Monday, September 24, 2012

Tossing Seeds

I finally finished the fall plantings--more radishes, beets, carrots, plus spinach and turnips. The Asian greens are doing well. In addition to pak choy and tat soi, I'm trying komatsuna, Chinese broccoli, and Tokyo Behana (such great names). Of course Baker Creek and High Mowing Seeds have a great selection, but I also went to the experts at Kitasawa.

I purchased kale seedlings because I could not manage to start my own seeds on time. The quest continues!
Now all I have to do is water and monitor for slugs and cabbage moth/caterpillars (already picked a few off my Brussels sprouts even though they are under row cover!).
I'm also eeking out every last sweet pepper, bean, okra pod, tomato, and eggplant. The squash I thought was a barely hanging on lemon squash is actually a buttercup--it is questionable if it will make it to maturity in the next two or so months before frost. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Labor Days

Early fall is the perfect time to plant--or transplant. I've been doing a bit of both, spurred by the cool cloudy days we've been having, plus a real desire to transform this (before, below) into something much more attractive. I removed a large swath of Ageratum (mist flower) earlier this summer--it was just too aggressive and threatened to swamp the entire border. That left the border looking leggy and unfinished (which it iswas).

The space to the left of this "Limelight" Hydrangea was as a huge hole waiting to be filled with a large shrub. The sunflower looked beyond sad after squirrels climbed it and destroyed it. The dinner plate Dahlia next to the sunflower was not cutting it. (The flowers are gorgeous but turn to mush in a flash.) I knew I wanted something dark-leaved, so I set out to purchase either an elderberry or a ninebark. The black elderberry leaves were too fine, so ninebark it is!
"Inner Glow" ninebark

I also wanted something low and spreading (just not so aggressive) in front of the Hydrangea. Lamb's ear made an obvious choice since I already have one clump of it elsewhere in the garden. I transplanted two "white swan" cone flowers to the front of the irises, and I moved all of the butterfly weed that was languishing in too much shade. I've been pondering interplanting, so I spaced it among some pink "red fox" Veronica I moved to make room for the ninebark. The butterfly weed and Veronica are going to take time to recover, but it's looking better already with the addition of the large shrub, and my new pink Muhly grasses will block their ragtag appearance for a while. I moved some Veronicastrum (Culver's root) from along the driveway to here among these grasses, where I can enjoy them. Another experiment in interplanting, I'm hoping these combinations will help me keep track of where my tender perennials are when they die back in winter while disguising the gaps with plants that have winter interest.


Back in this corner near the shed, things were too cramped. I've been biding my time to move the beautyberry. Otherwise, I just spaced some things out, moved some volunteer Monarda (bee balm) and a phlox, rearranged some irises, and added another lamb's ear.

You'll have to settle for the long view, as this spot is not looking so hot up-close. We'll reap the rewards next year. All of the grass and weeds I dug up are being used as mulch for the pathway.
Over at the other end of the border, the bed I expanded last summer was looking sad as well. My soil does not really suit Agastache (but I will not give up on it), and a couple of these coneflowers had expired. Another squirrel-mangled sunflower rounded out the sad look. This plan was mostly for rearrangement to give these large plants more space. The Baptisia in the back are doing quite well. Monarda, doing too well, also needed some room. I noticed how well the Agastache looked with the Amsonia, so I moved them behind to disguise their leaves while still getting their blooms peeking over the green of the Amsonia.
Finally, I expanded this bed further and moved the beautyberry over here as a focal point, and rounded out the bed with lavender, a plant I was missing.



Wide shot, before:
Wide shot, after:

 I can't wait until next spring!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Summer Endings, Fall Beginnings

Here's how things stand as summer wanes, and I frantically try to get fall seeds planted.

Whatever ailment had befallen my cucumbers did not stop them from producing. We were still able to eat many lemon cucumbers, and still are. Fava beans will go in this space once I eek out every last cuke (or I figure out when to plant the favas, a new variety for me, whichever comes first).

In other plant disease notes, the strawberries are looking much better after some dry weather. I also repeatedly removed the worst of the spotted leaves. The sprinkler that sprays the leaves will come out.
The rabbit still takes occasional nibbles from the beans (though a fox is in the 'hood!), but I've been able to harvest enough for Hoppin' Johns at least. I've planted golden and red beets and burgundy amaranth (for salad greens) in the center of the bed, where I had hoped to plant parsnips but missed my chance. When the beans come out, I'll have plants ready to replace the, or I'll seed something quick-growing like radishes there.
It's been my best year yet for sweet peppers. It seems giving them plenty of organic fertilizer and some protection from the sun helped, but I'll give them slightly more sun next year. This bed also has eggplant and small red drying beans on the rebound from previous rabbit attacks, so I'm still trying to figure out which fall vegetable will go here. Though it's probably too late for broccoli, Di Cicco is a fast maturing variety so I may try anyway.

Parsley that has self-sown is doing quite well, and I'll be planting an equally large bed of cilantro next door.

I hastily ripped out my delicata squash because I was worried its trellis would go flying in a recent storm (and the vines were pretty much kaput). In its place I put some lettuce seedlings I purchased (to get a head start, even though I have tons of seed) and planted radishes and carrots in between.

There are a few lemon squash plants finally producing, plus some stunted okra here (planted late, or too much shade?), so I'm thinking I may plant turnips in this bed. Lots of arugula self seeding in here too.

I'm beginning to think the shade from a neighbor's tree may be what limited the potential of this bed and the cucumber bed. However, at least the late-season shade provides a respite for fall-planted vegetables, and once the leaves fall, the beds are perfect for the winter garden.

Finally, I found some Brussels Sprouts seedlings at the garden center a couple weeks ago. I keep reading they should be started earlier, but I figured it was worth a shot. The row cover is protecting them from sun as well as cabbage worms.
I've started kale, collards, and six kinds of lettuce indoors, and I'll soon direct seed more roots and some spinach.
Here's hoping for a productive fall!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Spring Preview

Clearing the strawberries from around the asparagus was a wise decision (letting it grow there in the first place, not so much). It has really bounced back, even sending up lots of new, fat spears throughout out the summer and even now in September! Next spring I will be eating my own home-grown asparagus for sure!

Fall Preview

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Butterflies in Bloom

It's a smorgasbord for butterflies this year, but they mostly like the Lantana. I placed the pots on my patio table so I can spy them--and hummingbirds--feeding from my kitchen window. 
Monarchs are plentiful, but I've yet to find them on my milkweed plants.
Black swallowtail--there are numerous Eastern tiger swallowtails also (who have more yellow), but not caught on camera.
This red spotted purple butterfly (I think) was feeding on these large rotting mushrooms--who knew?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Note to Self

Don't trim your beautiful passion flower vine when you are completely frazzled by the neighbor's dog's incessant barking.
Well, it was beautiful anyway. No after photos--too painful.
Luckily it grows miles a minute.
Yes, this is misplaced blame, but I really dislike people who leave their pets outside all the time.