Garden Detective: your summer gardens

Nicholas Serlis of Lake Grove grew this 4 Nicholas Serlis of Lake Grove grew this 4 1/2-pound tomato this summer. Photo Credit: Handout

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Jessica Damiano Jessica Damiano, Newsday columnist

Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more than 20 years experience in radio, television, print ...

The growing season is winding down, and it's a perfect time for readers to celebrate -- and lament -- their 2012 summer gardens. Here's what your neighbors have been up to:

Keri Hetena of Commack grew this 15-inch-long cucumber in her garden, starting organic seeds in a small greenhouse. "I found it and decided to just let it keep growing," she said.

John Maggiacomo of Greenlawn said he had "unbelievable beginner's success" growing cayenne peppers in pots this summer on his patio. Plants reached 4 feel tall, and then this happened. "Can you explain?" he asked? That's blossom end rot, John, a condition caused by a calcium deficiency often due to irregular watering. The peppers are fine to eat, just cut away the rotted parts. And to help prevent a recurrence next year, incorporate dolomitic lime into the soil (according to package directions) this fall when you clean out the beds.

Maria Daddino of East Quogue had a bone to pick with my column about the exploding deer population on the East End. "I usually enjoy your gardening articles, but I must admit that the article on deer truly upset me because it was so one-sided. I have a garden-tour-quality garden, which is certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a backyard wildlife habitat. I invite deer (they come every evening) -- and whoever else wants to visit -- into my garden, and my garden is still lush and full."

Amy Serlis of Lake Grove said her father, Nicholas Serlis, also of Lake Grove, has an "extraordinary" garden, and grew this 4 1/2-pound tomato this summer. "He so loves his garden of over 40 years, and he's having a milestone birthday in September. Everything he grows is organic, as he makes his own compost. He recently had surgery and could not wait to get out there again," she said. Happy birthday Mr. Serlis!

Corene Connor of Port Jefferson Station is surprised that the eucalyptus she planted last year survived the winter, and wants to know whether that's normal. There are many species of eucalyptus, Corene. Some are shrubs; others can grow into 100-foot-tall trees, typically in horticultural zones 8-11. Because Long Island is in zone 7, you were lucky this year. The winter was mild enough for the plant to survive, and having it up against your house might have offered additional protection. But I wouldn't count on a repeat performance next year.

Melissa Melone said her family's favorite vegetable is the Italian squash cucuzza. Her grandfather, 83, "starts these plants from seeds each year, which reminds him of the gardens his father and grandfather had in Sicily." Here's Melissa with her grandparents holding "their most prized possession."

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