Sunday, July 31, 2011

End of the July Garden, Photos by Amy

Ed's 'Salmon Star' lilies are stealing the show both in sight and scent categories.

The bright yellow 'London'  lilies light up the garden.

The 'Simplon ' lilies are almost six feet tall. Pure white petals , fragrance and  thick sturdy stems  make them a favorite of Ed. Since we are not interested in seed production, he talks about removing the anthers as soon as the flowers opens to preserve the pristine white flower. I on the other hand don't like to disappoint those pollinators besides Ed looks so cute with that orange pollen on the end of his nose.

Purslane is coming up everywhere. It's yellow flowers are soon to be followed by seeds. We are doing very best to get these weeded out. Apparently this July's weather  was perfect for growing purslane.

This  little guy is a ' Sugar Baby' watermelon. I was not surprised to see the hairy stems, but until I saw Amy's photograph, I never knew tiny watermelons had hair. All the watermelons I've seen have been bald!

Tiny little hens and chicks are hairy too. These little guys are lined up in a crevice of Ed's stone wall like peas in a pod.The tiny plants came up from seed self sown by the larger clumps that reside on the wall. As they grow things are going to get a bit tight!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Picture Perfect Tomatoes

Last year  this was whine time when the late blight wiped out all of our tomatoes.  We try to learn from our mistakes.  Here is a description of what changes we have made in our tomato patch.  Indeterminate plants are widely spaced with broccoli or parsley inter planted.  As the tomato plants grew, the stems were tied to tall stakes and all of the suckers were removed.  Italian Goliath is the pictured variety.  It was chosen since it has a high resistance to disease.  Its five separate clusters of fruit are textbook in appearance.  If trouble is avoided, this plant should continue to grow and set more fruit higher on the plant.

Straw mulch is intended to protect the tomato plants from soil splash.  Rain splashed soil on tomato foliage can cause a growth that kills the tomato leaf.  Sprouting oat plants is the down side of straw mulch.  Some oat seed remains despite my attempts to shake it all out.

All watering done during the drought was applied with a watering can not a hose.  With the watering can it was possible to direct all of the water at the base of the plant.  Foliage remained dry while the water went to the base of the plant where it was needed.

Serenade brand garden disease control has been applied to the tomatoes once.  It is scheduled to be reapplied after today's rain.  Bacillus subtilis is the active ingredient in this product.  We hope it works as this is the first time we have used this product.

Ferline is the variety shown here.  It was selected since it has resistance to late blight.  This first red tomato will be in today's evening meal.  No word can describe the deepness of our hope that this tomato is the first of many.  We will share our failure or our success whichever comes our way.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Cured Garlic

All of our garlic harvest is either on the drying rack or is in the use it now box.  Over all we are pleased with the quality of the bulbs.  Nearly all are sound and it never gets any better than that.  The area where we cure the garlic is the same space that usually holds our plant starting table.  The arbutus cuttings were bumped from the table to under the window to make room for the garlic.  A dehumidifier has been running to dry the garlic so the plastic cover is back on the cuttings.  Daily water misting is intended to keep the remaining cuttings moist but many have died.  Our next attempt to root cuttings will feature a more granular soil mix.  This year's mix remained sodden rather than moist.  We got rot rather than roots.  Somehow we need to keep more moisture in the air and less in the soil.

Standard practice dries garlic with the bulbs down.  Drying foliage develops all kinds of mold and this rains down on the curing bulbs.  If the bulbs are still moist when the mold hits, it grows on the bulbs.  Our bulbs up drying rack is intended to avoid mold rain.  Brown dust between the roots and the bulb shows that we still get some deposits on the bulb.  This is soil that remained in the trimmed roots.  It fell as it dried.  I could brush it off but that seems extremely fussy.

When the garlic is harvested the only color seen in the bulbs is white.  Purple stripes appear as the garlic cures.  I have read that the coloration is a response to moisture stress.  Are these purple stripes a good thing or a bad thing?  No answer is known here.  We just like to see the color develop.

The bare L shaped planting bed is where the garlic grew.  After harvest, weeds were pulled, compost was added and buckwheat was planted.  If the rains come, the buckwheat will grow shading out weeds.  All that remains to prepare this ground for next year's crop is to cut down the buckwheat before it develops seed.  I find this difficult since the bees really work the buckwheat flowers.  Taking away this food source is delayed as long as possible.  We have time to decide what will be planted here next.  The immediate task is to open the ground to the right for next year's garlic.  In less than three months the garlic needs to be planted.  Better start working that new ground soon.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Welcome to the Fire Swamp

We have been getting just a tease of rain. Sunday we got enough to leave an outline of the plants on the dust but it vaporized very quickly. Yesterday rain clouds passed us by teasing us again with a few raindrops on the stones. It looks like today will be the same.

Perhaps fire swamp is a slight exaggeration , but Ed really was ready to spontaneously combust when he discovered this large pile of dirt behind the sweet cicely. The most disturbing part is that the pile contained stones. This garden bed was sifted to remove the stones and that means the ROUS, rodent of unusual size, that moved this pile of dirt has been digging at the base of Ed's stone wall.

 We don't have quick sand, but the dirt is so dry that a touch of Ed's shovel collapsed the tunnel . Much like a vole tunnel, this one is larger running almost the length of Ed's wall. I don't even like to think of a vole that size and the idea of a woodchuck inside the stone wall is more than annoying.

 Most of the plants in this area look terrible.  If we get some rain we will get a better  idea of the casualties. The tunnel has undercut the wall only slightly. I think the stones are from the stone trench which served as the foundation when the wall was built over a decade ago.

Work on this bed has been moved up on the to do list. I hope our ROUS has discovered this is not the place to be. If not E.F. will have to make an appearance.

This afternoon the clouds did not pass us by. We got perhaps 1/2 an inch of rain. The plants and the gardeners are thankful for every drop!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Wilted Plants, Wilted Gardeners

 It's too darn hot and way too dry. Even this black eyed Susan is wilted in this heat. I wouldn't even consider showing you a picture of the wilted gardeners at this point.

 For days Ed has spent his morning carrying water one watering can at a time  to try to rescue the suffering. The watering has to be done on a triage basis. We have a good well and we want to keep it that way.  The plants have to deal with it. He watered the summer sweet and cardinal flower yesterday. They look better this morning, but the relief is temporary. We need rain.

I gave up spending time in the sun  and 90 degree heat several days ago. I'm a pale delicate flower  who wilts easily. I've been watching the hummingbirds flit around the trumpet vine from inside the cool house. I even got a good look at a bright blue male indigo bunting sitting on the railing outside my kitchen door. Now the heat has gotten to Ed. The garden is important to us. We love our plants, but they are expendable. Ed  is not! Perhaps the heat will break and we will get some rain. It seem surreal here in Upstate New York to think of temperatures in the eighties as cooling off.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Lily By Any Other Name

In the slightly organized chaos that is our gardening style, confusion about our lilies abounds. We think that this bright yellow lily is 'London', a free gift from McClure and Zimmerman. We are however by no means sure about that.  When the new bulbs were potted up this spring, each pot was given a masking tape label with the name of the variety written in permanent black marker.  Black marker on masking tape remains readable for a very short time in the sunlight.  By the time we noticed the disappearing ink it had disappeared completely.

Here we have two lilies purchased from a local day lily breeder. 'Indian Giver' was the name on the label and the picture on that label matches the purple lily on the right, but what about the other lily that came in the same pot. It is gorgeous with its yellow and rose throat and frilly edges. Calling it 'Not Indian Giver' doesn't seem right, but with all the named day lilies out there, how can we identify it?

Finally  this white lily with a yellow throat and red bud  opened and  we were able to identify it from the catalog description. This tall trumpet lily is 'Black Dragon' from the Black Magic strain of  lilies collected in China during the early 1900's. All of the lilies are  breathtakingly beautiful named or not. They look terrific even in this rainless 90 degree heat. I stayed out there just long enough to get their pictures. Perhaps it was the heat and humidity that left me  breathless. This heat will pass and  I'll have all winter to look for my missing flower names. I love a good mystery especially one that takes place in a garden.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Just Ahead Of The Storm

One of the challenges of trying to grow garlic in the great Northeast  is the weather.  July harvest time usually features numerous severe thunderstorms.  Just when the garlic needs to begin drying down for harvest our weather brings rain water by the buckets.  This year was different.  We have had no rain for weeks.  Lawn grass is browning and cracks underfoot.  Favored garden plants are trying to make do with the little water carried to them in sprinkling cans.  Scorching heat drives the water carrier inside by 11 am. The garlic is in great shape under these unusual conditions.  Today's forecast showed rain so the goal was to get all of the garlic in the basement before the storm.  Thunder rumbled across the valley and with the first storm  huge raindrops splattered on the stones as the last bucket of garlic was carried to the basement.

Earlier harvested garlic is on the drying rack.  All new seed planted in new ground that had never seen garlic before resulted in healthy plants at harvest.  The new ground was of low fertility so the bulbs are rather small.  Holes in the orange mesh measure one inch square.  Four or five cloves make up each bulb shown so clove size is acceptable.   One of the new varieties had many bulbs with water inside of the bulb wrappers.  Prior to the current dry spell our rain had been excessive.  These water stained plants seemed to have coarser leaves than usual.  The junctions where the tightly wrapped leaves left the stem were filled with debris and moisture form the nightly dew.  About one third of this variety is water stained and will likely mold.  Likely this variety will not be planted again.  Trouble free garlic is our goal.

Awaiting a Storm

Its' been weeks since we had any rain. The soil is dry as dust. It's perfect for the birds to take a dust bath, leaving indentations in the soil where they shake and roll.

It's not so nice for the gardener. Yesterday I pulled a big quack grass that uprooted this Dianthus. I watered it  well , but I'm afraid I murdered it. I think I'll wait for rain before I weed anywhere near the plants.

This is how our grass looks now. It's quite a change from the lush growth that Ed couldn't keep up with mowing.It crunches under foot when you walk across it.

 Still, even as dry as it is beauty  hangs on in the garden. The anise hyssop and gloriosa daisies bloom on to the bees delight and mine.

This breathtaking day lily has its day in the sun and seems to bask in the heat. Not me I'm completely wilted and even though the weather calls for strong storms, I hope the rain doesn't pass us by this time!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

About Those Garden Gnomes...

It was some time ago  when I was chatting with my gardening friend Helen that she said "I wish I  had  a Travelocity garden gnome with a red hat." It was not until her birthday earlier this month was imminent that I took action. I sent for this cute little guy, but I knew he would never arrive on time. I think it was late at night when I got an idea. I contacted a few distant relatives and friends and asked them to send Helen a postcard that read "Still traveling." Running late." T.G. (Thank you to those who joined in the fun!)  I gave her a small present on her birthday to cover my deception. After the gnome arrived , I waited for my chance to sneak him into garden when no one was home.  I picked a nice spot close to the door, went home and waited for the phone to ring. It was not until the next morning that the gnome was discovered. Helen was both surprised and delighted. It didn't take her long to figure out it was me.

Now her garden has a gnome with a red hat. He looks great in her garden. Of course he may move around a bit. He's pretty fast. He arrived ahead of most of the postcards.

We don't have any garden gnomes at the Stone Wall Garden. I'm not good with statuary. My concrete rabbit is still in the basement awaiting repairs for the cracks he got because I left him outside all winter. My garden is a gnome free zone. However since I bought Helen's Travelocity gnome,  I can't say the same for my computer. I open my email and there he is in his red hat. When I go to Blotanical, he seems to be on every page. It's curious since I already bought the thing. How many garden gnomes do they think a person needs? It will be interesting to see how long it takes for this traveling gnome in my computer to move on . I'm fine with it as long as the one in Helen's garden stays put!

PS Ed started the 2011 garlic harvest today. He was lucky enough to watch a doe and her fawn playing in the pond. Both of us saw our first ever mourning warbler in the garden. It had a blue gray head and a yellow chest.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tomato Target Practice

After the late blight  tomato disaster last  year, Ed decided to go with indeterminate tomatoes. He vowed to keep the suckers cut off, to keep them tied up to their poles, to keep them mulched and to make sure they had plenty of air circulation. He has done that.  We have some truly good looking tomatoes in the garden. Early in the morning I watch  birds in the garden sitting on the tall tomato poles. Birds just love to  look down on the garden from the highest point they can find. I was particularly thrilled to watch bluebirds sitting  atop the posts. I would see three or perhaps four birds at one time perched above Ed's tomatoes.

Close inspection reveals that the birds are doing more than just sitting there and enjoying the view.
If the birds are trying to bombard the tomatoes, it looks like their aim is pretty darn good. Not every drop results in  a bulls eye though. Sometimes they hit the foliage. From the look of target range the birds are feasting on berries. Shades of red and blue are visible as well as the white. How patriotic! We were not counting on this aerial bombardment. It never crossed our mind. Forget that idealic image of a warm sunripened tomato eaten out of hand in the garden. Organic or not I think I'll wash my tomatoes before I eat them.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Garden Easter Lily

McClure  &  Zimmerman, a reputable mail order plant dealer, lists   L. longiflorum as hardy to zone 7.  We knew that the Easter Lily needed a warm weather location to grow outside but decided to try and grow them here in zone 4.  Three zone steps corresponds to a 30 degree F temperature difference but our last two winters have been mild.  Last winter the snow cover came early and stayed late.  Under this continuous insulation blanket, warmth from the earth found the surface and melted the frost that had penetrated garden soil.  Continuous snow cover is not characteristic of our winters so long term our lilies are at risk.

This fall we plan to pot up our bulbs in preparation for winter.  Lily pots will be placed in the ground near the south facing house wall.  Sunlight reflected off of the house wall and interior warmth that sneaks through the foundation wall should create a zone 5 like micro climate.  I can shovel snow on top of the lilies to try and preserve their snow cover.  Thus protected the lilies will likely survive the winter.

The real risk comes during the transition from winter to spring.  During this wildly changeable time we can have 70 degree F. days followed by 20 degree F. nights.  Our plant losses occur during this period of time.  This is where having the bulbs in pots gives us options.  Pots can be lifted and placed inside the house for protection from cold nights.  Weather permitting the pots can go back outside to continue their early season growth.  When the weather has settled, tender plants are removed from their pots and placed in the garden.

We plan to force a pot or two by bringing the frozen bulbs into the house around Christmas.  A waking up period in a cold basement corner will be followed by a move to the living room.  Who knows we may have flowers for Easter.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Fresh Peas

Garden fresh young peas are at the top of my favorites list.  Local farm stands sell local strawberries, tomatoes, squash and corn but never young peas.  We watch the development of our pea crop carefully.  Harvest is completed during the cool morning hours.  Processing quickly follows so that flavor is at its peak when the peas are committed to the freezer.  Garden space is insufficient to allow us to grow a full years supply but we enjoy what we can put by.

A recent tour of our garden flushed out a baby bunny rabbit.  It ran through the side of my protective   2" X 4" wire cage like it was not even there.  That baby rabbit had full access to our entire garden.  Nothing was safe from this munching baby.  His brothers and sisters must be nearby.  Clearly action was necessary.  The next evening the baby bunny was again spotted.  I turned toward the house to get the gun.  Over my shoulder I saw Becky bent over the rabbit shooing it into the tall weeds at gardens edge.  Once the rabbit disappeared into the thick weeds I had no chance of finding it.

Dead snow pea vines caught our attention.  That baby had eaten a path through the end of the row.  A diagonal cut on the vine is without question from the bite of a rabbit.  Here the damage was minor but we discovered  an entire row of pea plants that had been felled by rapidly growing ravenously hungry babies.

No harsh words were spoken but not all of my thoughts around this loss were pure.  I quickly came to understand that life with this gentle bunny saving person is great in part because of her gentle nature.  The image that fills my mind now is not that row of dead pea vines heavily laden with crop but the sight of Becky waving her hands over the rabbit's back as she walked it to safety.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cutting Back the Lavender and Making Lavender Wands

 We've had a few sunny days and the lavender is ready to cut. My friend Susan wanted to learn how to make lavender wands so I called her and said " The lavender is ready, let's do it." Ed cut lavender for us to use because he's much braver around the buzzing of the bees than I am. We prune the plant and the longest stems are used to make the wands.

 I told Susan I like to work with a bowl in my lap to catch the flowers that drop as I work. They are saved to use later. We started with eleven stems. Any number will do but it needs to be odd. Eleven is a nice number for a beginner, fewer and the wand is too skinny.

The end of a roll of 1/4 inch ribbon is tied around the lavender at the base of the flowers leaving  a tail slightly longer than the stems you are working on.

Then you flip the bundle over with the stems pointing up. One by one you weave the ribbon end that is connected to the spool over and under as you gently fold down the lavender stems turning the bunch as you go.

 The first round is the hardest. Susan is on her second round here.  Continue weaving until all of the buds are encased in the woven ribbons. Bring up the short end and wrap the long end once around and tie a bow.

Let the wands dry for a few days. They look great in a basket.  When dry they can be stored in a closed container. They make a lovely gift!

Susan and I had a great afternoon. With little iced peppermint tea and the aroma of all that lavender , we were happy and relaxed. Susan's all set to start on her lavender at home. Perhaps I'll ask Ed to finish the trim on this plant and I'll work on some more of these tonight. You have to do them when the lavender is ready!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Arbutus Cuttings Plus 24

The upper picture was taken 24 days ago when these were freshly taken cuttings.  A clear plastic cover has been in place until today.  A south facing basement window has provided indirect sunlight every day that the sun has been visible.  Most of the time my cuttings have had to deal with dark and gloomy rainy days.

The lower picture was taken today after some cosmetic trimming took place.  Soft brown rot had appeared on several of the cuttings.  Where possible the rot was cut away taking some sound green leaf with the rotted area.  I decided that it was time to remove the clear plastic dome.  Lower humidity may stop the rot but a lack of new rot growth would put the leaves at risk of drying out.  My choice has been made.

A cell by cell comparison will show a few cuttings with new growth.  These may have grown roots.  Some cuttings look exactly as they did twenty-four days ago.  Actual inspection of what is going on under the soil would be helpful to me but injurious to the plant.  Some cuttings have completely rotted away.

For now these cuttings will spend the next several weeks inside their south facing basement window.  The next big decision is when and how to prepare any survivors for winter.

Note: We saw the fox at the upper edge of the garden today. I hope the whole family hangs around and catches those furry critters that are eating my bulbs!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

901 Posts, But Who's Counting?

Mallow and Friend, Photo by Amy
901 posts. Wow! Those 901 posts include 1,670 photographs. I thought about having the blog printed in a book. Now I realize that it would be a very long book. The longest Harry Potter book is just over 800 pages and never understood how anyone could write a book that long. I guess it's one page or in my case one post at a time. Looking back I have noticed that I'm winding down a bit. 2008 , the first year of the blog has the most posts. Nevertheless, I plan to keep on posting. The older I get the more I need a record of what's going on in the garden. Having one with  search capability is a big plus!

 Our fascination with the plants, and Ed's passion to work with stones have not diminished a bit. It's just the beginning of July maybe 1000 posts by the end of the year is doable. It's only 19 posts a month or 4.7 posts a week. On the other hand blogging is like gardening. There's always next year.