August, the last month before potentially plant-killing frost, sees everything producing at a maximum rate in the vegetable garden. By now, many of our favorite perennials have passed their peak, but lots of late-blooming plants and shrubs fill in the gap. One of these is elecampane, a tall (to 8 feet) plant with opposite, burdock-like leaves and groups of yellow, wiry-petalled, sunflower-like flowers on the top third of the plant.

An elecampane plant.  Tom Seymour

Despised by some and loved by many, this now-naturalized alien “weed” has, in my estimation, a stately appearance and one or two specimens can have a dramatic effect in most garden situations. My new place didn’t have elecampane growing, but just a short distance away, the road was lined with blooming elecampane. I was waiting for a cloudy day to transplant a few plants, but the town trimmer came by the morning before my visit.

But not to worry. There are lots of little elecampane plants everywhere, products of the fluffy, dandelion-like seed parachutes. Elecampane self-seeds freely and if you don’t want any more of this plant around, don’t let it go to seed.

Pile Beans

Tom’s pile beans Tom Seymour

Pile beans. That’s not a typo. My pole beans slid down the pole and lay in a pile at the foot of it. The big bunch of beans and runners is so tangled that it is impossible to unwind them. It seems the problem stems from a too-slippery pole. In the past I would go to my woodlot and cut rough poles, bark-on, with little nubs where the limbs were trimmed. That supplied plenty friction for the bean tendrils to affect a purchase. But my slick-finished pole in this year’s garden provides nothing to bind to.

So lesson learned. If you plan on growing pole beans next year, make sure your pole is on the rough side, or else you will wind up with “pile beans,” like me.

Muncher Cukes

I did a trial of “Muncher Cucumbers” this year and find them among the best cukes I’ve ever grown. True to their name, they have lots of crunch, without a trace of bitterness, even at fairly large sizes. Also, Munchers have very thin skin and it wouldn’t hurt to leave the skin on when slicing into rounds. By watering every day, sometimes twice a day, my cucumbers have begun producing like mad. This cucumber has everything to recommend it.

By the way, cucumbers were an important vegetable in bible times. Farmers would plant huge fields of cukes and place a manned watchtower in the middle, to protect their investment. We’re talking serious cucumber attachment.

Sweet Corn

Sweet corn in Earth Box Tom Seymour

While it’s so easy just to buy sweet corn from the store, it’s nice to run out and pick a fresh ear or two to throw in the pot when cooking lobster. But my new place doesn’t afford me room for a serious corn patch. So I resorted to the old, faithful Earth Box, a specially designed planter with a water reservoir in the bottom.

With nothing really to lose, I planted corn in one Earth Box this spring and now I have little ears showing their flaxen silk. I should get enough for quite a few meals. Next year I may plant two Earth Boxes with corn. Just keep the boxes watered and that’s all there is to it. Being self-contained, fertilizer, soil and water are automatically supplied to the roots.

Black Elder

I was given a small black elderberry plant last spring and hoped to plant it in the back garden area, but until I get a fence set up, there’s no sense setting it out. Surprisingly, the plant has turned into a shrub, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it couldn’t grow to maturity in its pot.

Happy gardening. Enjoy the time we have left.

Tom Seymour, of Frankfort, is a homeowner, gardener, forager, naturalist, registered Maine Guide, amateur astronomer, magazine and newspaper columnist, and book author.