Welcome to Fall

Now that autumn is here I have officially given up on watering the garden.  The cooler temperatures are not as deadly as the summertime heat, and the rain we had a week ago should be enough to keep things alive.  So things are on their own for a while.

Most of the vegetable garden is done anyway.  Yesterday I let the kids pick the pumpkins and decorate the porch for Halloween.pumpkin patch

red wing onion harvestThe ‘Red Wing’ onions were also harvested as well as the last of the eggplant.  This pretty much finishes up the garden for the year (with the exception of a few peppers and a single brussel sprout plant).  It’s a shame the dry weather sapped all my enthusiasm for a fall planting, the idea of a fresh lettuce harvest right about now sounds very nice.

Despite the end of regular watering, the dahlias continue to put out flowers and carry on.  But they are beginning to look tired, and anytime the sun gets strong the leaves wilt.  Just about everything looks tired.dahlias in the vegetable garden

sunset colored dahliaThe only dahlia that actually looks better now is this one.  I need to look up the name, but the color that looked awful in July shines in autumn.

In case you haven’t already picked up on it, the vegetable garden tends to become a flower garden as the season progresses.  Any gap in the plantings quickly fills with self sown verbena, Persicaria orientalis, and amaranthus ‘hot biscuits’.  The amaranthus has a weedy look that not everyone appreciates, but I like it, and have been very generous with spreading the seedlings throughout the yard.  At this time the seedheads seem to glow in the autumn sun.the late summer vegetable garden

"phoenix" the fig returned from the ashesThe glow of autumn light is a signal to start thinking about protecting the tender plants for winter.  My fig has had a troubled season.  It spent the winter in the dark of the garage and began sprouting in January.  The sprouts dried off by March but then a few pots of water brought some new shoots for April.  By May I decided to use its pot for other, healthier looking plants, and while the fig waited for a new home (perched with rootball exposed on a spare saucer) it died again, this time I thought for good… on to the compost pile it went.  But like cats, apparently figs have several lives.  Around July I noticed a few sprouts coming up out of the compost and upon investigation found the fig root ball to be the source.  Finally it was given a decent home, and it’s grown this year without any resentment.  Now what to do this winter…..

red Dipladenia with pansiesAlso needing a winter home are the tropicals on the deck.  Even though I only paid three dollars for this red dipladenia, I can’t let it die!  So either the dipladenia or the pansies will need to be repotted and brought in.  I would have never thought of this combo, but pansy seeds do their own thing.

I don’t even want to think about the rest of the non-hardy deck plants.  They’re growing and blooming and doing well in general even though I never got around to any of the summertime repotting or transplanting I had planned.blooming succulents on deck

 The geranium should hang on in the dark of the garage, maybe the rosemary, but I’ll need someplace warmer for the coleus.early fall planters on the deck

Fortunately the tropical garden survives the winter by seed or stored tuber.  No windowsills needed for this end of the garden.red themed tropical garden

the freshly turned compost pile…and I’m finally getting some work done instead of just sipping drinks in the shade.  The compost pile was turned and a bonanza of “god enough” compost was found underneath.  It’s as dry as a bone in the pile, so I’m surprised there was any decay going on at all, but the plants will love it and I’m grateful for any scraps I find.  the question will be “who gets it?”

Actually there’s no question, my favorite new bulbs always get the scarce compost.  Here’s the newest bed in the back of the meadow.  A privet hedge (luckily privet isn’t invasive here) is planned for along the fence, and a snowdrop (galanthus) bed will get its start here.  I’ll bore you with the varieties next spring but for now here’s a picture of my usual low work (ie lazy) bed preparations.new bed for snowdrops (galanthus)A couple inches of topsoil from elsewhere in the garden is spread out, bulbs are pressed down into the raked surface, a few inches of compost is used to top off and cover.  The compost I used has a good amount of soil mixed in, but if it was more organic I’d cover the bulbs with a layer of garden soil too.  They should be just fine here, and I’ll give them a good mulch of chopped autumn leaves once they come down.

I celebrate fall with bulb planting, I love getting the bulbs nestled down into the earth for next spring, I just wish the soil wasn’t so unfriendly and dry.

Pur Pur Purple

Something weird must have been going on last winter while I was picking out the veggie seeds for this summer… or maybe there’s something weird in the water…. in any case there’s a definite purple tinge to the vegetable garden this year.  I knew that these heirloom ‘Trionfo Violetto’ pole beans would be purple, but I chose them for the meaty, nutty flavored, stringless beans they produce.  They turned out great, but whether it was temperature or bird attacks, it took them a while before the blooms started setting little beans.purple trionfo violetto beanI rip out bucketfulls of the volunteer verbena bonariensis every year, but even after the carnage stops there are still plenty of their airy purple flowers throughout the garden.  They go good with the beans, but also match the ‘Ruby Perfection’ red cabbage on the other side of the path.  I never realized how purple red cabbage is until this year.red cabbage and verbena

The verbena also picks up the black-purple of the ‘black egg’ eggplant.  Although the cold spring made for a slow start to the eggplant season, they’ve hit their stride now and are putting on decent sized fruit.  The ‘Black Egg’ is turning out to be productive and tasty even though I’d rather the fruits were a tad bigger.black egg eggplant

The ‘Red Wing’ onions are also doing great.  They’ve sized up more  since I took this picture and the purple flush of the bulbs matches up nicely with the purple phlox.  red wing onions

There are regular green beans and yellow onions, but for some reason they haven’t done nearly as well as the purple versions.  Go figure.  It makes me wonder if I could ever get organized and disciplined enough to have color coordinated vegetable garden.  In my case I doubt it, but it reminds me that vegetable gardens can look good too and if you ever want to give it a serious go check out some of the books by Rosalind Creasy.  She wrote the book on edible landscaping (plus a few others!) and her gardens really are amazing.