Thursday, July 25, 2013

New plant: Shenandoah Switch Grass

Last year I decided I had to have some grass, er, some ornamental grass in my garden that is! So, now in addition to Northern sea oats, which I highly recommend, I also have this beauty. The foliage reddens as the season progresses. Right now, the star feature is the feathery flowers, which read as pinky-red but as you can see from this closeup, there is a little orange in there.
Panicum virgatum

Monday, July 22, 2013

Seeding the Next Season

The current state of the garden: a fortress against bunnies and ready to produce.

In spring, I am just eager to have warm weather, never mind the food and flowers. In summer, of course it's all about the towering tomatoes, beans, and okra. But fall may be my favorite time to garden. It helps soften the blow of winter coming, plus winter is the hardest time to get fresh vegetables, so the best time to grow your own!
I've lamented over and over again how hard it is to get the timing right for cool season crops, but each year it gets easier. For one thing, more garden beds means more space to leave empty (meaning avoiding trying to start seeds under those towering tomatoes, for example). Plus, with row cover and plastic greenhouses, I can easily overwinter most things. So, I may not have a bunch of parsnips and pounds of Brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving, but I am sure to have a head start in late winter/early spring as well as plenty of greens during the winter.
This year, I am behind on some things already, but you can rarely predict the weather, so I'll try anyway. Last week, I direct seeded parsnips (over a month behind) and sowed some Brussels sprouts seeds as an experiment (the seeds are old, but it was worth a shot). The sprouts I grew last winter have long since gone to seed and sprouted anew. I'm letting the plant set its own timing--and I'll transplant those seedlings when they get some size on them. I am behind on those as well, but I was this-close to having fully formed sprouts this year with seedlings planted around Labor day, so I believe I have a fighting chance. Brassica also have a nice habit of growing new plants from their base, so my Brussels sprouts, kales, Chinese broccoli, and collards are helping me out by propagating themselves.

This new Brussels sprout plant sprouted from an old plant going to seed.

I prefer direct sowing, but in an effort to get a cauliflower or broccoli crop, I started those inside (on time!) and some celery--an experiment.

I learned about piracicaba broccoli from Margaret. Abundant side shoots may be easier to produce than one large perfect head.

I'm using Johnny's fall planting calculator to keep me on track for an abundant fall garden. I'll also direct sow kale, collards, broccoli, and cauliflower in case the seedlings started inside fail. Next up, roots (beets, carrots, radishes, and turnips). Then it will be time to sow the Asian greens--in addition to bok choy, I've got some rarer varieties from Kitazawa. I'll finish up with lettuce, arugula, and spinach; fava beans; another crop of onions; and maybe a fall pea sowing.

As proof of my excitement for fall, this is all planned out before I have picked one pepper, bean, squash, (just picked the first tatume!) or cucumber!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Native Lily Blooms!

The Lilium superbum (turk's cap lily) I purchased at last year's native plant sale has bloomed!





Friday, July 12, 2013

What Would Have Been

Well this would have been my first tatume squash, but the next day, it was gone--chewed off at the stem along with many others. &$):%#*/@( chipmunks! I finally find a squash resistant to squash vine borers, and disease so far, and now this. What next, locusts?

It is interesting how an insect (bumblebee?) chewed through the flower.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pop Pop

My "Lauren's grape" poppies have bloomed!

I purchased the seed from Botanical Interests, but they do not have it this year. You can find it online from other sellers. It is reputed to self seed prolifically.  
The blooms do not last long. This one, barely open the evening before, was gone the next morning, but then you get the cool seed heads:
For some reason, certain plants seem like they would be hard to grow, but end up being a snap.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Be Careful What You Wish For

I'm trying to be vigilant about watering in the morning this summer, so I dutifully set out Saturday before breakfast or caffeine. I saw something had dug a good bit in the bed I have left partially empty (waiting for long season fall crops like Brussels sprouts and parsnips to be seeded)--likely a fox given the size of the dirt pile and the pile of poop left atop it. When I pulled up the torn asunder eggplant to see if it could be salvaged, I found myself pulling on a bunny foot instead. Rude awakening!
After my freakout, I went straight to the internet, where I discovered something new about foxes: if food is plentiful, they will bury it, called a cache. So now where I had a bunny problem I have a fox problem, as any empty bed of soft fluffy soil is fair game for digging.
We buried the bunny outside the garden, where we hoped the returning fox would find his midnight snack. Not so, however; the fox returned to the garden to dig twice, but did not discover the relocated cache. I do hate that the meal has gone to waste.
Unfortunately for the bunny we had named "Pocket," I had gotten what I wanted last week, another wild animal took care of my wild animal problem for me. What I really wanted was to not be privy to the act. The problem is my complicated and silly ideas about animals, which means I felt both relieved and guilty. I will miss watching the little bunny munch on weeds, but I had a large level of stress about his destruction of my garden. No matter, another bunny has already taken his place. I don't think I'll name this one.
So, not the greatest way to start off a Saturday.
R.I.P., Pocket

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Sorry, bunny

Does this look like the face of evil?
I've said it before: I would make a terrible farmer. To put it mildly, I have a soft spot for animals, as does Mr. Do. We giddily watch them in the yard, name them even (this little guy/gal is called "pocket"). I was simultaneously horrified and thrilled to see a chipmunk.
Squirrels and birds are only an occasional nuisance in the vegetable garden, grabbing the first ripe tomato or scratching up seedlings (I'll just ignore the berry issue, because how could they resist?).
Birds actually do far more good than harm, eating insects and brightening up the place in general..
So, this post started off in a bemused "oh cute lil bunny, you make me smile but you eat my stuff" kind of way. It took exactly one day for me to wish for the return of hawkhead or better yet a reappearance of the fox. I am now convinced that cuteness must be an adaptive strategy to avoid strangulation.
In the past, the rabbits have lulled me into complacency, nibbling happily on plantain and clover until I forget about them ... and then they eat every. single. bean. Not so this year. I wrapped some bird netting around the base of the bed of black eyed peas, and then I did the same for the other bean bed. 
I thought that's that, but that just inspired the bunny to expand its palate and move on to the okra seedlings and the Mexican sour gherkin vines, which are were just starting to take off--he even bit through my twine!
Short of enclosing the entire thing in a real rabbit fence (under and above ground), there are not a lot of attractive options.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Native Plant Garden, Complete!

Well of course a garden is rarely "finished," but in the case of my small yard and the obsessive nature with which I purchase plants, this one really IS. It pretty much ended up as I planned it, with a bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) subbing for the Fothergilla.
Planning really does pay off, as now my only tasks are to keep the English ivy from invading through the fence, keep the creeping charlie from invading from the "lawn," and control the Anemone from within.

I think the aggressive anemone may be why my black cohosh has yet to bloom, though they are reportedly slow to establish..It has been getting plenty of water this monsoon season, but the anemone is probably crowding it and zapping all of the nutrients. The pale leaves are the tell tale sign.

I know I also planted the black cohosh too close to the Clethra, but I was loathe to move it. Speaking of the clethra, it is getting ready for its moment. It rarely looks like much, which is why it was planted behind the multi-season stunner Itea. However, it beats itea in the scent category. Also soon to bloom is Heuchera "autumn bride." IF the black cohosh was blooming this year, it would be blooming now, as a gardener in an adjacent neighborhood has a few that are gor-ge-ous.

This subtle garden never commands attention, but there is always something blooming, and the wall of green is soothing. It's a place I can stare when I am exhausted from constantly rearranging things in the sunny border.