We’ve reached the halfway point of the garden season. Although it seems like it has only just started getting warm, we have already picked and eaten all the asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries and radishes we will harvest this year. The magnolias, rhododendrons, azaleas and lilacs have bloomed – wonderfully – but they have all gone by.

Nothing in our garden has happened on time this year.

For the first time in the 40 years we have been growing vegetables at our Cape Elizabeth house, my wife, Nancy, and I did not have the traditional English peas to eat for the Fourth of July. I blame myself – and the weather.

The cold spring and heavy snow kept us from planting all our peas on the traditional Patriots’ Day date. But that has happened before and we still had peas on the Fourth.

On top of that, though, I decided against growing Knight peas, which should produce in 57 days, substituting Thomas Laxton, which produces in 62 days. Who knew five days could make such a big difference?

Both the Thomas Laxton, 62 days, and the Iona petit pois, 68 days, had a few pods ready for picking July 7 and plentiful pods starting to fill out. We did pick a quart of sugar snaps for the Fourth, which were great for snacking before eating lobster, and I’ve enjoyed them more since a recent article in Source said they are selling for more than $7 a pound at farmers markets. The Green Arrow peas, 70 days, which I planted later to extend the crop, were in full bloom on the Fourth.

The strawberries have been the highlight of the year, with almost 50 quarts of berries picked. Nancy has made three batches of jam and we have given away lots, to family, friends, neighbors and even the postal carrier who was delivering a package while I was walking back to the house with some of the crop.

The biggest disappointment has been blueberries. Since the winter moth has invaded Cape Elizabeth, we haven’t had any – which is too bad because our grandchildren love picking them. The winter moth has decimated the oaks, which I don’t mind much, but they also eat blueberry blossoms, which stops berries from producing.

Our auto mechanic, who recently started growing high-bush blueberries commercially, said he has success using dormant oil spray early in the spring. I tried that, but must have missed the correct spraying date because the blossoms were eaten again. I will spray several times next spring.

What makes it more confusing is that other plants are coming early. Rudbeckia, or brown-eyed Susans, and cimicifuga, or snakeroot, should be blooming in late July or August but are in bloom now. Since we depend on these to give our garden interest late in the season, I wonder what we will have for color come Labor Day.

Enough reflection. It’s time to figure out how to make the rest of the season productive.

In the vegetable garden, remember your succession planting. You can still plant many vegetables – some as late as mid-September – and get a harvest before the snow falls. Examples include lettuce, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, spinach, carrots and beets.

If you check out veggieharvest.com and enter your plant-hardiness zone, you’ll find a chart giving the best times to plant certain crops.

Once you’ve pulled out your pea vines, don’t let that valuable garden space sit naked until next spring. Plant something that will keep you eating wonderful home-grown food late into fall. Try lettuce, carrots and fall radishes.

It also is the time to think about annuals. Many gardeners put in bedding plants over Memorial Day weekend and don’t do anything else until they pop in chrysanthemums over Labor Day weekend.

But if sections of your yard are bare and boring, whether because the earlier annuals got battered by thunderstorms or the perennials have gone by, head to your local garden center and buy something to brighten up the space.

It’s also a good time to think about more permanent plantings. Could you use a flowering shrub to provide color in a section of the garden where the spring blossoms have been and gone? I take any excuse to walk around the yard – and not because it makes my Fitbit look better. I want to see what is coming into bloom, of course, but I also want to see where I could put some exciting new plant.

Heck, I’m going to stop writing and head out to the garden now. Maybe I can find a spot for the Gorham’s Golden physocarpus, Pucker Up dogwood or Little Twist cherry that I wrote about while the snow was still thick on the ground.

I might even find a few peas that are ready to pick.

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 [email protected]

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