Planning A Summer Garden

By Alice Kaufman

Seed catalogs are piling up around the house. It’s that season when my attentions turn to spring, then to summer’s bounty. I grow just enough of the things our family likes but leave the veggies that take a lot of land to local farmers –things like corn and potatoes.

I grow a salsa garden, a salad garden and a pesto garden. That means I grow the ingredients to make salsa, salads and pesto: tomatoes, peppers of various colors, shades and hotness, lettuce, basil and herbs. I plant obscure and familiar varieties of lettuce. Every time my husband eats a garden salad he says “I feel like I am eating the sun.”

I meticulously label each row of tomatoes so when it’s time to harvest, I know what I’m eating. Funny, though, I am never sure whether I am eating an Early Girl or Pink Beauty by time it goes from basket to summer table. When I pick these tomatoes they are still full of the sun’s heat which makes them that much juicier to eat.

Backyard gardeners learn to share their plots with wildlife. Bunnies nibble on early greens, woodchucks eat everything if I’m not careful, and birds love blueberries. The neighbor’s chickens have a knack for filing in to feast the day before I would have picked the tomatoes. I’m always torn about how aggressive to be in keeping critters out. My master gardener friend plants a row of veggies for the critters and harvests inner rows for her family.

This year I can choose from a broader range of varieties For the first time in more than 20 years the USDA redrew the Plant Hardiness Zone map, based on national warming trends. My town in Massachusetts is now in Zone 6. This map is the gardener’s Bible about what varieties of shrubs and plants can be grown given certain climate limitations. Kim Kaplan of the USDA said the agency isn’t forecasting a dire message about climate change. She says the map is not scientific evidence of climate warming since the map is simply based on the coldest days of the year.

But Mainers are excited to try varieties of rhododendrons that would surely have perished in winter’s freeze. And Tucson gardeners report daffodils blooming earlier. Nebraskans are pondering peaches and apricots. For me, the big question is whether I should try growing figs. Or maybe kiwi?

About the author: Alice Kaufman works in EPA’s Boston office. She loves to travel, is an avid backcountry hiker, and frequently tromps through Thoreau’s woods in her home town with her husband and kids, and Watson, her mischievous Golden Retriever.

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