I refinished the deck this summer. The job took weeks because, back in June, there was a stretch where it rained every other day, remember? Even when it didn’t, I had to wait until mid-afternoon for shade under which to finish the staining and varnishing. We’re happy with the results, though, and the plants are ecstatic.

Herbs sun themselves in this corner for most of the day. Wiltse’s offers a couple unusual herbs each growing season and this year I spied hyssop, which smells like licorice when you pluck its leaves. Seen on the left, hyssop is primarily used medicinally. This one has provided meals for butterflies and bees since sometime in July.

A vining plant has covered the rain barrel and I’ve woven it along one side of the deck. Though no positive identification has been made, my first hope was wild grape but my current guess is invasive porcelain vine, as what’s shown is two month’s growth and it has to be wrestled regularly off the bedding plants below. Still, I love the green screen — and the Japanese beetles, new to the yard this year, targeted it instead of the food plants. I’ll continue wrestling as needed while praying it’s not kudzu.

Here, a hanging basket of zinnias share a corner of the canopy with tomato vines. The tomatoes climbed over the deck railing and up the canopy frame to the cover.

Three of four tomato varieties have been troubled by a fungus. I haven’t had much luck with treatment (diagnosed/started too late) but the toms managed to “outrun” the fungus by growing beyond its reach in August’s tropical heat.

Bottom line: we’re eating tomatoes every day, but it’s nothing like the Year of the Tomato.

Recipe

Here’s a casserole of Mediterranean pedigree that lets the food do most of the work. I made it this week with homegrown produce.

    1) Peel and thickly slice an eggplant or two.

    2) Lightly fry the eggplant in olive oil, then layer the slices in an oiled or sprayed casserole dish.

    3) Seed and dice up to 2 lbs. of tomatoes and mix in a couple cloves of chopped garlic, a little salt and pepper, and as much chopped basil as you like.

    4) Pile the tomato mixture on top of the eggplant in the casserole dish and top it with a couple handfuls of crumbled feta cheese.

    5) Bake the casserole at 350°F for about 45 minutes.

[H/T to Dan, for taking photos for me.]