Sunday, September 11, 2011

After this long brutal summer....

The cukes have given us one last fruit; it was invisible until the vines died back.

The tomato bin has proven surprisingly resilient; I expect being two thirds oak leaf compost means it holds a lot of water. Really, that bin has the nicest soil on the property! It's been subject to squirrel depradations lately and I rather think there may be nut trees sprouting come spring. I smoothed the soil back out, broadcast carrot seeds over the whole bin, and dumped half a big trash bag of mixed dried leaves over the top. So far the squirrels are leaving it alone and the tomatoes seem to have perked up even more. There are two pepper plants on the right hand end and they're just loving having their feet covered. No fruits from anything yet, but there are blossoms on all the plants.

A closer look. I am so sold now on planting in leaf compost! If there is ANY way I can manage it, I am going to be steali---errrrr, I mean SAVING, yes, saving---bags of leaves wherever I find them this fall!

What's left of my gardens after summer's brutality. The pots are mostly empty, the garden about half empty. The weeds and the sprawling tomato vines, plus the honeyvine milkweed on the fence all make it look better than it is. I never got green beans and the plants were the first established garden plants to burn out this year. The cukes produced--we had to pull them half-size, but they produced until they also burnt out. The tomatoes did not produce but have only died back by about a third. The eggplant has been a modern marvel; small seedy fruits with bittr skins but the plants just keep on growing. The peppers have been lackluster, half-dead, and the lilac pepper did die. The strawberries and snow peas died out at the beginning of July and the snow peas I planted to replace them died in mid-July.

In the pots, the herbs and rose bushes have all died, except for one mint plant (Mint Julep) and the itty-bitty remains of the bronze fennel plant. Four strawberries survived, and the kohlrabi survived. The chrysanthemum seems okay, but the geraniums have all died mostly back. The red-veined sorrell was doing GREAT and jusssst before I went to harvest it a squirrel took the whole doggoned plant, right back to the roots!!

The lilac and the blueberry died--I swear, that lialc is the queen of resurrection, because this is the third time in two years it has leafed back out again. The blue-ray blueberry has green stems yet, but no leaves at all. I cannot tell if it's just dormant or if it truly has died.

Most of the pots just need to be replanted, which is why we put them in the back yard today. Autumn sunshine and the close proximity of the hose will, I hope, work an autumn miracle and give me a good garden over the next couple of months.... once I figure out the squirrell-proofing.

The experimental garden is flourishing in late summer and early autumn. What you cannot tell from this pic is that the squirrels have already made off with the first and biggest sunflower heads; those are the secondary buds from low down on the plants. The morning glories bloom every day into the midafternoon, deeeeeeep purple beauties, Grandpa Ott's (an heirloom). That's an eggplant dangling out the side there behind the sunflowers; it has a compadre on the other side of this garden.

The pinto beans have scaled themselves way back. During early and mid-August they were lush and overpowering, sprawling all over the garden and into the yard with leaves as huge as those on the morning glories and just COVERED with white blossoms. Now they are small again and have a couple beans. Sheesh.

Did I remember to mention how brutal this summer was??

There is purslane in there.


This is the eggplant in the main garden, which has finally caught up with the eggplants in the experimemtals garden. That's quite a testamonial to Dylan's Microbe Booster because this eggplant is a month older than the others and was ahead of them for quite a while, but it just didn't weather the heat as well as they did. Now it is gifting me with nodding lavender beauty and ruffly huge gray-green leaves. I think it will probably do well for the rest of the autumn.

Are they not gorgeous? I'll try to catch a picture when the morning glories are open. I love the way the purple and gold complement each other.

I started this post with what's left... here is what's coming, more snow peas. I planted them in patches around the pepper plants at the far right end of the main garden and overseeded them with parsley and cilantro, then dumped the other half of the big bag of mixed leaves on top. So far no more squirrel depredations in here, either, and the peppers in here perked up as sis the luffa. Might have had something to do with the compost I spread around pretty liberally before I broadcast the herb seeds--that huge bin of sticks is finally giving me REAL compost!

All in all I'd say we survived summer okay, if rather bruised and battered around the edges. Now to see if we can flourish in autumn. Wishing you a long gentle season of recovery and/or new growth as well!

Bright Blessings,


An August Diversion

My water bill was $167. I almost fell over. But yanno, I said all summer that I didn't care what it cost, I was GOING to keep my trees and my gardens alive. I did it. It was brutal; I think Wichita set a record for the number of consecutive days over 100. At least once we hit 114 with a heat index at 122. I put a thermometer on my shady front porch and day after day after day I came home from work to see it registering at 110. I was sick from the heat constantly, our air conditioner ran constantly, my plants wilted constantly, my hose ran 24 hours a day sometimes. The plants on my front porch couldn't take it and started dying back.

And then one day I noticed I had parsley sprouting in the jog-out of the main garden. This tickled me, since I had broadcast an enormous number of herb seeds there and only gotten tree seedlings (ailanthus, thou art NOT my friend!). So I was looking forward to a long autumn full of parsleyish goodness.

And then, yanno, I saw something.... something intriguing... something busily decimating my parsleyish goodness. Oh what can I say? I can go buy parsley at the grocery store, yanno? But a swallowtail butterfly, well, it has to eat what's there.

So it did, ate both plants down to the nubbins, but I just couldn't bring myself to mind.

Isn't it gorgeous? Black Swallowtail butterflies are not as colorful as the caterpillars. They are actually black, with yellow or orange spots along the edges of their wings. The females also have blue iridescent spots on their hind wings. This link has pictures.

The parsley, btw, is growing again.

Catching Up In the Garden: End of July

At the end of July, I transplanted tomatoes and herbs from their pots on the front porch into the gardens. Two tomatoes and a chive plant were moved into the jog-out of the main garden. Cucumbers are growing at the back of this jog-out, and Mexican Mint Marigold has been transplanted near the right front. I transplanted other herbs but they died immediately and I cannot remember now what they were... oy. It was brutally hot.

Looking across the yard past the Oops tree to the main garden. You can see it was pretty green, but still young.

A tomato set! This is the ONLY tomato this garden gave me all summer.

This tomato set and ripened on the front porch. I picked it before I transplanted the tomato vines.

The Potato Bin gave us so very little, but it did leave me compost. My neighbor mixed in a 2 cubic foot bag of potting soil for me after I pulled the potatoes (no soil in the tub, though), and I transplanted several tomato vines from the front porch. I also planted pumpkin seeds but they never sprouted, and I planted borage and nasturtium which sprouted poorly only to be immediately eaten but something. I repurposed a bed sheet and some dirty clothespins as a shade cloth. It worked pretty well for almost a month but was finally blown completely off the plants in a storm near the end of August. By that time the tomatoes were well rooted, so I left it off.

The experimental garden. Remember I said last post you wouldn't see the purslane again? It's in there.... somewhere....

This garden gets watered by putting the hose in the compost bin near the edge, so it not only had Dylan's Microbe Booster working for it, it also gets regular drinks of compost tea. This is probably one reason it survived daily wilting all summer.

One of the cucumber vines and the only two luffa gourds that sprouted. See the dark leaf veins in the luffas? They're hungry, really hungry... only me, I was still thinking everything had gotten a virus from the black walnut leaves and I FORGOT that dark leaf veins are a sign of nitrogen deficiency. Duh.

I worried when the luffas sprouted that they would cross-pollinate with the cukes but my fears were groundless; they STILL haven't bloomed and the cukes are burnt out now.

Next Up: An August Diversion

Catching Up: Mid-July in the Garden

Here is the Experimental Garden. You can see my friend Dylan's Microbe Booster has the plants growing well, despite the heat. This garden lived longer and performed better than the Main Garden; it is as a matter of fact, still going strong now in September despite wilting in the heat nearly every day in August. Notice the purslane in the center of the garden--you won't see it again.

The Experimental Garden from the front, no purslane visible. Those tiny heart-shaped leaves at the back left are Grandpa Ott's Morning Glory. Pinto beans are in the front, sunflowers at the back right, eggplants on each side.

The Potato Bin, growing slowly in oak leaves but mostly making compost. Next post, end of July.

How I Know It's Autumn

The morning glories are still open at 3 in the afternoon.  It's lovely, just lovely.

Big catch-up post coming today; have some photos to edit first.