• 07Sep

    This is a long, photo-heavy post of what’s been going on in my gardens. I’ll put the photos behind the cut.

    It’s been feeling like fall is in the air. I’m not ready yet, but I feel this way every year. I always see so many fruits that just aren’t going to make it by the time first frost arrives. It’s not over yet of course. Our first frost average is mid to late October, and this year, I have row covers that I plan to use to try and extend my season.

    BTW, you can buy row cover material by the foot at Pinetree Seeds. I bought four dollars worth so I could try it out. If I like it, I’ll buy more next year.

    Successes and disappointments

    My biggest success is once again, the butterfly garden. It continues to bring me great joy, and can lift me out of the worst mood. When I’m out there, the rest of the world ceases to exist and it’s just me, the flowers and a fascination with the variety of creatures that call it home.

    The three cornerstone plants are:

    butterfly weed: I have three kinds, but the Cinderella variety seems to be the most preferred by the monarchs. It is their host plant, and females lay their eggs, then caterpillars hatch and feed until it’s time to find a spot to make its chrysalis.

    a purple butterfly bush: It did well this year, and is still blooming, but I think it’s a bit crowded. I’m probably going to dig it up and move it a few feet. I’ve moved it once before, and it did just fine, but I’ve forgotten now whether I did that in fall or spring. Time to google.

    my lantana bush: The butterflies just love this plant and its colors are spectacular. Apparently in Florida, they grow these year round, but in our climate of seasons, it wouldn’t last the winter. So every fall, I cut it back, dig it up, put it in a pot with potting soil and put it in the basement. I water it about once a month over the winter, and in spring, it starts to leaf out. Then I plant it outside and it grows again. This will be the third fall I dig it up.

    My perennial goat’s beard did not bloom this year, which was disappointing. The foliage looked gorgeous until about August, and now it has brown spots. I don’t know if this is normal or a disease. It still looks robust, but I don’t know why it never bloomed. In cases like this, I just wait to see what happens the following year.

    Other perennials did well:

    my bearded tongue pentstemon:

    lavender, and we made homemade lavender ice cream, which was fun and creamy….next year I want to make more recipes that use fresh lavender

    my Mexican bush sage; I love sages, and I have a Russian sage that’s done okay, still blooming, but not profusely.

    my lilies, despite the stupidity of the hedge trimmers who said, “Oh, are these flowers?” as he sheared off the buds.

    I even had a surprise, unknown lily out back.

    My spring bulbs either didn’t bloom, or the squirrel dug up the bulbs and ate them. He’s a pesky little guy. So I didn’t have a single crocus, a daffodil or a tulip. That’s a heartbreaker. I still think I’ll plant some crocus in a pot to grow some saffron for cooking. I like saffron.

    Possible to do’s:
    divide lilies and day lilies? If I don’t get to that this fall, it’s a must for fall 2009.
    move butterfly bush a few feet to the right.

    My annuals always do pretty well. My pretty wishbone flower died. I tried to save it, but it just didn’t make it.

    I plant a lot of things as companion plants, either to bring in beneficials or ward off baddies. I did less of that this year, but I plan to ramp back up next year.

    I plant petunias (which have apparently died; I forgot about them until just now) and geraniums because they are supposed to help with leafhoppers. And I always plant Queen Anne’s Lace for the ladybugs.

    I have a chicory plant in a pot because I’ve loved wild chicory since childhood. Plants that remind me of happy days on the farm are always on the top of the list, even though it annoys my farmer uncle who considers them “noxious weeds.” He says “Kid, why do you do this to me?” I’m crazy about him, even though he makes fun of my compost pile and organic gardening.

    I also grew zinnias, Mexican sunflowers and marigolds, among others. Some of the marigolds were collected seeds from last year (obviously some hybrids) and reverted to their ancestors this year. I’ve never seen such huge marigolds. I’ve had to pull a lot of them because they were taking over and some of them would be four to five feet tall if I staked them. They’re so heavy many fall over. But hey, no nematodes! I’m not usually a fan of marigolds and only grow them for companion reasons, but those giants were gorgeous.

    My vegetable garden:

    Things are healthy, just not growing that well. I really think the problem is insufficient light because the big tree has grown a large branch that shades the area too much. I’ve been taking pictures and documenting sunlight, and I really believe this is the case. We’re still undecided about taking down that tree, so I’m going to do something different with that plot (cutting garden and cool vegetables such as lettuce, peas, etc.). Then I’ll start some nice raised beds in a sunnier location.

    The tomatoes are loaded with green tomatoes, but I’ve had few ripe ones. That’s a great disappointment, because I’d hoped to can a lot. As it was, there were barely enough for salads and sandwiches. I sprayed them recently with a smelly spray of eggshell water, but I don’t know if that will help.

    I’m LOADED with my wonderful sweet peppers. I’ve only had a few ripe ones, but they do take forever to ripen. I like them bright red. I have gypsy, corno del toro and my favorite: Giant Marconi. By the time the garden is hit with frost, I hope to have a freezer full of peppers.

    Eggplants, terrible. I have two nice fruits growing now, and those will be fine, plus I have lots of blooms and swells, but I don’t know how many will translate into actual fruits that will be ready before frost. That’s a shame, because in addition to my usual black beauty and lavender (favorite), I tried two new varieties: green goddess and an Italian variety called de prospero something.

    The cool weather crops did well, again affirming that the big problem is sunlight. I had good snowpeas and lots of lettuce and greens. I never have good luck with spinach, though, but I continue to try.

    Cucumbers have done well. I apparently didn’t plant enough plants to have so many I had to give them away, but I get a nice one nearly every day, and that’s made for a nice summer of cucumbers. But I miss the thrill of sharing, and I’d also hoped to have a large bounty for the food pantry.

    My squash were all killed by vine borers. Next year I have a plan, so I’ll try again. I know a number of people who are so fed up with borers they’re not going to grow squash anymore. But I’m kind of tenacious and keep trying.

    Which brings me to my melons. This is my third year trying to grow a darned honeydew or cantaloupe! The first year, I had some melons, but they all become deformed and stunted. I blamed cucumber beetles and their dirty mouths, which also killed my cukes that year.

    Last year, I grew ananas melons which are resistant to bacterial wilt. I got one, delicious melon and we loved it. Lots more grew, but they grew too late to finish, so they died on the vine.

    This year…I HAVE MELONS! None are ready to eat yet, but I’m watching them. I grew two varieties (because I apparently misplaced my ananas seeds): Halogen and Early Sunrise. These are specialty melons.

    I have about five or six Halogens growing and one sunrise. LOL. But hey, that’s so much better than previous years. Wouldn’t that be something if I had a melon to share? I’d be over the moon.

    The other disadvantage I had going into the gardening season this year was I planted two or more weeks later than usual due to weather and life. Next year, I’m planting early and trying my uncle’s method. But I’ll grow extra seedlings in case I have to replant.

    Oh, and my dahlias did great. They’re the workhorses of the garden. And my castor beans are pretty too, but still no seed pods.

    Filed under: Organic Gardening
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    Posted: September 7, 2008 at 10:27 am

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