It is time for the midseason update on the garden, but it seems much later than midseason. August is a third over, but it’s as if we have been gardening forever.

We planted our peas in March, about three weeks earlier than normal – the first time ever that we have planted vegetables in the garden that early.

We did not eat peas three weeks earlier than normal, however. A cool May and wet June meant that we had our first meal of peas in mid-June, only about 10 days early.

The peas did go by quickly – we had only about three pickings from the first planting, and one picking from the second planting of late April. We just finished eating those peas on Aug. 2.

I was pleased with the 8-foot fence I installed for our sugar snap peas. A reader suggested I make a fence using half-inch galvanized electrical conduit and various fittings, costing about $27. I had peas go up all 8 feet, but some pea vines wanted to go south toward the sun and fell off the trellis.

Next year, I will plant the peas at least 4 inches away from the north side of the fence, so when the peas head toward the sun, they also will be heading toward the fence.

The asparagus came in mid-April, and we picked until late May. It is just a wonderful start to the season.

We planted Sparkle strawberries, which are healthy and strong – we should have a great crop next year. I had thought we would have some strawberries from the few plants that were left over from last year.

But if there are only a few strawberries ripening at a time, the chipmunks are going to get all of them. I saw some berries about to get ripe, but they disappeared. And then I saw a chipmunk actually eating a strawberry, and arrogantly staring at me while he did it.

That is not all the chipmunks have eaten this year. They also ate a lot of the peas, both sugar snap and regular, taking them to our garden bench so they have a better view while dining.

And they have eaten a lot of raspberries – although I do not begrudge them those.

We ate our first raspberries July 8, and we have picked more than 50 pints since then. We have been eating them for breakfast every day, and on ice cream for dessert many days.

I think there are two reasons for the higher than normal raspberry production. First, with July as dry as it was, a lot fewer berries went moldy. And because I am semi-retired, I tried to pick every other day, and never went more than four days between pickings. A lot fewer berries got over-ripe.

We planted banana and Cubanelle peppers, which have been early and prolific. They are both yellow and sweet rather than hot, and are wonderful grilled with zucchini, which has begun but slowly; onions, which are doing well; and mushrooms, which we don’t grow.

Bell peppers are coming in, and we could have some small green ones, but we prefer to wait until they have turned red.

We stole a few new potatoes to go with some peas in early July, and they are doing very well. We’ve had about a dozen edible cherry tomatoes as of last Sunday, and two full-size tomatoes are almost red. We will have eaten them by the time you read this.

The flowers have been wonderful all year long. The flowering bulbs came out early because March was so warm, and lasted a long time because April and May got cooler.

The day lilies came out early and are still blooming – a really long season of an outstanding plant. If you have taken care of the lily leaf beetle in your garden, Oriental and Asian lilies have also been beautiful and prolific.

Echinacea and rudbeckia came out early, as much as three weeks or so ago, and are blooming profusely. And the lady’s mantle gave a long show too.

Astilbes were early, and while some of them look great, the pink ones seemed to come out just as it was getting hot and dry, and got burned up early.

We put in some lamium – white and red Nancy – as a ground cover last year, and it is not only well established, it is spreading wonderfully.

I haven’t done as well keeping up with the weeding as I promised myself I would, but I have done more than I have in the past. It’ just that picking all of those raspberries took a really long time.

And the best thing about retirement – I’ve spent at least 15 minutes every day I have been home just walking through the gardens and seeing how things are doing.

Maybe that is why the tomatoes are so slow. Just like how a watched pot never boils, a watched tomato never ripens.

Tom Atwell has been writing the Maine Gardener column since 2004. He is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth and can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

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