Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Late August Harvest

I've been really thrilled with how the well the vegetable garden has performed this year.  Better than all previous years and I'm sure it was the hot sunny weather we've had all summer long.  It's been really dry so I've had to hand water almost every day, but this week we are experiencing lots of rain, which has been a refreshing change. 

The tomatoes have been outstanding and I've certainly been in competition with squirrels to harvest them.  I've made some tomato sauce bolongese with them and we've been having tomato salads almost every night.  I've got 8 varieties planted and the one that seems to be sweetest and most tasty is a heirloom called the German Stripe. 

We've had more than enough cukes, squash, and zucchini.  The summer squash is dying off now from powdery mildew and I'm OK with that.... we've had quite enough squash thank you very much!  I'll be pulling up the spent plants sometimes this week.

Eggplant has been abundant as well.  YUMMY!  I adore eggplant parmesan and it freezes well too.  There are also more green beans than we can eat.  I've let a bunch get mature seeds so I can dry them and hopefully plant the seeds next summer.

The perennial garden is really slowing down too.  There is so much that has gotten brown, died back, and gone to seed so much earlier than usual, but I kind of expected that since we had such a warm spring and everything seemed to be about 3 weeks ahead from previous years.  Thank goodness for black-eyed Susans otherwise we wouldn't have much color in the flower bed right now, since I don't put in mums until after Labor Day.

I was delighted by seeing this surprise in the backyard bed.  (Sorry the picture is so bad, but the light was waning.) 

I stuck this amarylis plant in the ground because I couldn't kill it even though it had long since bloomed last January.  To my amazement it bloomed again August.  What a nice surprise!  The garden although frustrating at times always brings me much joy and wonder!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Today's Harvest and Veggie Garden Update

The vegetable garden is continuing to perform well this year.  The collard greens and broccoli finally finished producing last week and bolted so I I've got a few empty spots for some fall planting.  I've been regularly harvesting lots and lots of squash and zucchini.  There may be some vine borers in them at this point, but I'm not going to do anything about it since we've got more than we need.  I've been grating and freezing them for future bread making. 

I've also been grilling the zucchini and yellow squash as well as the broccoli (those are sweet potatoes and zucchini in the pic above - I didn't grow the sweet potatoes, but they were delicious grilled).  I coat the broccoli in olive oil, mix in some chopped garlic and salt/pepper, and let them roast for about 8-10 minutes.  The zucchini and squash I slice in circles and coat in olive oil with a sprinkling of Mrs. Dash seasoning.

Today I finally picked my green beans, cucumbers, beets, and cherry tomatoes.  Only 2 orange cherry tomatoes but with 16 vines of all different varieties of tomatoes there are probably 50+ more starting to ripen  (waiting is such anticipation!). 

The eggplants and sweet peppers are doing well and I've got many in all stages of development.  I think for both of these I'll be harvesting some next week. The swiss chard is still producing but starting to look tired.  I'll probably pull them out and sow some new seeds for a fall harvest. 

The purple cabbage is almost ready to be picked as well.  Leaf loopers finally got to them, but I've been hand picking them off with success so I opted not to spray.  The outside leaves don't look pretty but the inner cabbage is fine.  I planted carrots late so they are just tiny seedlings now but doing really well.  I think I'll sow some more for a late fall harvest as well. 

Finally the potatoes are blooming but I never hilled them.  I know I should have but I've been too busy.  I noticed a fingerling potato popping through the dirt so it will be green and probably not edible. I need to get out there to hill the rest before the harvest is a total bust.  Don't we all wish we had more time! 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mid Summer Island Bed

My front island perennial bed looks best in late-spring (when the peonies and fox gloves are blooming) and mid-summer when the phlox, cone flowers, and rudbeckia take center stage.  Mid-summer can also be a time when the garden starts to show signs of stress from the heat, humidity, and pests.  With mid-summer comes humid weather, which means that controlling fungus and powdery mildew can be a full time job, but even with the foliage not looking its best the blooms of mid-summer usually puts on a lovely show. 

I've got several varieties of phlox.  Some of them are new cultivars that resist fungus, but most of what I have are older varieties that lose most of their lower leaves to disease every summer.  The one is my favorite (sorry don't know its name).  I love the color and how tall it is - almost as tall as me (5'2")!. 

Notice the darn Japanese beetle munching away.... grrrrrr....

Since cone flowers are native to America not much bothers these hardy plants.  I've got purple, pink, peach, and green blooms in this bed (sorry folks I don't know their common or botanical names). 

The rudbeckia (also native) has lots of buds and should be blooming in a few days (sorry no picture).

Larkspur is new to my garden this year.  I love how they look so similiar to delphiniums (some people think they are the same but they are not).  Larkspur blooms later and longer than delphiniums.  They don't have as a deep a color as the delphinium, but are tall and sturdy and bit more resistant to disease.

Hollyhocks are one of my all time favorite flowers.  I planted them last year and this year they are blooming for the first time.  Only one has started blooming, but 2 others are not too far behind.  I planted them at the back of the bed knowing they are tall plants, but I've been disappointed so far in their size.  They are probably only 3 feet tall and the flowers are smaller than I expected.  They aren't done blooming or growing for the season so I hope they will get bigger (does anyone have any idea why they are so small?)

These sweet coreopsis with grassy foliage and small lavender flowers is planted at the very front of the bed.  I have mixed feelings about it.  The flowers are so small you really only notice them unless you get close up and the foliage is a bit messy looking to me.  I'm undecided as to whether they are staying or being moved.  I'm thinking of replacing them with something that has a bit more impact.  Any ideas anyone?

Around the large oak tree I've planted reblooming daylilies in all different colors and varieties.  I need to take better pictures of them early in the day.  I usually go out with the camera late in the day as the blooms fade so I haven't captured them at their best, but they are really gorgeous.

The Endless Summer hydrangea is blooming really nicely this year.  Good thing too because I was ready pull it out.  I planted it 3 summers ago and this is the first time it has bloomed (and I haven't pruned it for fear that it wouldn't bloom). 

Finally at the back of the bed are tons of liatris.  I inherited them from the previous owner.  They were peppered throughout the bed with no rhyme or reason, and 2 springs ago I moved them all towards the back in a long row for impact.  I love they way they look.

This bed is still a work in progress.  I've got many more kinds of plants then I've listed in this post, but this is what is blooming right now. There are still plants in the back of the bed that are smaller and need to be moved up front since they are hiding behind the cone flowers and tall phlox.  These include the shasta daisies, salvia, and lamb's ear.  I've got that on my "to do" list for next spring.  As the summer goes by that list is growing and growing... but then again a garden is never done and that's what makes it so much fun!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Dreaming of a Cutting Garden

I rarely cut flowers from my garden to bring them inside (except for peonies... I always have lots of them in the spring).  I know I should enjoy the flowers both inside and out, but honestly my garden has not been that great of a cutting garden since we bought this house almost 5 years ago.  The first few years of gardening I was figuring out what types of flowers I wanted and dealing with a mess that the previous homeowner left me.  This year I actually have some good blooms (although threatened by fungus) so I figured it was time to create a small bouquet. 

In this vase are cone flowers, gerber daisies, and liatris from my garden.  I purchased the green mums from the grocery store as a filler (they were only $3), but I could have gathered up more home grown blooms and eliminated the mums.  The vase is a vintage ironstone that was sitting in my basement and the table cloth is also vintage from the 1950s.  This has brightened up our little dinning room and even Andy noticed it. 

Next summer I'm definitely dedicating a raised bed completely to a cutting garden.  I'm thinking it will contain  cosmos (which I already have along my front walkway), dahlias (I've only got a few now so would need more),  zinnias (I have them now in containers only), and gerber daisies.  I'd also like to add a few more cone flowers to my front perennial bed.

Do you have a cutting garden?  If so, what do you grow in it?  I'd love to hear your ideas!