A day of rest

Sunday being a day of rest I try to avoid too much noisy, heavy labor on this end of the weekend.  I don’t exactly deserve it since I did plenty of resting yesterday as well, but on this subject I will defer to the higher authority and take it easy.  With daffodils beginning their season it’s hard anyway to focus on serious projects.  The blooms are a great distraction on what thankfully turned out to be a warm sunny spring day.

best daffodils

The vegetable garden is looking good in spite of its lack of vegetable space. My favorite daffodils deserve a good spot just as much as some bean or pepper plant.

I did manage to get a few things moving in the ‘potager’.  With so many flowers filling the beds, calling it “the farm” anymore seems a bit inappropriate.  Maybe a flower farm, but definitely not a hotbed for fresh produce.  I did find a few open spots for squeezing in a couple lettuce and broccoli transplants.  That should keep the rabbits happy.

planting sprouted potatoes

Lettuce and arugula tranplants are in and hopefully will amount to something before temperatures rise. I also planted a few of the sprouting potatoes found in the back of the storage bin. Not a picture for the serious gardener but that’s how we roll here 😉

Covering all the vegetable beds with whatever mulch I could scrounge up (mostly shredded leaves and grass clippings from the lawnmower bag) has made bed prep a snap this spring.  I just stirred in whatever leaves were left of the top coating and popped transplants into the ground.  My little vegetable babies from under the growlights will hopefully make me proud in no time at all.

growing daffodils

I’ve given up on this vegetable bed, and the daffodils have completely taken over.  Note the empty chair.  Trust me it gets plenty of use 🙂

So I did get a little done yesterday to deserve a break.  Not exactly a lot by most standards but after waiting so long I hate to see the season fly by.  I want to soak up every minute and hope you can do the same as well!

I’m pretty sure there’s fiber in icecream

Many people wax poetic on the joys of homegrown produce.  The flavor, the nutrients, the connection with the earth…. all good things and all good for you (and deep down inside I agree) but on the shallow outside I’d still rather reach for a donut or chocolate bar rather than a carrot stick.  Vegetables just don’t make my heart go pitter pat.

Because of that the vegetable garden always walks a fine line between productivity and extinction.  I love the look of vegetables bursting from the soil, but the newly dug beds and open ground are just too tempting to keep free of flowers.  At this time of year it’s more of a flower harvest.

volunteer sunflower

Oddly enough a sunflower has come up in exactly the same spot as one grew last year. It’s the perfect spot actually, and I’m glad to have it!

The season starts innocently enough, and with a strong will I turn under all the persicaria and daisies and whatever else tries to sneak in.  I need room for delicious lettuce seedlings and broccoli transplants and the flowers just throw off my industrially neat rows.  Things go downhill from there.

dahlia tanjoh

Dahlias always seem to grow best in a vegetable plot and when you’ve got one or two extra roots it seems perfectly logical to sneak them in between the chard. This is dahlia “Tanjoh” which I barely noticed last year as it suffered under the shade of a wayward sunflower.

Harvest time is always a problem.  If the broccoli is ready it needs to be picked, and there are only so many broccoli-cheese omelets you can reasonably fit into a weekend.  Things go to seed and I’m strangely amused to see weeds such as lettuce, pumpkins, and chard popping up the next year.

broccoli bolting

When you lose control the broccoli turns into a froth of yellow blooms and green rattail seedpods. Several of these plants were self-sown seedlings which just showed up from last year’s patch.

One of the sore points this summer was how often the sweet corn needed watering in our pancake-thin topsoil.  It seemed like every other day I’d look out there and see dry curled leaves begging for a little moisture.  Shockingly enough even after giving up in disgust the patch managed to produce a few deliciously sweet and flavorful ears.

freshly picked sweet corn

A space, water and fertilizer hog, freshly picked sweet corn is still worth the trouble (I guess). But it’s a tough argument when the supermarket has 6 perfect ears for $2.50 and mine probably cost me that much just for the seeds!

Another producer was a trellis of pole beans (which called it a year after being blown over in August).  Beans are nice on a trellis, but the kids appreciate “love in a Puffs” much more than bean salad.

love in a puff and cypress vine

The pale green balloons of love in a puff (Cardiospermum halicacabum) with the ferny green leaves and red flowers of cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit). Both conveniently reseeded here at the base of the trellis from last year, something to keep in mind if you don’t like volunteer plants.

The kids share the love by picking the puffs and having a puff-fight but the real reason behind the name is found inside the puff on each of the vine’s black seeds.

love in a puff seeds

A white heart forms on each seed, a kind of ‘belly button’ from where the seed was attached to the plant. Glad my hands were clean for this one 🙂

There is plenty of ‘real’ harvest that comes from the patch.  Tomatoes never fail, even the fussier heirlooms, and here is a huge cluster of “Kellogg’s Breakfast”.  In a rare second appearance in a single blog post (I hate having myself show up in any pictures), I left my hand in there to show just how big the fruits are.  2 lbs, 14 oz for the pair in case you’re interested.

Kellogg's Breakfast tomato

Kellogg’s Breakfast tomato

When I finished planting the tomatoes I couldn’t resist adding a border of “Moldavian” marigolds (from Nan at Hayefield) and a few stray salvia and leftover zinnia seedlings.  Might as well since the other side of the bed is edged in hellebore seedlings.

zinnias, marigolds, and blue salvia

A vegetable garden is the perfect place for bunches of annuals that might not find a place in the rest of the garden. The brownish orange of these “Moldova” marigolds might be hard to fit in somewhere else.

And did I mention I like phlox?  When you’re faced with a few new ones to plant and you’ve given absolutely no forethought to where they’ll go the vegetable garden makes everything better again.

phlox kirmeslander

Just coming into bloom now, phlox “Kirmeslander” seems almost too summery a color for the autumn-golds and yellows which are starting to appear.

With the season winding down one would think the vegetable patch would be safe, but fall is actually the most dangerous time of year for vegetable space.  After you pull up a dead, mildewed patch of zucchini the vacant spot almost begs for a few tulips or daffodils which you can’t find a space for elsewhere.  No worries though, I’m sure they’ll die down before I need the room for peppers!

Oh and I think the colchicums look nice blooming between the sweet corn stalks 🙂

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.

Vegetable update

I have a few hours this morning and rather than get some real work done I wanted to give a quick vegetable garden update.  We’ve been picking lettuce from the deck planters and now also out of the fenced garden area.  This “Matina Sweet” butterhead is tasty and if you look closer to the fence you’ll see the first two “Packman” broccoli are ready…. even though I’m not exactly sure how to tell when broccoli is fit for harvesting.matina sweet lettuce

Last year’s broccoli went towards raising a healthy, vitamin rich, wild bunny population, this year the fence has really made a difference.  Too bad it doesn’t keep out my newest pest- slugs.

Here’s a slug chewed kohlrabi.  I hate peeling anything off these super fresh home grown veggies, but this one will need it.slug attack on kohlrabi

The “Bright Lights” swiss chard looks good enough to eat.  I cheated and prestarted in pots, that way when planting out the colors could be arranged 🙂bright lights chard

I just like the looks of red cabbage.  Better soil would have done this plant good but it’s not bad considering the only fertilizer for this bed was the bag of chopped maple leaves dug in during spring planting.  I did break down yesterday and gave everything a dose of miracle grow, we’ll see what that does.red cabbage

Onions look good, I just hope they make it in spite of my late planting.  They still have a way to go….. if worst comes to worst I guess we can try passing them off as tiny gourmet pearl onions or something.growing onions

“Lancelot” leek.  We’ll see if anyone eats these, they’re new this year, but at least they have all year to get to a good size…. unlike the bulbing onions which will die back and bulb up once the days get short enough.

leek planting

The zucchini seeds are up and growing fast now that summer temperatures are here.  If I had more room it wouldn’t be a bad idea to put in a couple new seeds for a late summer crop…. just in case the vine borers kill off this batch.zuchini plants

eggplant seedlingPole beans, bush beans, corn, peppers…. all are starting to come along but for some reason the eggplants are a bit sluggish this year.  Just a few inches tall and they’ve got to deal with flea beetles and the little holes they make, plus some random bug (unfriendly I’m sure) leaving a batch of orange eggs….. possibly potato beetles….

tomatoes formingEnough vegetables, it’s about time some flowers got in here and there are plenty coming along for July.  Next post should have a couple blooms, until then all I have are tomato flowers.  Not the most impressive but they make for promising green tomatoes.

Early June in the vegetable garden

Things don’t look too bad out there.  I was late in getting everything planted (of course) but the cooler weather and the last couple days of rain have helped the spring crops come along.  This butterhead lettuce (I forget the variety) is starting to look real yummy.butterhead lettuce

There’s also some romaine coming along.  These are all in the ‘safe zone’ behind the chicken wire, but even outside the fence its been a relatively damage-free spring as far as the rabbits go.  Slugs have been more of a problem.romaine lettuce

Brocoli is making progress too.  It’s finally taking off and spreading its roots after a too long delay in the six packs (these I bought prestarted).brocolli plantThese tomatoes have been in for a week or two as well as the onion transplants.  This will be the year of the onion since I started way too many seedlings and then couldn’t bare to toss them into the compost.  They’re small for the time of year but I hope I get something by the time the harvest rolls around….. otherwise I guess we’ll have hundreds of scallions to deal with!onion seedlingsThe tomatoes are dealing with what might possibly be the worst soil prep in gardening history.  A month ago this bed was lawn.  I turned under the grass and added a little compost for the onions, but all the tomatoes got was a layer of leaves and grass clippings to kill the turf and then holes dug directly into the lawn.  Maybe I gave them a little compost on top.
Actually the sister bed across the path which I planted on Saturday was even worse.new planting bed

You can still see the lawn peeking out from behind the tomatoes and along the bed edging.  The plants went straight into holes dug into the lawn and then the grass and weeds were covered with a mulch of chopped leaves and twigs and whatever else the mower picked up during spring bed cleanup/winter debris removal…. I didn’t even have any nutrient filled tender grass clippings to put down!  Once I can dig out some more compost I might put a bit around the tomatoes, but until that happens they’re on their own.  At least I planted them deep, covering all the stem up to the top clump of leaves.  this should let them sprout more roots into the mulch and should help with the lack of soil prep.

ripe strawberryHopefully if I keep it watered the earthworms will find the mulch and rototill the soil with their tunnels.  Grass clippings will surely bring them in, in fact last Friday prior to the rain, I fertilized the front lawn.  I’m hoping it will produce a nice bumper crop of clippings before summer drought dries it up.

The garden isn’t all healthy vegetables, it’s also juicy sweet strawberries.  Even with the late freeze there are a couple coming along.

There’s also the promise of a few blueberries this summer.  Most likely the birds will beat us to them, but this bunch might be worth covering up and saving for ourselves.growing blueberries

Of course I’m only showing the good and new.  Peppers and eggplants still have to go in as well as pole beans.  I’m far from having everything planted and growing.  Right now the process of digging up the tulip beds is going on and it’s into these beds that the last of the transplants will go.  Someday I hope to have beds where I want them and supports ready to go but obviously it’s not going to be this year!

Please tell me I’m not the only one falling behind:)

Spring vegetables

I finally got the early vegetable plantings in, each evening last week I prepped another patch of soil, and by Sunday afternoon was able to plant and fence.  My buddy approves, but I suspect she’d rather the fence wasn’t there between her and the lettuce.Spring vegetables planted

I’m guessing it’s a she (I really have no idea) and I’ll go out on a limb and guess there’s a nest of baby bunnies nearby.  She’s never mentioned where during our talks, but she’s around the yard all day so I’m sure it’s not too far.

Soil prep in my case was digging under all the weeds, stray tulips, and whatever leftover dead stuff was lying around from last year.  Once dug over, compost would have been nice, but since I have none I raked/hoed in some chopped leaves from last fall and followed it with a good watering down.

onion seedlings

Once I get some grass clippings I’ll give it a thin mulch to keep down the weed seedlings.  I’m glad I finally got the stuff in, it’s already late for cabbages and onions, and a better person would have done all this prep in the fall.  If you look around the edge of the fence you’ll see twigs laying on top of the unfenced plantings.  This seems to be enough to discourage Mrs. Bunny from pushing through and nibbling the new transplants underneath.

weeds in the gardenSo now I hope things have enough time to mature before summer really kicks in….. and if they don’t, at least it looks better than the unkempt weed patch it was last weekend.

Mental note for next year is *prep the bed in the fall for spring plantings*.  It sounds easy but it’s advice directed more towards the better people who follow suggestions and learn from mistakes.  I’m not sure if I can include myself in that group.  A better person would not have planted a peony in the middle of the bed, a better person would not have first let last year’s turnips go to seed (just to see what they looked like), and a better person would not have left the daffodils in the middle of the lettuce.