Eat Your Yard, July 20, 2019

Home gardeners love tomato plants, and a garden can't be considered a success until you have eaten the season's first BLT with homegrown tomatoes. This Early Girl tomato should be ready to pick in another day or two. PENNY STINE/The Daily Sentinel

July can be a very dangerous time for home gardeners in the Grand Valley.

By now, it's easy to forget about the early season successes and equally easy to fear an invasion of squash bugs or worry that the still-small plants will never grow.

Fear is a bad garden companion. It makes you do silly things, such as buying more plants and seeds to fill bare patches.

I have several places where there's too much soil and not enough veggies. These empty spaces testify that I fought the bugs, and the bugs won.

Sadly, there are also shady places in my garden where I've struggled to grow anything edible. Weeds, weedy flowers, walking onions and grass, however, are all ecstatic to stake their claim in the shade.

I've simply given up trying to have a weed-free garden. There aren't enough hours in the day for me to pull all the bindweed, dandelions, grass, unwanted flowers and vines.

The persistent weeds and unwanted plants almost convinced me to get a tattoo of Mount Garfield or the dusty brown Bookcliffs across my knees. I have a tendency to drop down to my knees and pull a few weeds whenever I'm out for a garden stroll, even if I'm home for lunch on a work day and wearing a dress. Maybe a tattoo would hide the dirt when I go back to work.

In spite of the weeds and the voracious pests that live to destroy my cucumber plants, this has been a pretty good garden year.

Most of my tomato plants are thriving. I planted 14 — I lost three to transplanting and fungus — and perhaps because I've given them sufficient water and more room to bask in the sun, most of them are happy and have started producing.

Isn't it odd that we tend to rate the garden season on the abundance of our tomatoes? If we're picking delicious, juicy red (or yellow, orange or purple) tomatoes starting in July and continuing through October, then it's a great year.

If the tomatoes struggle to produce, we wonder what went wrong, even if we're pulling carrots, digging potatoes, picking lettuce or Swiss chard, and growing bushels of cucumbers and peppers.

No one cares about a great kale year in the garden. Even if you love tomatillo salsa, three bushels of tomatillos won't make up for too few tomatoes for weekly BLTs and caprese salad.

It's too late to fill the bare spaces in my garden with more tomato plants, but since it's only half-time in the garden season and someone sent me curly endive seeds, I may as well plant them, along with more kale and a few other greens for the fall.

My garden may become a completely overgrown jungle in August, but it's a risk I'm willing to take.

Like I said, it's a dangerous time out in the garden.

Penny Stine is an avid gardener, who makes a lot of gardening mistakes and occasionally learns from them. Stine is the staff writer for The Daily Sentinel's Special Sections department and can be reached at

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