Late summer is a good time to take stock of your garden. Fruits and vegetables should be in full production. Take this opportunity to evaluate what went well and what didn’t. 

Remember, it’s not too late to make corrections. Rachel and I had a very good harvest of asparagus this spring. We had a hard time staying ahead of it and let the ferns grow out a little sooner than planned. 

We usually cut the fronds down in the spring, but this year we’ll cut them down in the fall. When the fronds are green and covered with red berries, they’re quite attractive. Now that they’re nearly six-feet tall, brown and bent over, they’re not so nice to look at. 

By fall, they should’ve done their job and stored enough energy for next year’s harvest. This was only our fourth year of production, so we have many years of delicious asparagus to look forward to. 

So far, our tomatoes haven’t produced as well as we would’ve liked. We tried a heirloom variety, German Queen, for the first time this year. It’s a huge beefsteak tomato with a wonderful melon texture and juicy, old-fashioned flavor. We’ve made some wonderful bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches with these, but not nearly as many as we would like. 

This is the first year that our Mr. Stripey tomatoes have had no stripes. They’ve been solid yellow all summer. Cherokee Purple and Mortgage Lifter are two of our favorites that have never let us down. Early Girl was our first to produce, as expected. We’ve harvested 20 pounds from one vine alone. 

As for taste, none of our tomatoes have disappointed. They’ve simply produced fewer and smaller fruit than we hoped, but the season isn’t over yet. 

I side-dressed with composted manure last weekend and pruned away any infected leaves. Maybe that will help.

Rachel and I practice a modified version of square foot gardening. It’s a great technique for novice gardeners, but over time you have to make your own adjustments. This year, we gave our eggplants two square feet instead of one. 

We always plant a heirloom variety, Black Beauty, and have been amazed to see our plants grow to nearly three-feet tall and two-feet wide. Our two plants have already produced nearly 30 pounds of fruit and they’re still going strong. Had we known they were going to be so productive, we would have used sturdier support cages. 

We’ve been able to enjoy countless eggplant dishes, including eggplant parmigiana, moussaka, risotto and baba ganoush, just to name a few. Battered and fried, baked or grilled, eggplant is wonderfully versatile and under-appreciated in Midwest gardens and kitchens.    

The annual plague of Japanese beetles has finally ended and our roses look exhausted. A neighbor asked if Rachel and I were feeling ill lately. 

“Why?” I asked.  

“I’m not used to seeing your roses look so poorly,” she replied.

“Just give us a few weeks and we’ll have them looking great,” I said.

I conceded that we’ll never have six-foot roses again. The season is too short to make such a complete recovery. We haven’t seen any more rose rosette disease, so we’ll go ahead and plant two replacement English roses in our front garden.    

The hummingbirds showed up later this year than usual. We were starting to wonder if they had passed us by, but now our feeders are as busy as ever. We love watching them battle it out at the feeders.

Rachel and I quit chasing away the neighborhood cats from our garden and we’ve seen a lot fewer snakes this year. Maybe it’s just a happy coincidence.  

Rachel and Ivan Minnis are avid gardeners. They live in Leavenworth. For more information, visit The Minnis Rose Garden on Facebook. Contact them at