The Efficiency of Factory Farming

Apparently it’s September.  Every time I look at the calendar it kind of surprises me that the year can fly by so quickly but really?  September?  It’s becoming harder and harder to convince myself that summer won’t end.

potager flowers

The view of the vegetable garden (aka Potager) in early September.

Many people consider September to be an autumn month.  I’m going to assume you know where I stand on that theory.  I bet those same people consider the vegetable garden to be the most appropriate place for growing vegetables,  and not a catch-all spot for all the flowers and shrubs which couldn’t fit into the regular borders and beds.   Neat, productive, raised beds bursting with produce are nice enough, but at this time of year I love the flowery, seedy look of a vegetable garden gone wild, even with all the overgrowth, bugs, and mildew 🙂

canna cannova rose

A sign of the season.  The bold colors say summer but the seed pods and overgrown vines say autumn.  A big spiderweb even sets it up for a halloween look.  In case you’re wondering these are some ‘Cannova Rose’ seedlings which I started this spring just to see how they turn out.  I think it was a success!

There were a few things which did manage to come out of the potager which were worth eating.  Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, beans, and loads of zucchini  all somehow managed to find enough room to produce a harvest, as well as a meager crop of onions.  The onions looked so promising in April, but I think they just wanted more sun.

birdfood sunflowers

I was so close to wasting this space on corn.  Instead I bought a few ears at the farmstand and filled the bed with sunflower seedlings which were weeded out from other parts of the garden.  ‘Hopi Red Dye’ amaranths seedlings became a convenient complement to the sunflowers when I forgot to weed them out after the garlic was harvested.

Now the garden is mostly given over to the annuals which I rip out so religiously in May, but always seem to overlook in June.  The verbena, persicaria, sunflowers, and chrysanthemums quickly take advantage of the opening and I’m always happy to see them thrive.

colchicum x agrippinum

Of course there had to be a few bulbs in here and there as well.  When I crawled in under the sunflowers I found the colchicum x agrippinum patch in full bloom.  I’m a big fan of these late summer bloomers.

I do have plenty of flowering things which were planted on purpose as well.  The colchicums (autumn crocus, naked ladies, meadow saffron) are looking great right now and I can’t help but show a few pictures.  Actually I’m sure you’ll see more pictures in a later post.  For some reason the vegetable beds are where I’ve planted most of them, and even though the companion plantings are haphazard, the flowers themselves are very convenient to admire when planted out this way.

colchicum speciosum

Colchicum speciosum surrounded by mildewed phlox and verbena.  A fresh flower in the middle of all that decay is always such a treat.

Although I planted a few bulbs on purpose (if you can call it that when you’re wandering around with a plant and a trowel and no forethought to where it would go when you bought it) those plants are in the minority.  The most spectacular things invited themselves.

potager flowers

The marigold border and a gifted zinnia were the plan (thanks Kimberley!) and the peppers were the purpose, but the perfection came from self sown verbenas and the intense blue of Browallia americana. 

Up until June I pull out every last ‘Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate’ seedling (Persicaria orientalis).  Their 6+ feet of rapid, vigorous growth tends to intimidate the lettuce but eventually a few are overlooked and before I know it I’m ducking under the dangling chains of dark pink flowers every time I do the garden rounds.

kiss me over the garden gate

Persicaria orientalis towering over the failed onion bed.  For the record purslane and crabgrass had more to do with the underwhelming onion harvest than one too many flower seedlings 😉

The last thing to thrill me in the veggie patch are chrysanthemums.  I love how they and the colchicums wrap up summer around here.

potager flowers

I’m starting to sound like a broken record with the seeding out thing (assuming people still remember what broken records sound like) but even this chrysanthemum came on its own.  I guess that’s what barren soil and general neglect can do… plus the weeding out of nastier things of course.  I love the color and big flowers 🙂  

The back beds of the potager have the worst soil and get the least attention.  During most summers even the weeds struggle to take root since the soil crusts up and most seedlings can’t even get a root down before they die… except for quack grass (similar to couch grass).  I spent a few sweat filled summer afternoons tracing back grass roots and sifting soil, trying to get every last shoot.  Of course I didn’t but at least it’s one battle in this war where I took the upper hand.

hardy garden chrysanthemum

This is the chrysanthemum which started it all.  A seed exchange packet of “collected from ‘Innocence'” survived drought and flood and freeze and still looks great.  It does need a Chelsea chop in June to control floppiness, but that’s all. 

My neighbor put in some excellently neat and tidy raised beds this spring which grew some beautiful beets and salad and armloads of other produce.  His vegetables know their place and his flowers are neatly nestled into orderly mulch beds which surround the house.  My wife was very impressed. I have to admit I liked it as well but just don’t know if I can give up this spontaneous jungle.  Time will tell.

My apologies for not having shown any vegetables in this vegetable garden update.

28 comments on “The Efficiency of Factory Farming

  1. nanacathy2 says:

    Isn’t your garden just stunning!

  2. The afternoon light in these photos is so lovely. The colors in the 2nd last photo are stunning. I hink I need some mums.

    • bittster says:

      C’mon Linda, you don’t need mums, you already have a bunch of things which are even better! But of course you can never have too many plants 😉
      I’m glad you like the colors in that photo, I was thrilled that the mum went so well with what was already there.

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I can remember what a broken record sounds like. I enjoy all your discussion about you veggie bed. It makes me feel good to know someone else does as I do not as they say to. Carry on by all means. It looks great here no matter what you call it.

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Lisa, I’m a proud champion of showing people the way not to do things. So many people get fixated on the right way and the right time and the right variety, and then a seedling grows in a sidewalk crack and it looks better than anything I could think up on my own. Sometimes you just have to go with it lol

  4. I agree with Linda: that same photo just wowed me. September is a very satisfying month, I find. And may I say that while I might have more kinds of colchicums, you generally seem to have more of any given kind. I have just one clump of agrippinum, for example.

    • bittster says:

      Between you and me I might be starting to enjoy fall a little bit. Lots of fall bloomers help but the hordes of gnats make sure the warm and fuzzy doesn’t come on too strong. Maybe someday, but in the meantime I’m looking for spots for bigger chrysanthemum clumps!
      The extent of my colchicum plantings is a lot of camera angles and close cropping. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s all that impressive, it’s not. Of course it’s fun though so until I have sheets of them I’ll just keep working with the angles!

  5. Eliza Waters says:

    I vote spontaneous jungle… neat and tidy is so boring, no delightful surprises. I love the exuberance of your borders, Frank!

  6. Cathy says:

    I would go for the jungle too, Frank. After all, vegetables just get eaten and flowers can be looked at for weeks if not months of pleasure! 😉 Love all the colour combinations that just happened on their own. I wonder what will set seed for next year… Have a happy gardening week!

    • bittster says:

      I’m with you Cathy! We have excellent local produce and it would be a shame to not support that. Plus when I look at my miserable onions I have to say the pros do a much better job of it!

  7. Roseann Nardone says:

    Love your blog and your garden! I wish I could have seen it in person but I missed the visit with the Bloomers. Maybe next year…..

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Roseann, you’re more than welcome to grab a friend and stop by but the gnats are terr-i-ble. I can’t even stand being out there, I try dashing outside but they drive me back in and I just stand by the window sulking!

  8. I think the sunflower-amaranth bed looks much better than sweet corn. Excellent sweet corn can be had at our local farmers’ market.

    • bittster says:

      I agree. But even after the corn has been decimated by grasshoppers and squirrels I can still use them for decorating the porch, so I miss that. My neighbors buy them, but even though I can shell out money for the actual corn, paying for uncomposted garden waste such as corn stalks is asking too much.

  9. Chloris says:

    It all looks stunning, please don’t go for boring neat rows of veg. I am so jealous of the Persicaria orientalis, I love it but the slugs always get mine.

  10. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Excellently neat and tidy is a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there. Much prefer the spontaneous jungle!

  11. hb says:

    In view of such beauty, who cares about onions?

    Here September is unquestionably still summer, and onions we plant in December. We’re just eating the last of this past winter’s crop. I’d rather have all those wonderful flowers!

    • bittster says:

      I’ll have to admit that I still get a kick out of seeing onions and potatoes coming up out of the soil. Tomatoes and beans? Not so much, must be a bulb and tuber fetish or something 😉

  12. I absolutely love your potager! So rich and vibrant! The vine-covered entryway with flowers spilling out of the beds beyond is so inviting – and I could just about hear all the pollinators on those sunflowers. Much more satisfying than “neat and tidy raised beds” or “orderly mulch beds”.

    • bittster says:

      You would love the bees and butterflies and bugs which are all over the place! It’s been a great year for them and I hope it stays that way. I should really get better at IDs though 🙂

  13. Lisa says:

    Everything still looks so fresh and colorful! I love your vegetable garden! I think It is a great idea to also grow other plants than vegetables in the vegetable garden! This is also what I saw in English gardens and I really liked it.
    Best wishes,

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Lisa. I do like it but it sure wouldn’t bother me at all if I could grow a perfect English rose somewhere in there as well!
      I think the mess of plants here and there mixed with the veggies helps keep the pests from getting too strong a foothold.

  14. Anna says:

    Wow, what a beauty, so many flowers. I love how you let things grow by itself, from self-sown seeds instead of planning and cleaning everything.<3

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