Sunday, September 26, 2010

It was supposed to RAIN

We have had some dry summers here the past few years, but I have never seen things this bad.  This is my 20+ year old Crimson King maple, a tree I have never had to water before.  The leaves were drying up and falling off before they started to turn.  The viburnum has also suffered, from the newest (below) to the oldest, which is virtually naked.  Sad.

Today was a beautiful FALL day, though, temperature wise, and I spent most of it outside, watering.

I have sporadically watered the south side of the house, which was good enough for the Clara Curtis painted daisies above.  The hostas and coral bells on the north side of the house have not been watered until today, but they look none the worse for wear (if you ignore the slug holes).

I know there are asters in the meadow, because there is a plant marker for them, but in the spring I am never sure which plant they are.  I guess I did not pull them up. Yet.

Otherwise, not much left for eye candy this year.

The birds, on the other hand, are plentiful.  Today the robins were mobbing the poke weed, and when they left, some juvenile starlings took a turn.  I have also seen nut hatches and black-capped chickadees, two species I associate with winter.  So one can hope this endless summer will finally be over.  Someday.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Garden summary 2010 (premature)

The garden is not yet put to bed, and here I am, already listing lessons learned and planning what I'll do differently and what I'll do the same.  Like a true Cubs fan, my mantra is "There's always next year."
  • Asparagus - Jersey Supreme F-1 - These poor plants. Between the weeds and the critters, plus my neglect, I will be surprised if this makes it through the winter. UNKNOWN   I guess we will just have to wait and see.
  • Snap peas - Amish - My first year with this variety.  It produced a good crop in the spring, but I planted green beans inside the pea fence, which precluded planting a fall crop. SUCCESS but make sure to do a fall planting next year, and freeze some.
  • Onions - Suttgarter - My first year with this variety, which is supposed to be a good keeper.  A good crop of mostly medium and large bulbs.  SUCCESS, but add a good scallion variety plus a few red onions for fresh eating.
  • Garlic - Broadleaf Czech and German Extra Hardy - My first attempt at growing garlic.  SUCCESS, but I probably should have waited a bit before harvest, to get bigger bulbs. I plan to plant next year's crop in a bed by patio, using bulbs from this year's harvest plus introduce one or two more varieties.  And I plan to make better use of the scapes.
  • Tomatoes - eight different varieties - judging by the contents of my freezer, this was a SUCCESS.  In the future, I may have to water bath some of them, to leave room in the freezer for other things.  Next year I will grow fewer varieties and fewer plants.  And I won't contribute to the blossom end rot by over watering them.
  • Peppers - six different varieties (sampler) - MIXED - not as successful as I had hoped, but not a total fail either. I think they need more sun as well as something else, to make them truly thrive and produce more. I liked the mild hotness of Wenks, so I will be sure to get more of those.
  • Green beans - four different varieties - another freezer stuffer - SUCCESS.  I did not see much difference between the varieties, except for the wax beans, so will probably fall back on my all time favorite, Blue Lake 274.  I want to do a better job of succession planting as well.
  • Potatoes - eight different varieties (sampler) - FAIL. Voles ruined what few matured under straw.  The potato grow sacks were successful, though, so next year, I will reuse them, and plant rest in the ground.  I will plant Carola again, for new potatoes.  After that, I am primarily interested in an all round potato that stores well.
  • Zucchini - Black - mostly a FAIL. Not sure what went wrong here. I think I need to do a better job of building and fertilizing the hills.
  • Cucumbers - Burpless - see Zucchini.
Next year:
  • I purchased see for kohlrabi, turnips, and rutabaga, but did not get around to planting them.  They are definitely on the list for next year, plus parsnip and carrots, maybe in the garlic bed after it is harvested.
  • The locally grown broccoli was quite disappointing this year (and more expensive than the organic from California!), so I plant to grow some brassicas - broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale.  I just have to figure out how to protect them from the zillion cabbage butterflies I've watched flit about the yard this year.
  • I've never had much luck with winter squash or pumpkin, but am considering growing them in the meadow, where the wildflowers may hide them from the usual pests.  One can be delusional, can't one?
  • Now that I have a freezer, I am more interested in growing my own strawberries and raspberries.
  • And, with more beds going to perennials, I will need to build another bed by patio and revert to using containers for some things.
  • One of my neighbors has a little orchard in his front yard.  I would love to do the same, except he knows how to care for them and I don't, and I don't want my incompetence to be on display for all the nabe to see.  But maybe a Meyer lemon?  We'll see.  I have not had much luck with container trees so far.
  • The freezer is great for many things, but I still need to figure out a better way to store winter veggies.  Some of next year's root crops can stay in ground, but what to do when it is almost October and the temp is heading for 90, like it is today?
  • I abandoned using the usual fertilizers and herbicides on my lawn, and it looks HORRIBLE.  I'm sure the fact that I have left nary a grass clipping behind in favor of mulching the garden has not helped.  I don't want to purchase mulching materials, but maybe I can grow my own, in the form of green manure crops.  Will I need a scythe?
  • Oh, and keep those weeds under control.  From what I have read, they may be providing those pesky voles with too much cover.
Yikes, that is a big list!  Gardening is an optimist's sport.  Obviously.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


At least it is not a skunk!

Opossums are so ugly they are almost cute, until they bare their teeth and hiss.  I unceremoniously dumped this fellow out of the cage at the spot of incarceration because I figured if he could find his way into the yard, he could find his way out.  And he did.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bunny number two

It is a good thing rabbits are so cute.  Voles, on the other hand, are not.  That is what I think has decimated what potato crop I had.  I have seen them, stumbled over their tunnels, and my neighbor claims they have invaded his garage.  He lets one of his indoor cats into the garage periodically to clear them out.  Maybe I need an outdoor cat.  But it would have to stay in the yard and not kill the birds.  Lotsa luck there.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Lasagna gardening potatoes - FAIL

The other day I decided to look for more potatoes.  The good news is, there was more than one cereal bowl of fingerlings to be found.  The bad news is, something (mice?) got to half of them.  And the ones I did rescue are teeny tiny things, enough to fill - yep - one cereal bowl.

I just reread the how-to-plant-potatoes section in Lasagna Gardening, to see if there was anything I could have done better or different.  Nope.  The potatoes were supposed to not only grow and thrive 'tween newspapers and mulch, they were supposed to break up the soil as well.  NOT.  Maybe if one has something other than cement-like clay. 

Oh, well.  It was an experiment.  And at least there are now three beds that were mulched so heavily that they are weed-free, unlike the rest of the garden.  And I can reuse the straw elsewhere.  And I can plan to do things different next year.

There is one more bed to harvest, but I"m not getting my hopes up.  In this case, I don't think third time's the charm.

(Okay, you grammarians out there, is it "do things different" or "do things differently"?  Am I DOING differently or are we talking about different THINGS? Inquiring minds want to know.)

Monday, September 06, 2010


After a brief respite, Mother Nature gifted us with another heat wave.  I retreated to the AC for several days, entering the yard only to water a few things.  Yesterday, however, was gorgeous.  I managed to while away an hour or two outside.

It is time to start putting the garden to bed (heh), so I deconstructed the bean fence, raked off the mulch, broadcast some winter rye, sprinkled the bed with compost, then added a light covering of straw.

In the past, I have had some success with green manure, and some failure; I attribute the latter to birds eating the seed.  Hence, the straw.  Unlike chickens, wild birds don't seem to scratch as they forage.

The other night I made spaghetti sauce with my own tomatoes, onion, and garlic, and fresh basil from my daughter, who got her basil plants from me.  The rabbits ate mine, and in the flurry of summer gardening, I never got around to restarting any.  Toward fall, however, I did, which I repotted yesterday.

They are still outside, but high enough off the ground to discourage the bunnies.

Oddly enough, the rabbits did not disturb the parsley.  Instead, the lemon balm overtook it.  The parsley in my herb pot went to seed this year, so yesterday I uncovered a couple of the parsley plants in the garden and moved them into the herb plot.

It looks a bit droopy, but never fear, it will revive.

Despite the poor showing of the potatoes from the back bed in the garden, I emptied the potato sacks with some optimism.  The dirt in the sacks went into the raised bed by the patio, where I plan to plant garlic in a couple of months.

(Note rabbit-trapping cage above.  It is not triggered right now, as I have smelled skunk in the area.  I do NOT want to catch one of those!)

The potato harvest from the sacks does not look like much, but these plants were the ones I periodically groped when in search of new potatoes.

It is difficult to tell from the photo, but most of these are Red Gold, with a few Carola mixed in.  The Carola are supposed to be particularly good for new potatoes, which is how I used them.  The Red Gold is an all-round potato, good for most uses, but not for long term storage.  Guess I will have to eat them first.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Blessed rain!

It isn't autumn in Indiana unless it is raining.  Not that it is autumn yet, but this rain is bringing cooler temperatures.  Greatly appreciated, Mother Nature!  (BTW, that is not a pond in the foreground - that is my patio.  It has a concave area that collects water.  Unintentional.)

My zucchini crop was underwhelming this year. Ditto the cukes. But here is the disappointment of 2010.

A cereal bowl of taters, all I was able to harvest from a 4' x 20' bed.  The lasagna method of potato growing does warn one of smaller crops, but the payoff is no digging because the potatoes grow between a layer of newspaper and a mound of straw.  This particular bed did not get as much sun as the others, and the plants were not as prolific, either, so I'm hoping the other beds do better.

Has anyone tried on of these?

It's a red kuri squash.  I did not grow it, but I could not resist it when I saw it at the food co-op.  According to Wiki, it tastes like chestnuts.  I'm not sure I have ever had chestnuts, so I won't be able to verify that.  It looks like a good candidate for soup, though.

Here is another possible reason I have fewer bugs this year.

I can't recall the last time I saw a toad in my backyard.  This guy was hanging out by the outdoor faucet.  Maybe that was the only reliable spot for moisture the past few weeks.  I hope he sticks around.