Pumpkins punctuate the end of the summer garden. Yes, and sunflowers, plums, watermelons and squash bugs.

A plethora of plants on nearly an acre on the western edge of Wenatchee provides plenty of garden picking and work for the Joshua and Dawn Myrmoe family. Berries, fruit trees, plus lots of vegetables and herbs keep the family busy preserving and preparing healthy home-grown food.

The picking and eating of fruit and vegetables rates highest for Murphy, 8, and Madeline, 5. Their mom is a pathologist at Confluence Health lab while Joshua is the stay-at-home dad, chief cook and bottle washer, he says. He's pleased to be coaching for both his kids at Lewis & Clark Elementary School this year.

The family moved here some four years ago, coming from Aberdeen, South Dakota, and were not used to our hilly terrain. They're an athletic family, with both kids in figure skating and rock climbing at the indoor climbing gym.

Murphy, the more quiet one, seems to go along with what's happening. Probably Madeline 's favorite activity is picking and popping fruit — raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and cherries — in her mouth.

Black mulch in the large vegetable and herb garden helps lessen weeds, where they grow tomatoes and a whole mixture of vegetables including carrots, garlic, potatoes, rhubarb, beets, peas and many others. Pole beans didn't do well, although sunflowers are reaching up high this time of year.

Dawn makes fruit leather from their fruit bounty, using a bit of sugar-free pectin to firm up the leather.

The family dries cherries and apricots, pickles green beans and cucumbers, and cans apricot and peach nectar. A wealth of tomatoes went into canned sauce and paste.

"The key to gardening is mulch, says Dawn. Black beauty bark helps retrain moisture and lessens weeds, although plenty still vie for sunlight.

A huge section of black plastic covers the pumpkin patch in spring. They cut holes to insert the young plants. The plastic gets too hot for squash bugs, plus the Myrmoes sprinkle diatomaceous earth around to eliminate the destructive insects. It all goes well until about August when spreading plants grow beyond the plastic and the family goes on vacation. Then squash bugs get their share. They vow to widen their plastic space next year.

The family's nine chickens help keep insect predators such as earwigs down, as well as provide fresh eggs, happily gathered by the youngsters.

"We have no food guilt," says the couple, "When we go to restaurants, we ask that all leftovers go in a box. Makes people wonder." It goes to the chickens, who have no hesitation when everything's mixed together.

They used to have goats, but they went to an Omak friend after they ate peach tree bark and other mischief. A pair of honeybee hives are winners, though.

What a pleasure to see a family having a blast with their garden, all involved in a whole array of food gathering, from spring into this time of year for selecting their favorite pumpkins.


A WSU Master Gardeners of Chelan County column appears weekly in The Wenatchee World. Mary Fran McClure is one of four columnists featured.