Wednesday, September 28, 2011

99% complete native shade garden

The native shade garden is nearly complete, really! I finally moved the oak leaved hydrangea out of its too-sunny spot at the opposite end of the bed, and it worked out really well.

This required moving the red twigged dogwood, but that looks better now also. It is one of those shrubs that can take a lot of pruning, so it will look better than this one day. After seeing a photo of "autumn bride" Heuchera, I had to have it, and now it flanks the dogwood.

I knew I wanted one more Itea, because it is just stellar year round--see that red color? I planted it in front of a Clethra, which is full and fragrant in summer, but looks really sad in late winter.
We just need one more tree, and then I will just occasionally plug in a plant or two, as I watch how these plants grow and fill in. The tree will go about where this bird feeder pole is:

This has been a fun and rewarding exercise--with the added benefit of some nice screening and privacy.

Coming Attractions

I like having herbs sprinkled throughout the garden, but I also have a need to maximize my vegetable growing space, so these two new beds, both getting only part sun, will be the new home for all herbs that can take part sun--parsley, cilantro, mint, lemon balm, dill, thyme, and anything else that works, like lettuce and maybe green onions.
With plans to one day make that shed a habitable space, I can envision a patio with tables and chairs behind the herb beds, and french doors in the space between them.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Long Overdue Project

I finally got rid of the monkey grass along the walkway (well, Mr. Do did, it was tough to dig up!). Liriope is fine in the right spot, but ours was so in need of dividing that there was little choice but to dig it up. Also, with no barrier, it was escaping into the grass (and vice versa)--not that our lawn is much to write home about. Neighbors gave it a good home, and I was able to plant something I like. Something that won't look so depressing and awful in late winter/early spring. I chose Sedum and thyme, two spreading ground covers. At the widest part of the bed I planted a mini pine and a Dianthus. As I was digging, a man on the sidewalk commented that it was "different" and something to the effect of "it is yours to plant as you like." I guess he didn't like it! I am sure it will look better when it fills in, and I will like it, so you know what he can do.

Getting the Timing Right

I never get my fall seeds in the ground on time, but this year has been even worse because of, well... life, and  uncooperative weather. Slugs and other critters may also be taking their toll, with all of this rain and the straw mulch I was thinking was a good idea just a few months ago.
Luckily, I did manage to get a bumper crop of radishes planted. There are carrots, turnips, and beets in here too, at least I hope there are! (again, spotty germination, or ???) I'll take a closer look this weekend and see if I can distinguish any beets or turnips among those radishes.
I have some peas and fava beans that are doing okay, but it is far from the lush fall garden I hoped for, but when I am still picking tomatoes and okra and the black eyed peas are still producing, what more can you hope for? I'll have to leave a bed empty next summer--a real challenge.
I'll get my winter greens planted this weekend, but they will mostly be seedlings purchased from the farmers' market and not grown from seed. This winter, I am trying a new green, mache--inspired by the Eliot Coleman four season gardening books. I want to be less reliant on my plastic greenhouse covers and just see what happens. That's the great thing about gardening--you can always start over.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Big ol' squash

At one time, my north Georgia candy roaster vines had about 15 of these babies (they are literally like carrying a baby, without the squirming), but rain-induced rot and etc. whittled it down to 5. One of those was not quite mature, so I ate it in soup--it did not have much flavor and the lemongrass obliterated that, so I am really unsure how these will taste. Stay tuned for adventures in heirloom squash, as I imagine I'll be baking with these in fall, especially around Thanksgiving.

Aptly Named, the beauty berry

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Falling for Fall

Well fall came on rather abruptly. We've had unseasonably cool weather--which would actually be quite nice if I did not know it would get even colder--and gloomy rain. We need a new roof. It's football season (ugh).
In the garden, I probably seeded much too late, but I can buy seedlings. My farmers' market has lovely lettuce and other greens. My radishes are coming up, hopefully soon to be followed by beets and turnips. The fava beans are looking nice. At the same time, the garden is still producing peppers, tomatoes, squash, okra, and beans. It's all about the kitchen these days, like this torte from Beyond the Plate. I am going to make this far too much, with every fruit. It's pear season!

When I was little, I wanted to be a florist. Here's my attempt, inspired by Little Flower School and Saipua.
How do you stay inspired in less than stellar weather?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Summer Report Card

It's time to begin taking stock of the garden's performance this summer--the good, the bad, and the ugly. Lots of ugly here. This evaluation gets skipped for the spring garden, when I am too busy prepping for the big show of summer, but I recall having plenty of lettuce, arugula, and spinach, a first (though tiny) harvest of asparagus, and some sweet English peas. I still need to work on timing for roots and crucifers, and finally get a good crop of fava beans.

1) Schizo about squash. I loved it one week and hated it the next, but you can't argue these results:

Squash requires careful monitoring of the squash vine borer, but with row cover and some triage, it can recover and perform. It is recommended to direct sow, which works well with my vacation schedule, but maybe I should try starting them earlier indoors.

 2) Grow Up. I've already said it, but I need sturdy, attractive trellises. They will look nice, maximize my space, and increase my harvest. It will also avoid scenes like this travesty:
 3) Pepper Problem. Hot peppers I can grow. Sweet peppers I can not. Figure out why by next year.

4) Cuke Blues. I conquered my bitterness problem by growing lemon cucumbers and using lots of mulch, but I still got a paltry harvest because the plants always get sick, most likely because of cucumber beetles. I am currently decimating the population by catching them in winter squash flowers, but they'll be back, and I need a plan. Or could this be a mildew and not a bacteria or virus?
5) Cherry tomatoes are the bomb, as are "Fourth of July" hybrids. I love heirlooms, especially black ones, but the black prince was prone to cracking while the Fourth of July are still producing. With two cherry tomato plants, we had more than we needed, but I'd still probably grow two next year just in case. Next year, more sauce tomatoes for sure. I could can them, but freezing is just as easy.

6) Beans are the Best. Despite looking like this, the Lima beans did well. My first experiment with black eyed peas was a success, though I should not have fertilized the bed. If I have room, I'll grow more bean varieties next year.

 7) Okra. I thought 8 plants would be enough after 12 last summer. Nope, 12 was perfect.

8) Eggplant. Why the low yields? It was a brutally hot summer, but now they are looking great. These are so pretty they will always be room for at least one plant.
9) Herbs. I am learning that varieties matter. I know I like peppermint and not spearmint for example. My oregano is not that tasty, so I need to try several varieties. After reading this article in Saveur, I want to try growing basil for pesto the traditional way. The herbs are moving again, out of their pots and the square bed and into two new beds I have yet to dig, in a part sun area. I also need to figure out why my scallions are not getting any bigger.
10) Fruit! The blueberries did so much better this year than last year, so I am really feeling optimistic about next year. I will need to build some kind of bird-excluding cage that the birds cannot get trapped in like bird netting. I did not refresh my strawberry bed when I was supposed to, so we'll just have to see about those. The blackberries will be trained off the fence so I can try to better protect them from the birds next year. I still was able to pick and freeze several pounds, though some are not fully ripe--that makes them better for jam anyway. The raspberry gave me a small harvest, but the plant is looking nice--poised to impress next year.
Anything missing? What am I not growing that I should be? I can't think of anything, just to continue trying different varieties and increase my yields.