This has been a challenging season for the gardeners around our neighborhood. While last year brought drought and heat, this year seems to be balancing that with abundant moisture, almost too much moisture. For the gardener there are strategies that can be employed to mitigate the risks.

For drought you can drip irrigate, mulch, and use shading devices to reduce the worst of the mid-day sun. In an overly wet year you can use mounding, raised beds, and anything that rain runs off of to reduce the amount of water that is next to the plants.

Fall seedlings
West will have some seedlings on sale for the fall gardeners to try. A late crop of salad greens, cruciferous plants (broccoli and cabbages, cauliflower and kale) and almost anything you choose to protect from frost can get a shot, especially if we do get a late summer warm up. Some of these crops can be harvested right into late November.
Here are a few other ideas I want to mention that you might consider trying to do:

  1. If you’re planning on trying to save some seeds then pick through them and save only healthy ones, and make sure they have thoroughly dried before you store them.
  2. After about the middle of August pinch off any new tomato flowers to direct energy to ripening fruit.
  3. To prepare for an early frost, think about what you can use to deploy on a frosty night to extend your gardening season. Even something as simple as a cardboard box can get you two more weeks of tomatoes!
  4. At month’s end, take cuttings of geraniums, fuchsias, and begonias. Root them in damp vermiculite. You can keep these over the winter with some grow lights.

Willy West sunflowers
Speaking of gardens, on the next page is a shot of the sunflowers out in front by the roadside sign. They are Seeds of Change plants that I sprouted and started underneath the LED grow light in my office. (We sold both the seeds and the grow light here in the store last winter.) They are growing in a mixture of Purple Cow and topsoil.

Our Apple tree
Next time you are at West, check out the fantastic apple crop growing in the small ornamental garden on the side of the Willy West parking lot. This year we should get about a hundred apples! This was a volunteer tree that depends upon the crab apple for pollination. It is our acknowledgement that edible landscaping is possible even in the out-of-the way corners of a city parking lot.

This year, some planter boxes built by Bryan and Troy, our Maintenance team, are featuring plants that don’t require as much water (who knew that would not be a problem this year!?). These are daylilies and there are also yarrow and spiderwort.

Squash and tomato plants
Lastly, in the rear of the parking lot, around the maple tree, are some squash and tomato plants with a thick layer of mulch around them. This mulch, which is straw, was donated to us by one of the farmers who has been picking up compost behind the store to feed his pigs. When he asked me what he could do because he was so grateful for the compost, I said, “Can you bring me some straw for mulch?” And he promptly did. These are some of the happiest tomatoes in town!

We don’t have a lot of space for plantings around Willy West, but we make do with what we have. Even if you have only a patio, we’re happy to show you how you can have your own slice of garden.

Community SharesEdgewood CollegeDana R. Basch MSEZip ITHerbalist Matthew Wood