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LifestyleColumnistsJessica Damiano

Long Island gardeners share highlights from summer 2018

Grace Bennett, Jeanie Waters and service dog McGrew

Grace Bennett, Jeanie Waters and service dog McGrew call themselves "three redheads pulling weeds around heirloom tomatoes." Credit: Grace Bennett

Before we wrap up the season and put the garden to bed, let's back look at highlights of the summer of 2018 shared by Long Island gardeners.

Grace Bennett, Jeanie Waters and service dog McGrew were the “three redheads pulling weeds around heirloom tomatoes” in Rockville Centre.  Bennett grew scarlet-topped Pritchard Heirlooms and "lots of other kinds” of tomatoes, she said, adding that she applies compost, baking soda and seaweed from ocean beaches on Long Island around her plants — and she doesn’t use any chemical sprays.

Joyce Fedorowski of Rocky Point just might have one of the oldest houseplants on Long Island. "My grandmother would be 127 years old," she writes. "She raised this plant in Brooklyn. It then went to live with my mom in New Hyde Park and Fort Salonga. When my mom passed in 2005, I inherited The Grandma Plant.

"In 2012, I moved from Setauket to Vegas. I gave the plant a severe trimming and mailed it to myself. She did not like living in no humidity, and almost died, so I sent her to my sister in Oregon. In 2016, when I moved back to Long Island, my sister mailed The Grandma Plant back to me. I am happy to say, she is still thriving at 102!"

Joanne Cornelius grew 24 behemoth tomato plants in her Greenlawn garden, but her favorite was Super Sweet 100, which, she said, her family “eats right in the garden.” Over the years “we’ve learned to place the cages and wood stakes early, making it easier to tie the plants. Every week we add grass clippings from the lawn to reduce weeds and mulch the garden,” she added.

Little Charlotte Ruoff of Holbrook, 4, is absolutely dwarfed by the sunflower she planted with her dad, Chuck Ruoff.

“The section of our yard that gets the most sun is on our driveway,” lamented Kathleen Martingale of Lynbrook. So she usually plants tomatoes and peppers in large pots, but this year she tried something different: “We had an old “grillzebo” (a gazebo-type space designed for grilling under) which had lost its canvas cover. We bought a large planter box and put the grillzebo inside, then planted five tomato plants. It [was] great to repurpose something that would have ended up in the landfill.” It’ not clear whether rescue dog Kylie is guarding the plants or waiting for a grilled treat.

Giovanni Cicciarella of Deer Park shows off tomatoes he grew in his backyard. His late father-in-law, Vincenzo Domingo, won the inaugural Great Long Island Tomato Challenge in 2007 with his 3-pound, 14-ounce “Domingo” tomato.

Rosa and Paul Patterson of Ronkonkoma used the side entrance to their home last spring so as not to disturb the family of robins that had settled in by their front door. "We woke up one morning, and they were gone," Rosa Patterson said. "But it was a beautiful experience for my family and our grandchildren."

Wyatt DePace, 4, of Albertson, a winner in the 2017 Great Long Island Tomato Challenge, grew tomatoes again this year with his grandfather Walter O‘Brisky of Westbury. “He loves taking care of the plants with his grandpa,“ writes his mom, Michele DePace.

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