the ripening figs from a bird’s-eye view. Finally, I hung the wind chimes there to announce any critters willing to risk the climb. Not pretty, but it has been effective.
Most mornings I’ve been out there before sunrise, plucking and eating. Unwilling to risk waiting for full, soft and sugary ripeness, I have eaten most of them when they were still bland and firm. It was the principle of the thing.
The thing about figs is that they’re high in vitamins, so much so that it’s said we could live on figs alone. Plato encouraged Greek athletes to eat them. Latex–that oozy white stuff that leaks from the bottom when they’re perfectly ripe–is said to be good for infertility and breast milk production.
They’re thought to lower blood pressure and, even with 60% sugar, aid in weight loss. That’s possibly because they are not a fruit for the faint-hearted. One fig has as much fiber as three dried prunes.
When I went for my annual physical a couple of weeks ago, I learned that my blood pressure was too low and my sugar too high. Yowsah!
I suppose I’m lucky not to be pregnant and lactating.