A butterfly enjoys the hummingbird mint
My pear tree laden with fruit
All in all, it was a successful season. The first summer of the landscape that was (largely) installed last fall. The hummingbird mint exploded in purple tufts that drew hordes of bees and butterflies throughout the warm, sunny days. The blackberries grew so much that I had to support them on powder-coated towers. Nearly every day I was outside harvesting something to use: Various mints and lemon balm to steep with green tea, basil and oregano for pasta, bloody sorrel for stir-fries, and jalapeno for sauces. I infused witch-hazel with lemon balm for tea, and coconut oil with comfrey leaves to use in my extra-special body butter. I gathered blueberries and wineberries for smoothies, and enjoyed tree-ripened peaches. I bit into the crispness of my very own asian pears (which fruited despite not having a cross-pollinator) I sliced tomatoes, chopped chives and sprinkled parsley over my salads. But alas, it wasn't all good.
Sunsugar tomatoes ready to eat
I had the distinct displeasure of seeing cedar rust blight, up close and personal. It wrecked a perfectly good apple tree, turning the leaves orange brown and disfiguring the fruit, causing a dull, spotted appearance. Something (deer? fox?) ate some hostas down to the stems while leaving others intact. My dreams of making my own elderberry syrup were dashed when something ate up all my berries before I had the chance. Since at least one of the bushes was caged, I have to suspect squirrels and/or birds rather than deer.
What cedar rust blight does to apples
But pests weren't even my main issue. My biggest concern is harvesting all of this yummy organic goodness before it goes to waste! I lost more than a few cherry tomatoes by leaving them on the vine when I should have picked them right away. Sure, freshly-picked has the best nutrition. But you get zero nutrition when the tomato splits and is covered in ants, causing you to fling them into the weeds bordering the garden. (Maybe I'll get some "volunteer" tomato plants next spring). Often, the mice and chipmunks would discover a ripe strawberry before I could, leaving a nice little bite as a calling card.
Every day when I am harvesting herbs for my tea, I look at the abundance of lavender, mints and lemon balm and think that I can't possibly get it all picked and dried so that it will last me through the winter. I have hauled out my dehydrator and begun making an attempt anyway. Several jars now line my kitchen cabinet. As much as I love my beautiful apothecary jars, however, I have decided it's best to store some of my plants in ziploc bags. It's a bit too expensive otherwise. The weather has been helping. It has been unseasonably warm several days, causing the basil and oregano that I had nearly plucked bare to grow back and keeping the other herbs from dying back yet.
Call it a Lesson Learned
Now that I know my tree has cedar rust blight, I'll know in the spring to be prepared with the neem oil. I spied some deer repellent at the nursery last week, so I'll have that on deck to protect my hostas and my elderberries. I will pick the tomatoes as the come into ripeness, and keep my eye out for ripe strawberries.
I am already excited for next spring. We got so much accomplished this summer, which much more still to do.