by Curt Kovener
I am writing this on the Ides of June, just a few days before today’s Summer Solstice marking the official beginning of summer. But I can reliably tell you the growing season arrived much earlier in the wilderness.
The hills and hollers and flats are lush and green.
Blackberry blossoms were abundant earlier and it appears that the various bees and flying insects of the wilderness have done a good job pollinating. Now if we can have timely moisture like last night’s inch of rain, there should be plenty of berry picking opportunities in July.
The paw-paws of the wilderness are a confounding fruit. Growing in the under story of the forest and blooming early before any insects are out and about, their pollination is sketchy at best relying primarily on breezes, I suppose. We will have to wait and see if the Hoosier Banana produces much of a crop.
The paw-paw doesn’t have much of a shelf life. They bruise easily and rot quicker. I have to pick them just as their skin turns from light green to lighter yellow and before the raccoons find out they are nearly ripe. I process them like persimmons and freeze their pulp.
Domestically— the intended tended plants— our zucchini is fruiting and there will be a first harvest of that versatile and abundant fruit. We planted two plants and that may turn out to the one too many.
The heirloom tomatoes are blooming and producing fruit thanks to the higher temperatures during the day. They are called heirloom because the seeds can be saved and planted next spring and get the same tomato. That is unlike the hybrids which will produce volunteers but not of the same type as its parents.
We’re growing a tomato called ‘Mortgage Lifter’, a large, meaty slicing tomato. It got it’s name back in the 1930’s when the farmer growing them sold enough fruit to pay off his farm mortgage.
They are planted in large pots next to the sidewalk because I found planting tomatoes in the high fenced garden area keeps deer and raccoons out but tomato hornworms can come right in. At least planted near the house where they can be watered, fertilized and weeded often, they can be inspected for the fat green leaf-eating worm.
And on the topic of worms, there were very few tent caterpillars seen in the cherry trees of the forest. Maybe they are cyclical like the Japanese beetle which are now few and far between in the wilderness.
Without any tending, the weeds, briars, vines, multiflora rose and autumn olive (the last two are invasives) grow quite well without any care. But they are tended to periodically with mower, weed-whacker, and pruners…but not to encourage growth.
As a counterpoint to the work requiring forest flora, the daisies and black-eyed susans provide some summer color in the open flats and the forest edges are abundant with cinnamon, staghorn and maidenhair ferns.
They all make for a pleasing tour during an early evening walk-a-bout.
by Curt Kovener