Monday, August 29, 2011

Native Plant Progress

The native shade garden has had some challenges--dog vomit fungus in the mulch, infiltrating ivy, slugs and rabbits munching away--but overall I'm happy with the results and planning to expand it.
In this photo the compost pile I plonked down in the middle of the bed is strategically blocked by a pot of lemongrass. It's a temporary location. as once fall comes I am moving the large oa- leaved hydrangea at the far right (it gets too much sun). I'll have to do some rearranging and hope to get one or two new trees in here. And more Itea, I definitely need more of that wonder shrub. After maligning the Clethra for its early spring appearance, I grew to love its fragrance and long lasting, bee attracting blooms.After struggling all summer, the Anemone is taking off:I'm looking forward to a carpet of its white blooms next spring.

Curb Appeal

It's been a long time since we visited the front yard. Not too much to report, but things are filling in nicely. That was the plan, to plant and basically forget it--and hopefully take some attention off the state of the lawn. (The front yard is small, close to the street, and not used, but I want it to look nice of course.) After some initial experiments I've found what I like, and now I just need to keep repeating it.
This captures the color scheme of pink and pops of orange, with gray green leaves and the burgundy of a Dahlia and Sedum. I like chartreuse foliage, too. I think these colors complement our brick.
I am waiting for fall to transplant some of the Sedum and Dianthus, which will need dividing soon anyway. This is economical and will bring some much-needed color to the other side of the house, here in front of this Spirea. A holly sits to the left and a Hibiscus to the right (it will soon die back for winter). I planted a northern seas oats at the backto match the one on the other end of the house and to fill a space.
I also need to extend some color over to this area around the blue shag pine. To its left, I transplanted some Nandina which has not quite taken off yet. The Heather in front of the Nandina offers some winter color.
When the Dahlias dies back for winter, I'll reassess what holes need filling.
My next major project will be to dig up this Liriope, which I detest. I've been whining about it forever, but it will happen soon!On the side of the house, the Japanese Anemone is blooming, the Camelias will soon, and the Hydrangea dries to a nice shade.
Not pictured are the Heuchera and Hellebore, two champs for shade. The hellebore still has its flowers that opened in spring! Three Astilbe that have not bloomed will be moved. I am also hoping to establish some lily of the valley back here. Two Japanese Andromeda have recovered nicely after being moved from a too-sunny spot. I've considered widening these plantings, especially since I planted them under the eaves and created a water problem, but there is the slight complication of a gas line buried here. I sometimes wonder why I even bothered with planting all of this, after all, the only time I enjoy it is when I make my "rounds" around the yard, but it was good practice--and I hope neighbors enjoy it as they walk by.

Full Moon and Fragrant

The first moon flower of the season opened last week. One of the best floral fragrances around, I noticed it is quite similar to Acidanthera, also now blooming:
While walking through a nearby neighborhood Friday night, I spotted a huge white fragrant night-blooming shrub. It was not the night blooming Cereus that I first guessed. I must walk by in daytime and try to chat up the owners. I am now thinking it is Datura inoxia (not the more common angel's trumpet). That one is quite poisonous, so maybe it would be better potted, but their specimen was huge.
I've always wanted a "moon garden" full of silvery and white fragrant plants, perfect for the patio. A project for next year!

Well That Was Anticlimactic

Irene, that is. Not that I am complaining. Being from Charleston, SC, which experienced Hurricane Hugo (though I rode it out in a town safely outside the storm's wrath), I take weather events seriously. We were lucky--about 2 inches of rain in my immediate area and high winds. A tree came down a block away, so it could have been a lot worse. As you can see, there are many large old trees surrounding my lot:We made efforts to secure the black eyed peas, a wobbly tomato trellis, and the hot peppers that are so top-heavy they were already falling over without 50 mph winds. Now I have another reason to make sure I build sturdy trellises next summer.
Everything survived just fine, so it's time to get to the fall planting. First step, make room. I have to decide what can go and what I want to eek every last bit of productivity out of. I pulled a non-producing sweet pepper and the black prince tomato because it looked sickly and the fruit was cracking like crazy. I've got green tomatoes to pickle or fry, or maybe make a gratin.
The lemon cucumbers look to be succumbing to powdery mildew or some kind of bacteria or virus.
It's probably in vain, but I trimmed the worst leaves off in the hopes it can hold out long enough for these cukes to get a little bigger:I killed about eight cucumber beetles yesterday, so there goes my theory that my Dahlias were luring them away. Here is one on a cucumber flower, but I found the large squash blossoms the place to catch them:
At least I now know I can grow non-bitter cucumbers, and next year I'll try row covers and experiment with plants that reputedly repel the beetles. I have their predators, they just have too big of a job!
It's a bit of a jungle, but there is plenty of room to start seeds beneath the cucumbers, peppers, and okra as well among the summer squash, tomatoes, and beans.
It's amazing how much the garden changes from season to season. All of this growth will soon be replaced with low growing greens and root crops.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why to Garden

Granted, gardening is not everyone's cup of tea, but I feel strongly that if you have a patch of land, you should be growing something edible on it. The Washington Post makes an effort to keep its gardening section alive, and while writer Adrian Higgins gets a lot of love, I really like Barbara Damrosch's work, too. Read her latest column about why "we" garden and why we should, at

PostVacation Surprise and Fall Preview

I've been away at the beach, and in the meantime the garden kinda exploded. I carried what I could harvest onto the plane. The garden sitter and cat sitter ate their fill of cherry tomatoes, but the okra was blocked by the winter squash, so some pods got away. The cucumbers--my first that were not bitter!--are now showing signs of disease but will hopefully give us some more delicious lemon cukes.
In addition to coming home to an earthquake (what?) and some lovely fall-like weather, I came home to about 15 candy roaster squash. I conquered the squash vine borer!
I also have a nice crop of summer squash coming:
The eggplant are liking the cooler weather and should produce better through fall:
The lima beans are full of blooms for a second crop, and the black eyed peas are exuberant, and though over-nourished are producing well:
My fall garden planning has been woefully inadequate, but I'll soon sow lettuce, arugula, tat soi, collards, kale, spinach, beets, turnips, carrots, beets, scallions, radishes, fava beans, mache, and maybe a fall crop of peas. I've probably missed the boat on broccoli and cauliflower, and definitely on Brussels sprouts. The timing just never works for me on those, but a winter of greens and roots would be fantastic.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bloom Day

It's mid-month, time to head over to May Dreams Gardens to see what's blooming across the country in bloggers' gardens.
With my massive border expansion project (aka, the garden that ate summer) complete, there is nothing to do but wait for it to fill in--and watch the hummingbirds.

Of course vegetable blooms can be just as pretty.

Summer Squash as Summer Wanes

These got a late start due to some poorly planned siting, but the summer squash are finally taking off and will hopefully produce through October. This is "lemon" squash, and it had no trouble with the SVB like the earlier planted winter squash, but I really should not jinx squash.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Preserving Fail ... and Do-over

The big success in the garden this summer has been the Tunisian baklouti peppers I grew from seed, under grow lights way back in cold winter. Not so successful was my first attempt at drying them. I thought with the 100 degree heat we were having that I could sun-dry them. I placed them in a cardboard box, placed a screen atop that to keep out birds and other critters, and placed the box on top of some baskets so there would be air flow. It was working okay, but then with a chance of rain I began moving the peppers inside and out. The humidity inside and outside probably doomed them. Now they look like this, a total bust:
I could probably salvage some of these, but I prefer to not take any chances with fungi. Luckily, I already had a whole new batch picked--and my second attempt, this time oven drying, was a total success. I had been afraid of oven drying because of the heat and the risk of causing massive coughing attacks, but neither was an issue. I sliced and mostly deseeded them first, then put them in the over for about 4-5 hours at about 200 degrees (the most precise setting my Montgomery Ward gas oven has).
I did not have gloves to wear while slicing the peppers as I should have, but I scrubbed my hands really well with soap and the rough side of a kitchen sponge, and that prevented any unpleasant burning.
I just watched them until they were at the point of "crispiness" while still retaining some flexibility. The color changes dramatically also. Now they look like this, ready for making harissa!
Harissa is a spicy North African sauce that is perfect for stirring into stews or anything else you'd use a hot sauce for. I highly recommend Deborah Madison's recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, which you can grab using Google Books. I am going to replace the New Mexico and guijillo peppers with the traditional baklouti--just for kicks, as the other peppers make a fantastic harissa.
With more on the way, I'll be well stocked with hot peppers for quite a while.