For dedicated horticulturalists, here's some info about joining garden societies, gardening books, and planting a summer vegetable garden.
High summer is here, and the garden basks in the shimmering noonday heat. Dampen your shoes as you weed in the morning dew, come to understand—once again—the preciousness of water, and sniff the rich odor of the earth after a late afternoon thunderstorm.
Then, while fireflies glimmer in the lengthening dusk and the warm air is heavy with the scent of honeysuckle, give thanks for the goodness of the land.
As Cynthia Driscoll points out elsewhere, it's a shame to waste an opportunity to have an autumn harvest ... so here are some crop suggestions for the a summer vegetable garden, your garden's "second season."
Broccoli: If you've got the time, try Cleopatra (75 days), a frost-resistant variety . . . otherwise, grow Green Comet (55 days), which is the earliest type available. Beets: The people at Stokes warn that beets sown between July 15 and August 15 tend to become tough and stringy. If you're planting either before or after that period, however, try Stokes's Pacemaker ll (58 days) or Harris's Warrior (57 days). Both of them have sugar beets in their ancestry and superb flavor. Or, for an interesting change of pace, you may want to grow Burpee's Golden Beet (55 days). Bush beans: For a really quick crop, try Thompson & Morgan's Limelight (38 days). Burpee's Tenderpod is an All-America winner that matures in 50 days, and Park's Contender gives a fine crop in 49 days. Lettuce: Buttercrunch is a prime choice (75 days), or—if time is of the essence—try Burpee's two short-season varieties . . . Green Ice (45 days) and Royal Oak Leaf (50 days). Cauliflower: Go with a sure thing: Snow Crown (53 days) is hardy and vigorous. Chinese cabbage: Harris's Early Hybrid G (50-60 days) is the best selection by far. Spinach and peas: Early September may be the best time for planting these vegetables in all but the coldest sections of the country, and most varieties will mature in plenty of time.
Gardeners are gregarious folks, forever exchanging experiences and advice. And sometimes a casual "back fence seminar" can turn into something considerably more permanent, by bringing people with common interests together to share and learn from one another.
There are many gardening societies worldwide ... but two "umbrella" organizations have become especially well-known: the American Horticultural Society in the United States, and the Royal Horticultural Society in England. Membership in both organizations is open to all comers, and the benefits of joining are substantial.
It costs $20 a year to become a member of the American Horticultural Society, and—for that sum—you get six issues of The American Horticulturist ... six issues of the Society's fact-packed newsletter ... a discount on numerous gardening books ... a choice of five or six packets of rare and unusual seeds from a list of over a hundred ... access to the organization's information service ... and the chance to attend meetings as well as two open houses a year.
The Royal Horticultural Society also welcomes American members ("fellows" is the British term) for a subscription of £10 a year—which equals about $23 at this writing, but check the foreign exchange rates at your bank or in your newspaper before sending in your dues—and, while some of the Society's benefits are limited to residents of the British Isles (soil and manure analysis, fruit identification, and garden inspections), you will receive monthly copies of the association's journal, The Garden ... tickets to the world-famous R.H.S. Garden at Wisley and to the equally well known annual Chelsea flower show (these make excellent presents to British friends, as the benefits are transferable) ... and up to 50 packets of seed each year (which you can select from a list of over 1,000 varieties of trees and flowers). Folks joining after June 1 can often "come aboard" for half price, too! Write for information and an application blank to The Secretary, The Royal Horticultural Society, London, England. An airmail stamp will speed your request on its way (sea mail takes forever). If you pay for your membership with a check, make sure that you add a dollar to the fee to help pay the currency conversion costs.
Two gardening books of note have recently come to our attention. For Sunbelt horticulturists, the Southern Living Gardening volume, Trees & Shrubs, is a delight. Over 350 warm-weather ground covers, vines, shrubs, and trees are described and pictured ... and full cultural information is given for each one. At $17.95, the book isn't inexpensive ... but it would make a fine birthday or Christmas present.
The second work is Duane Newcomb's The Complete Vegetable Gardener's Sourcebook (Avon). This is quite possibly the best introduction available ... and the detailed charts of garden vegetable varieties alone are worth the price.
We'd much rather eliminate insecticide spraying entirely ... but if you can't convince your community of the wisdom of that course of action, insist on the use of a "drift control agent". With such an additive, less wind-carried pesticide will settle on your organic acres ... and 25-50% smaller amounts of the dangerous chemicals will be required. One such product, RAIN 200, is manufactured by Landau Chemicals.
If you're interested in the rapid expansion of the number of farmers' markets, take a look at the fine new book by Robert Sommer titled Farmers Markets of America: A Renaissance. The publication can be ordered from Capra Press.