Down on the farm

Late August is bathing us in heat this year and the steady rains have brought on the harvest.  We modestly refer to our garden as “the farm” or “potager” and this is the time of year when it shines.  Produce begins to trickle in and suddenly there’s a little more interest in the backyard.

harvest from the garden

The picnic table is the place to be for drying off and cleaning up before the kitchen.  Garlic, potatoes, and the first of the onions started the month off.

Eggplant and peppers have been going out, onions are always popular, tomatoes are on their way, and beans are yet to come.  The harvest is late due to planter’s procrastination but who out there hasn’t ever fallen behind?  At this time of year even I fix up a plate of veggies, and they aren’t even deep fried 🙂


I grow red cabbage just for the looks, but there’s a good chance these heads will disappear soon and show up again later as rotkraut.  Fine by me, but in the meantime they look nice with the verbena, eggplant, and marigolds.

I admire a neat garden with raised, raked beds and straight rows of perfect plantings, but that’s nowhere even close to my garden.  The potager is tumbledown mix of flowers, crops, and all kinds of odds and ends that found an open spot of soil and made it their home.  Phlox are never turned away, and earlier in the month they started their summertime concerto and the music still plays on through the heat.  For this I consider myself lucky,  since earlier in the spring between spidermites and drought I got the feeling it would be a down year for the tall garden phlox (Phlox paniculata).

phlox paniculata dorffreude

Phlox paniculata ‘Dorffreude’ (Karl Foerster introduction, 1939) making a good argument that newer isn’t always better.

The phlox make me happy, but the other flowers which add to the non-agricultural chaos also make me smile, and the tall Verbena bonariensis leads the way with their bee and butterfly attracting bloom heads.


Now’s the time when the verbena becomes too attractive to pull.  It’s a fair trade-off since the flowers draw in nearly every passing butterfly.

One area of responsible neatness is the boxwood hedge which edges the two forward sides of the garden.  After three years the small plants have finally begun to look nearly respectable.  To celebrate this milestone I spent way too much money on what I hope will be a set of premium hedge shears.  The electric trimmer has been shelved and I took the quieter, more contemplative path of manual trimming.  For me it’s relaxing and I think I’m one of the few who actually enjoys this job.

training boxwood hedge

Slowly the boxwood hedge fills in.  I can still remember the summer day way back when me, a bucket of boxwood clippings,  a few trays of potting mix, and a couple beers started this all.

Besides boxwood and phlox, chrysanthemums (ok, new name dendranthema) are starting to make a serious play for potager real estate.  This spring I added even more of the larger flowered football types, trying to stick with anything which might be hardy through the winter.  I’d try to explain this growing obsession with mums but honestly after just admitting I enjoy hedge trimming I’m not sure there’s much I can say to defend this last quirk.

hardy football mum

Hardy (hopefully) football mum.  If the mood strikes next year I may even try disbudding a few of these to see if I can force all the plant’s energy into one single, perfectly large, perfectly perfect, bloom.

Dahlias.  I like dahlias.  I think I’ve already confessed to that.  Of course a late planting gives late flowers, and you know me and late.

moonlight dahlia

Dahlia ‘Moonstruck’.  This is its third year and it has yet to let me down, although I suspect it carries a virus which causes the leaves to yellow and die way too early in the season.

Sometimes late isn’t anyone’s fault.  For the second year in a row I’ve had these gladiolus bulbs overwinter in the open garden.  Against better advice I even transplanted them in June and look at that, the clump still managed to send up two bloom stalks.  If this keeps up I’ll need to divide the clumps next year since the other clump is up to 8 flower stalks!

winter hardy gladiolus

Just your average hellebore-gladiolus-rudbeckia-tomato planting.  I don’t think you’ll find this combo anywhere else… probably for good reason 🙂

But procrastination does have its down side.  Although the persicaria and rudbeckia have never looked better next to the potager, the light green ‘turf’ in the bed is 100% weeds…. and this is still supposed to be a red border, which rudbeckia is not.  Also the trellis never received a solid footing, and was never officially planted.  I guess that’s what the plans for next season are made of!

persicaria red border

persicaria red border

Enjoy your own harvest, whether it be fruits or flowers, contentment or excitement.  The season is here and as long as the heat doesn’t kill you first you can shelve these moments away in your mind for those dark days in January.


16 comments on “Down on the farm

  1. Christina says:

    High summer is over here, thank goodness! I am usually good getting crops in early but the downside is they finish early too if I don’t manage to successional sow (and often I don’t); that means my tomatoes are almost over and the cucumbers have stopped producing too; last year when we had so much more rain my sever plants produced more than 150 cucumbers there have been far fewer this year. So I don’t think ‘late’ is necessarily a bad thing!

    • bittster says:

      I’m so used to being behind in the garden it doesn’t even bother me a bit anymore!
      That is a lot of cucumbers from just a few plants, they must really like your garden. My zucchini are opening their first blooms today after a mid July planting. We are about to be swamped in squash 🙂

  2. mattb325 says:

    I love the abundance of the late summer garden – and the flowers, too! I’m like you: pruning buxus is one of the most relaxing past-times ever!

    • bittster says:

      I’m glad to hear that, I was worried I might be the only one to enjoy it considering how often people warn and complain about the maintenance a hedge requires. I think hedges can be one of the nicest accents you can put in a garden… and much cheaper than stone or brick 🙂

  3. P says:

    Sorta,, is that a fig in the boxwood bed? As an annual? Manual pruner here too, more control.
    It’s a cheerful garden!

    • bittster says:

      Hi Paula 🙂
      Yup it’s a fig. I don’t give it enough protection for it to be anything more than a cool foliage plant sprouting from the roots, but you never know with all these el Ninos and such what could happen!

  4. Pauline says:

    You have an impressive amount of produce in your garden, I really like your red cabbage in your borders.. I’m late too with my veggies, but they are delivering now thank goodness. Pruning box by hand is best I think, all my box balls are done by hand, just once a year.

    • bittster says:

      I wondered if you did all your box by hand. I have no reason to complain in that case, and I should get a little fancier as well. Every garden should have a ginger jar and a few box balls 🙂

  5. pbmgarden says:

    Looking great and bounteous. Enjoy, enjoy. Is chrysanthemum really now dendranthema? Oh dear.

  6. How did I miss the fig the other day? And the variegated phlox? I should’ve nabbed some of your garlic while I was there–it goes for a premium at the farmer’s markets! Nice work for a gentleman farmer!

    • bittster says:

      🙂 The garlic is always fun although I haven’t quite cracked the code for growing fat, easy to peel cloves. The fig is nice as well, but I doubt I’ll ever eat anything off the plant!

  7. Everything looks gorgeous, and I wouldl never criticize anyone for putting things off (being the Princess of Procrastination that I am, lol)! I refer to it as “benign neglect” or “the practical application of the Darwinian principle”.

    • bittster says:

      I’m all for Darwin in the garden, there have been many a frail plant which met their maker here and I was none the poorer 🙂
      I’m still in denial about my procrastination… hmmm is that yet another way of putting something off, an emotional procrastination?…. but in my dreams I have lists that get done and a calendar which is followed religiously. Maybe old age will cure me!

  8. Sarah says:

    I really like the cabbage with the flowers. I put a few rows of flowers in one of my gardens this summer. As for the unplanted trellis, just call it an “architectural element” if anyone asks. 🙂

    • bittster says:

      Hi Sarah, thanks for the comment. I thought of you the other day as I was shopping and saw the dry beans…. and thought to myself ‘covercrop?’ lol
      Be careful about letting the flowers in to the vegetable patch, I haven’t been able to get the ground back from them!

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