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This summer has been a whirlwind of activity, so much so that all the activities have pulled me away from the garden during a critical time in my garden’s life: adolescence. This year, CFO and I elected to take a summer vacation which is a rarity for us. We are more in favor of enjoying the 12 weeks of decent weather in southeastern Wisconsin, and saving big trips for the less desirable months. This month, however, we could not pass up the chance to head to Hawaii. My presence was required in Honolulu for work (yep, you read that right, my job is amazing and pays me too), and CFO was able to sneak away from his job to join me afterwards to prance about and see amazing things that I had previously only seen on movies like Jurassic Park (not surprisingly, filmed in Hawaii). Thus, I was away for most of July.

July, not surprisingly, is arguably one of the more crucial months in a young plant’s life. The once small seedlings grow up so fast and if you blink, or spend the month in Hawaii, you will miss it. While I am a self-proclaimed lazy gardener, I do tend to dote on my beds probably more than what is healthy. I like to visit every day, talk to them, brush their leaves, check for soil dampness, encourage them when they look wilted and depressed, pick out any weeds that are being bullies. You know, all the typical helicopter-parenting stuff.

When I left for my work assignment, I arranged for a babysitter via a watering timer on the drip irrigation system. I had been watering for 6 hours every 4 days, but the timer can only handle 4 hours, so I scheduled it for 4 hours every 3 days. I thought that would be appropriate given an unknown rain schedule. I tested this in the week leading up the the trip, and apart from putting our house drinking water supply at risk due to improper water backflow protection, everything was looking good.

I left for my trip on a Saturday, and I am going to be honest here, as soon as I touched down on the island of Oahu, my mind rarely went back to the garden. I was more focused on things like this:

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Sunset in Waikiki

and this…

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Sparkling waters of Hanauma Bay

and this…

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Waipio Valley on the Big Island

and probably this…

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Hiking across a lava lake, new life growing out of the hardened lava.

oh, yeah, and the work too.

I completely put my babies out of my mind, until the day to fly home arrived, and I touched ground in Milwaukee. Naturally, I assumed that much of the garden would have suffered, and I was willing to make that sacrifice. I mean, traditionally farmers had lots of kids crops in case a few disappeared, right? To be quite honest, any sacrifice in the garden I think was worth it, and I would probably make the same sacrifice again if pressed (or asked, or hinted, or…I would go back literally this second, sell my house, and live in a van selling pineapples and coffee beans).

So, you can imagine my surprise when I was greeted home by a bounty of food in the garden, so large and overwhelming, that I questioned if the secret to a successful garden was to just stay away. I spent a good portion of a day after my return bagging the edibles that were bursting out of the beds.

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From top left, clockwise: Giant from Italy Parsley, Amish Snap and Golden Peas, Genovese Basil, Lemon Basil, Dill, Cilantro

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Front left, clockwise: Mizuna, Mantilia lettuce, Winter Density lettuce, Five-Color Silverbeet Swiss Chard, Chiogga and Golden Beets, Pak Choi, Sage, De Cicco Broccoli Florets

Most of this didn’t fit in the refrigerator, so much is destined for freezer storage, like the shopping bag full of chard and the raspberries (not shown). CFO was very concerned about the raspberries, which are his favorite in the garden, and also a favorite of the birds. Fortunately for him, we have so many berries that even the birds cannot handle the task of eating them all. Unfortunately for me, I have to spend days in the raspberry patch picking them all by hand, enduring thorns in my skin. Granted, I would have done this anyways.

I get asked somewhat often, what my secret is, what is the magic, to my garden. My little absentee experiment has solidified the fact in my mind that, clearly, I am not a secret underground master gardener and the concept of a “green thumb” or a “black thumb” is utter nonsense. I doubt very much that my singing or brushing does anything for the plants, and quite possibly annoys them. What I do know is you can’t do much damage when you stick to the winning trifecta of compost, sun and water. All together. All the time. No exceptions. You may send me the $50 consulting fee at your convenience.

Here are some photos that I snapped in the days after my arrival to demonstrate the results of my absence/compost/sun/water experiment and Hawaiian escapade. What were immature leafy plants when I left, are grown-up vegetables when I got back.

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Black Satin Blackberries beginning to ripen

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Gorgeous, juice raspberries ready to be piled onto Angel food cake, topped with fresh whipped cream.

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Black Hungarian hot pepper. When I left, blossoms in the double digits were on this little plant. Alas, only one pepper came through.

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Chocolate Beauty bells coming right along.

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Beautiful Empress of India Nasturtium. Edible flowers, and tasty, per Ms. Jessica Rabbit.

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Whoops! I forgot to thin these Hollow Crown Parsnips before my trip. Looks like bunny food to me.

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Large-sized Chadwick Cherry Tomatoes. Still green, but full of possibilities.

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Not surprisingly, the Five Color Silverbeet Swiss Chard is hanging in there just fine. Chard everyday.

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Lovely Little Fingers Eggplant blossom. I have five eggplant plants, various heirloom varieties, all with lavender blossoms right now.

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Tough to see, but Black Beauty Zucchini are growing in numbers. Still small, but I suspect not for long.

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Lots of Poona Kerna Cucumber blossoms on the vine.

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One of the best parts of summer! Climbing French pole beans ready to pick, I also have Sultan’s Golden Crescent pole beans on the trellis.

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Looking forward to this one! Blue Jade Sweet Corn silks have started. I hand-pollinated these to be safe, as we have a large corn field a block away.

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Luscious Lemon Basil, bring on the cocktails!

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Fragrant Thai Basil, with lovely purple blossoms.

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The cream of the crop: large-leafed, bold, Genovese Basil. This will make some badass pesto and Caprese salads.

*Sigh* Time to let them go, and plant my fall seeds before it gets too late in the year.

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