July 11, 2018 0 comments By: m

If this keeps up, we'll become a desert

No rain.  Temperatures every day in the upper 90s.  Fortunately, the nights are in the low 70s - for a little while.

I'm getting anxious to try one of those French melons. 


Cucumbers are plentiful, and the vines still look good on the trellis.  I thought they might be browning by now. 

 
The runner beans I planted to grow over top of the cucumbers to produce beautiful pink blossoms didn't do it.  I don't see any signs of the few flowers they did have producing any beans, either.  So, I'm grateful that the cucumbers look so good.

Tomatoes are starting to ripen, but the plants are lush with foliage and not many tomatoes. No doubt, from the extreme heat ever since the first of May.  The peppers are doing the same.   I wasn't going to plant 'Moskvich' tomatoes again next year because they were supposed to be early and late both.  They aren't very big, and they weren't early.  Hopefully, they'll go on producing late. On the other hand, they're pretty tasty, and look at their beautiful red color. 

Left: 'Moskvich'; right: 'Missouri Pink Love Apple'

I may have to reconsider.

The okra is producing, but I didn't plant much this year.  I have to spray it for Japanese beetles periodically, much to my dismay. 

The 'Violaceo di Verona' cabbage plants grew huge but failed to produce heads.  I have a second planting of that variety and 'Kalibos' as well, and I'm hoping they'll decide to form heads in early fall.  I did get a few nice heads of 'Early Jersey Wakefield' but I didn't start any new ones for fall harvest.

Onions are all harvested and drying in the cellar.  I have a fan on them in hopes they'll cure without rotting, which has plagued me in previous years.  The lack of rain didn't hurt them any. 

The garlic is also all harvested.  I don't plan on growing it again, as I never get big enough cloves to make it worthwhile.  They were better this year than previous ones, though.



Beets still look good.  I pickled two pints the other day and have had some nice helpings of steamed greens. 


I have to go out by 6:00 am to be able to stand doing any work at all.  Fortunately, with the type of no-till, dense planting I do, there aren't many weeds at this point, and there is minimal work necessary aside from harvesting.  And watering.

Several days ago, I stumbled upon a rather large blacksnake in the garden.  I gave her a wide berth, and she sat still with her head up and tongue flicking.  After a few days, I forgot about her.  And then one day I started turning over the soil in the empty onion bed and turned up ten eggs.  They're leathery and kind of squishy - rubbery - at the same time.  Much larger than I would have imagined.


I hope I got them all.  I know snakes are beneficial, but I really, really don't appreciate running onto them unexpectedly nor having them near the house, so I confess to dumping the eggs in the pond.  Do snapping turtles eat snake eggs?  Will the mother come back looking for them?

The cut flower garden is lush with beautiful blooms, and the roses are doing the best they can in the presence of Japanese beetles but require regular Sevin sprays to do it.  For some reason, the beetles don't bother the red roses or the little 'Acropolis' blooms.  They're particularly fond of the yellow roses.  Yellow seems to be an attractive color to many insects.

Queen Lime zinnias, 'Acropolis' roses, onion blossoms, 
Perovskia, Delphinium, with Baptisia & Lupine foliage

The Stargazers are fabulous.




All in all, things are pretty darned good considering the lack of rain.


July 05, 2018 0 comments By: m

The long, hot summer

This unrelenting, oppressive heat may be preventing me from being out in the garden, but the garden is happily taking good care of itself.


The cucumbers on either side of the entry arch have met each other at the top, and the cucumbers have been plentiful.


All the onions have been harvested and are drying out in the cellar.  Well, that's the idea, anyway.  The cellar is quite humid.  


The lima beans are now setting fruit.





The 'Savor' French melon cage is covered with vines.



Can't wait to get into those melons.  

The 'Bull's Blood' beets are lovely.  The greens are delicious steamed with a little vinegar in the water, and the beetroots are mildly sweet.  This variety has performed the best for me, but they don't make a dark red liquid when canned like the 'Shiraz Tall Top' and 'Detroit Red' varieties.


Insect pressure hasn't been so high this year, but the manageable Japanese beetle population is no doubt due to the fact that soybeans aren't planted up near the garden this year.  That doesn't mean I don't have to keep after them, and I missed this little rose: 


Another rose showed this funny feeding pattern:


That's a sign of leaf cutter bees.  Unlike the Japenese beetles, however, I won't try to stop them. They're pollinators.

While we're on the presence of insects, I got this shot of a tiger swallowtail on the monarda in the wildflower garden.


I won't be planting Zi Su again.  I didn't think much of the taste.  The leaves are pretty, but slightly hairy, and they taste like what I imagine weeds might taste.  I thought they might make pretty inclusions in cut flower arrangements, but they drooped and wilted quickly.

Purple Zi Su and red-veined dock

Foreground: Queen Lime zinnias and marigolds; mid-ground: lima beans and cabbage;
background left: beets, right: zi su

At last, the spicey bush basil is making a nice little hedge, and the 'Red Rubin' and 'Purple Ruffles' basil is finally filling in behind it.


The tomatoes are lush and full.  Several large green ones are on each plant.  It may be a long time before they're red, since, according to something I read, they ripen between the temperatures of 50 and 80 degrees.  The weatherman says it's going to cool down this weekend - to 88!


'Copia'

'Carbon'

 Foreground left: lima beans; right: carrots
Background: tomatoes
 
The cherry tomatoes - 'Sungold' and some from seeds I saved from a neighbor's garden last year - are producing tasty little orange-gold fruit.  They're a nice size on the plants in the garden, but quite small in the large pot I have on the patio.


The roses are doing well, but I have to keep them sprayed with Sevin to keep the Japanese beetles from destroying them.  I'm going to try a different insecticide next year for two reasons: 1) insects can become resistant to insecticides that use the same method of toxicity, and I've already used Sevin for three years in a row; and 2) Sevin leaves a white residue that's obvious on the leaves and on the dark colored roses.

'Grande Amore'

'Dark Desire'

'Dark Desire'

'Shazam!'

The cut flower garden is lush and lovely.

'Delphiniums' and 'Globe amaranth'

'Black Pearl' ornamental pepper

Queen Lime zinnias, clockwise from top left:  'Red Heart', 'Blush', 'Red'

Queen Lime assortment

Queen Lime zinnias, Zi Su, Perovskia, 'Red Rubin' basil


 Til next time, take care in this heat.

June 18, 2018 0 comments By: m

Relentless heat, start of harvest

We're not going to talk about how unrelentingly, brutally hot it is, nor about the lack of rain.  Thank goodness for a nearby water hydrant and indoor A/C.

Cucumbers are now ready to pick at the rate of one or two a day.  Since I haven't been properly pruning the vines, they may also be hiding.


The vines from the plants I started indoors are making their way across the top of the archway.  They don't want to lie down yet, so I'm tying them down by their tendrils.


The runner beans that, in my mind, were going to climb up the outside of the cucumber vines and have pretty, showy, shell pink blossoms are not doing any of that.  The blossoms they do have are few and far between.  

If I had the inspiration to make home-made tortillas and cook up a Mexican meal, the yellow squash ('Easy Pick Gold') has some beautiful flowers I could use.  Instead, I've been harvesting the fruits when they're no more than six inches long, and sauteeing them in bacon drippings, thinly sliced with green onions.


I wouldn't be harvesting onions now (other than any I wanted to use immediately), but the one rain we've had in ages was accompanied by strong winds, flattening some of them, so I went ahead and pulled them up.


The beets are still wonderful.  I'm getting enough large, healthy leaves that I can harvest now to make a delicious steamed green side dish (or, for the way I eat, a meal of one thing only).  A little salt and a touch of vinegar makes them even more delicious.  

This year, for the first time, I planted 'Bull's Blood' beets.  I don't know about the beetroot yet, of course, but the greens are wonderful.  I'll try them again next year, as this is the first year I've had beets that didn't succumb to either leaf spot or insect feeding before they were large enough to harvest leaves.  Of course this is the first year that I've been gardening here that it turned dry and hellishly hot the first of May and stayed that way.


The French Charentais melon 'Savor' is filling its cage plus the remaining ground space in its bed.


Already it has a nicely developing little fruit.  I saw a video that said the way to know when they're ripe, since the melon rind is green for the duration, is that the tendril at the fruit node will dry up.  I wonder if that's true for all canteloupe type melons.


The rhubarb that has done so well since the first time I planted any has been pathetic this year.  Of course it was up and growing nicely when those first two weeks of April turned into winter, and it sustained injury that manifested as very scrawny stems.  Then, the oven went on two weeks later and hasn't shut off since.  I harvested what was good (less than a quarter of the stems), and then removed two-thirds of what was left.  Where once was a lush hedgerow separating the rose garden from the vegetable garden, now is a scrappy and pitiful arc of half-naked plants.  I'm certain they will grow back nicely if the weather ever gives them a break.


But, no matter I can't harvest any more of it right now, because the dreaded Japanese beetle has made its annual appearance, and they head straight for the roses, the rhubarb, and the okra, which I sprayed with Sevin insecticide since I won't be harvesting anything from them for quite a while.  After that horrible infestation and constant battle last year, I'm not giving them a chance to build up their population this year.  I brought out the Sevin right from the start.  

Since the field crop next to the garden is corn this year,  and not soybeans, I'm hoping if I keep after them religiously, I can keep ahead of them and suffer a shorter infestation period this year.  Next year's farm soybeans don't need a head start from me leaving any to reproduce.  The farmer won't spray the beans when the beetles hit because the beans can tolerate a lot of feeding damage without reducing the harvest.  Why should he spend the money on insecticide?  That left me to try to keep them at bay by spraying the hordes at the edge of the field with my little 5-cup hand sprayer.  What a nightmare!  Not to mention a losing battle.  I bought a backpack sprayer since then, so I'm better prepared for next year when he plants beans up here again.  I wish he'd do a three-year rotation with another crop instead of just alternating corn and beans.  I guess it's better than planting beans every year. 

I don't like spraying that toxic stuff into the environment, and I try not to spray flower heads because it will easily kill the bees, but the beetles will destroy everything given any leeway at all, and it's the rose blooms they go after, rather than the leaves like on other plants.  They're starting to attack the zinnias now.




At least the raccoons didn't tear up anything last night.  Or the night before.  Maybe they're thinking about moving.  I sure hope so. I can't afford the transportation to trap and haul them away this month.

Last post, I bragged about how healthy and damage-free the tatsoi was.  The next day, it looked like this:


Whiteflies, I think.  I sprayed them with Sevin and then pulled them all out the following day.  I've turned into a real chemical menace this year.  Desperate times, desperate measures.

I believe I also bragged about how lovely the cabbages were.  When I saw the white cabbage butterflies,  I did dust the plants with Dipel, preparing for a hatch of caterpillars, but looks like I missed this one.


Leaving the ornamental vegetables for now....

I got a real surprise a few days ago when I went over to check on my little magnolia.  It had several blooms!  If I ever knew, I had forgotten that 'Ann' magnolia "may sporadically repeat bloom in mid summer," according to the Missouri Botanical Garden website.  This is the first time for this little 4-year-old.  It's really a lovely little tree even when it's not in bloom.


The roses are no longer having a problem with the heat, and on most of them, the blooms seem to have gone back to their normal form and color after having suffered a period of dwarfing and paling.

'Neptune'

According to the Palatine Roses website, 'Acropolis' is described as having "flowers of an unusual bronze pink with a white green reverse" and the "blooms are cupped, medium (size) and double in form."  The first flush of blooms was indeed that wonderful color, but this second flush is a bright, light pink.  Neither of the two flushes were what I'd call "medium".  They're quite small.  But maybe this year is not a good one to judge.

'Acropolis'

'Pat Austin' is showing off.

'Pat Austin'

'Pat Austin'

It's a gorgeous flower on the bush, but it doesn't last when cut and brought in.  I may have to experiment with ways to get more time out of them.  If I can't, they're still worth growing.  I can't say the same for the other David Austin rose I have - 'Charles Darwin'.  It's really an unattractive color - kind of tan (the description and picture showed a nice yellow), and it has very thin, flimsy, sprawling branches.  It's not any better this year than last year when I first planted it, so this fall it's going to get relocated outside the rose garden.  Sorry, Chuck.

I thought I'd really love the Queen Lime 'Lime' zinnias.  I like them in mixed bouquets, but I'm not so taken with them in the garden.  

Queen Lime zinnias: 'Lime'


I do, however, love the Queen Lime 'Blush' variety.

Queen Lime zinnia: 'Blush'


Meanwhile, in another corner of the cut flower garden...

Delphiniums and Globe Amaranth

Intense sun and hot winds have them looking pretty exhausted now, but the Asiatic lilies were spectacular when they first opened up.



That's it for now.  Don't melt out there, people.

Roses, Globe Amaranth, ornamental pepper 'Black Pearl', Salvia 'Caradonna',  Queen Lime zinnias,
and a sprig of something that looks like a short white yarrow  (and may well be) and spreads 
like wildfire (if I knew for certain what it is I could warn you not to ever plant any)