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Saugus Gardens in the Summer: Here’s what’s blooming in town this week to make your walks more enjoyable

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By Laura Eisener


Jack Klecker, a longtime Saugus resident, grew up on a farm in Watertown, Wisconsin, where his family had acres of crops. His brother still runs the family farm out there. The urge to garden has not been lost, and after Naval service in the Vietnam War Jack continued gardening on a smaller scale in his new town of Saugus. Over several decades here, he has had a garden in every home he has lived in, including his current one in the Indian Valley neighborhood. Now retired, Jack keeps busy in several veterans’ and community organizations, but has not lost his love of gardening. This year he downsized his garden somewhat, but still raises big boy tomatoes, bell peppers and eggplants in a cleverly constructed raised bed connected to his back deck, as well as flowers in a separate planter. The raised bed enables him to plant, tend and harvest his vegetables now without bending, and he can reach the plants easily from ground level and from his back deck. If he wants to, he can grab a tomato off the vine and put it on his burger or in his salad without leaving the seat at the table!

There are many advantages to a raised bed, not least that rabbits, groundhogs and some other garden thieves will be thwarted. While birds and squirrels will still be able to reach the plants, they are less of an issue for most popular vegetables and ornamental plants. Raising the bed even a few feet above ground can mean warmer soil, since cold air tends to settle in pockets near the ground. As fall approaches, a few degrees higher may mean the difference between frost damage and a few more weeks of growing season. Bringing in soil to fill the containers or raised beds also gives you more control over the soil texture and fertility from the outset, and it will be free of the weed seeds that are already in your existing garden soil. Weed seeds will certainly arrive over time, brought by wind and birds or dropped from adjacent plants, but there will be fewer of them to start with. Finally, the raised beds usually ensure good drainage, so while you may have to water more often, there is less danger of flooding, anaerobic bacteria in the soil and other issues that can arise when soil gets too much water.

While walking recently in the neighborhood of Saugus Center, I saw a charming sunflower growing out of the edge of the sidewalk next to the street. It may not be the tallest in town; it certainly can be admired for thriving in challenging conditions. A few summers ago, a whole row of sunflowers bloomed in this unlikely spot. Could it be the offspring of one of those plants? Or a seed dropped by a bird? Perhaps someone deliberately tucked the seed in the sandy soil between the asphalt pavement and the concrete!

Nancy Prag, chairman of the Saugus Tree Committee, frequently enjoys walking the grounds at Saugus Iron Works: from the herb garden to the riverbanks and across the river to the nature trail. She says she finds it interesting even on cloudy and rainy days. “Even the weeds look so pretty down here now! What color against the gray sky!” She photographed the vigorous wild cucumber vine (Echinocystis lobata) down at the river’s edge on a recent day, its white flowers standing out and reflecting light. While this plant is a member of the same gourd family (Cucurbitaceae) as our cultivated cucumber (Cucumis sativus), its fruit is extremely prickly and not invitingly edible.

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  Editor’s Note: Laura Eisener is a landscape design consultant who helps homeowners with landscape design, plant selection and placement of trees and shrubs, as well as perennials. She is a member of the Saugus Garden Club and offered to write a series of articles about “what’s blooming in town” shortly after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was inspired after seeing so many people taking up walking.

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