Wednesday, October 30, 2013

New Rock

Of course this rock is anything but new but I discovered it today for perhaps the first time.  An afternoon walk along one of my well traveled trails took a detour over a deer path across our abandoned meadow.  I found safe entrance into the woods next to a huge growth of DEC introduced roses.  This rock of impressive size greeted me.  The most recent glacier pushed or dropped this rock to its present location.

This chunk of sedimentary rock is typical of what forms our ridges.  Weathered sediments from ancient mountains to our east were deposited in a vast inland sea.  These accumulated in sufficient depth to form a plateau that underlies much of  this part of  our state.

Weathered remains of the plateau form the ridges that edge our valley.  Where the slope is steep the soil is thin, the rocks are plentiful and early farmers left that land untilled.  Forest products were taken then as well as today but these places remain wild and primitive in appearance.  The valleys and flat areas were filled with glacial till and enough soil formed there to support agriculture.

One end of this stone hangs in the air unsupported.  How much of it is buried is unknown but is sufficient to hold an end in the air.  A crack is opening and in time all of this rock will rest on the surface of the forest floor.

One might assume that rocks are relics that have survived eons unchanged.  That is far from their actual state.  Mosses and lichens not only grow on this rock surface they actually dissolve it to produce needed nutrients.  Their slow but steady life process creates soil from rock.  Gravity combined with freeze and thaw cycles are opening a crevice where leaf litter will accumulate.  The acid decay of fallen vegetation will also dissolve stone producing more soil.

This is just another rock in the woods.  A pause and a long look can produce images of a natural process that is easy to overlook.  I had another late afternoon walk in the presence of natural wonder and I feel fortunate to have seen it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Winter Ready Lilies

If we are to have any chance of Oriental Lilies in flower next summer, they require attention now.   Our Black Dragons have decided to make one bulb two.  This came as no surprise since each sent up two flowering stalks this year.  The four big bulbs were placed into three pots along with several smaller daughter bulbs.  The pots contents were marked and planted rim deep in the central location. Black Dragon opens its flowers pointed straight up.  I think that they look rather silly but the scent is delightful and the white color is pure.  Besides, they seem happy here and have increased in number.

This is how I choose to spend much of my time.  It looks prayerful and does wonders for this soul. Here is the location of the sod walls that shelter many pots of lilies.  In the Spring two black plastic ribs will be placed to support the tarp that shelters from frost.  Now twenty-nine pots of lily bulbs fill the area.

Weeds and weather caused havoc this past year.  More pots were crammed in here making weed removal impossible.  Our wet Spring kept the leaves wet and many were lost to brown rot.  Fewer pots were placed here this fall.  We hope that the extra space between the pots will improve air circulation and allow access to weed.  Bark mulch has two intended purposes.  First, by filling the top of the  pots with mulch a removable layer is created that can be shaken out when the lilies are set out in the garden.  The sheer weight of three gallons of soil is exceeding my ability to deftly transfer the plant from the pot to the garden.  The bark mulch is taking up volume that would otherwise be filled with soil.  Second is weed control.  We will find out if these modifications make transplanting any easier.

This bare wall is cause for celebration.  Pots of plants have filled both sides of the wall since early Spring.  Most of the plants did find a home in the garden but some did spend the entire season trapped here.  Becky's kitchen garden is planned for the area now filled with weeds.  Maybe next year.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Last Mums

Our local weather forecast calls for overnight low temperatures to drop into the twenties.  We have had light scattered frost several recent mornings but this one could end the flowers.  Emperor of China is the last of our chrysanthemums  to bloom.  We now have more buds than flowers and will see what tomorrow brings.

Debutante has proven to be a genuine stunner.  We are located one zone outside of its comfort zone but this is the second year that it has been with us.  The setting sun brightens the colors in the red end of the spectrum so these flowers look their best now.

White daisy is both the name and a description of this flower.  Look alike flowers are common during the heat of summer.  These bring a connection with the glory that was summer.  The spent blossoms take on a purple hue.  This one is a clear keeper.

Helen Mae shows an unusual combination of pink and orange.  As the flower matures it will become a solid striking pink.  The plant remains rather small in its second year here.  We will excitedly look for signs of new growth when the snows leave.

A bright clear yellow is what we were looking for when we selected this mail order plant.  This Yellow Daisy is all of that.  Here for only one year, sited against a south facing stone wall should increase the chances that this plant will be back.

We have two goals with these plants.  Fall flowers means chrysanthemums and we want them in great number.   Permanent garden residents is what we are looking for.  Next will be a timely loose mulch of stems to help carry these plants to Spring.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Good Year For Lily Regale

This Chinese trumpet lily has faced serious weather damage in the past.  Now that we understand that protection from Spring frosts is absolutely necessary, flowers appear.  Placement in the garden has been made so that this prize can be protected in place.  No more Winter in a pot and Spring under a tarp for this one.

These massive bulbs did spent last Winter in two pots.  The bulb on the right divided itself into two bulbs and both flowered this year.  These three were planted in a prime location near the house equidistant from each other.

These smaller younger bulbs also deserved a good home.  Three were planted beyond the big three and one was planted in the center of the group.  A large tall plastic garbage can is on site ready to protect from frost.

Four additional bulbs were planted in two pots.  They will be planted in a central location where a tarp protects from frost.  A spot for these will have to be found when the garden is planted.

Lilies from seed is possible.  We have enough seed for a sizable planting but such an undertaking is beyond us.  The years required to see flowers from seed is likely greater than the number of years that we will be able to continue to garden here.  I could not discard any of the bulbs but all of the seeds hit the compost.

The seven bulbs planted near our bedroom window may fill the room with their sweet scent next July. Today we took action that may make that hope a reality.  

Friday, October 18, 2013

Still In The Pink

Although most of the flowers are gone in the garden, here and there some of my favorite  flowers are still in the pink.  My Sedum sieboldi that grows on top of Ed's wall is pink all over.  The same plant in other places have pink flowers, but the leaves are still green with a reddish edge.  They will change soon too.  I bought the first of these plants at Caprilands in 1993. All the others have come from that one.  It was just today with this plant at nose level that I discovered it has a spectacular fragrance. Just watch out for the bees!

This pink phlox is blooming underneath the smoke bush.  Apparently the frost has not yet found it there.  My white phlox has been gone for some time.

One or two of Ingeborg's striped mallow plants are still looking pretty.  One of them did lose its top to  a visiting deer.

Next to the stone wall this pink snapdragon still looks perfect!

With the warm weather we have been having one pink poppy  in the stone square is blooming.  It is a pleasant reminder of summer and one of my very favorite flowers.

A closer look reveals that this poppy is not the pale pink color that I try to maintain in the garden. Like the single poppies that appear in the garden, I usually pull the darker flowers as soon as I notice them to limit  their chance to pollinate.  It's necessary to maintain the  pale pink doubles that I love.  In this case I will let this plant stay.  It is the only poppy in the garden now and it won't cross pollinate with anybody!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Lily Explosion

London Lily was a free gift included in a mail order several years ago.  If it were scented, it would be the perfect lily for us.  Clear bright color combined with hardiness make this one a winner in our zone 4 garden.  The original three bulbs have backed a flower planting at the end of a vegetable bed.  We have been wintering over our lily bulbs in three gallon pots.  The group of pots were in one location where a single tarp provided frost protection.  Separating the pots and the soil mass after June first is a difficult task.  Bud clusters are sometimes broken from tall stems and soil balls occasionally fall apart.  We needed to find a better way.

Some of our favorite lilies are going to be planted in a circular group so that all can be covered in place with a large tall plastic trash can.  Adjacent plants need to be moved so the can will not damage them.  That job is on the list for next Spring.

This is what we found when the three plants were dug up.  What to do with all of these bulbs was an immediate question in need of an answer.  Four of the largest bulbs were planted in a circle smaller than the trash can opening.  Past experience has revealed that bulb growth is not always straight up. These carefully placed bulbs may appear next Spring outside of the range that the can will cover. With luck, at least three will grow where they can be protected.

Six one gallon pots each hold three or four of the smaller bulbs.  These will winter over in the central location that can be covered with a tarp.  We have absolutely no idea where in the garden these lilies will be planted.  This need to save every viable plant is a basic shortcoming that plagues us.  If we limited ourselves to only those plants that have a spot in the garden, we might be able to get more of the needed work done.  The left over small bulbs were tucked into the compost pile.  That small amount of help will guarantee lily growth on the compost pile next Spring.  Why?

Digging up the London Lilies turned up a viable bulb that is likely a Lily Regale.  In the not so distant past when we believed that plants identified in catalogs as hardy to zone 4 needed nothing beyond planting, Lily Regale was planted in this area.  Spring frost burned them year after year and we forgot that they were there.  Somehow that single bulb survived our neglect and our ignorance.  It now occupies a one gallon pot and it will receive proper attention next year.  Go ahead and ask us where in the garden it will be planted.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Naked Garlic Planting

Naked refers to the state of the planted not the planter.  Disease continues to plague our attempts to grow garlic.  The matter is widespread in New York State.  Last year we passed on a nearby three day conference focused on this issue.  Instead we turned to the October 1, 2010 post on Daphne's Dandelions for a possible solution.

The above photo shows the status of our garlic bed yesterday evening.  The far section is planted and mulched.  The near section will be planted today.  Potatoes grew here this year.  Following their harvest, weeds were pulled and soil amendments added.  Garden compost, old manure, woods soil, lime and molasses were added in turn.  Then dried grass clippings were applied in a thick layer.

This week the clippings were pulled clear and the bed was worked with a stone fork.  The fence was placed on the ground to define the spacing.  Twenty-seven rows were marked eight inches apart. Spacing in each row is six inches.  Spacing in the rows is a little sloppy but the distance between the rows is precise.

Grass clippings cover half of the bed.  This is intended as a controlled test to measure the effects of the mulch.

This bulb is part of a purchase from a local grower.  In the past her garlic has been excellent but this year's heavy continuous rainfall overwhelmed her ability to dry her crop.  The outward appearance of an intact bulb identifies the problem.  The wrappers are shrunken and soft.  Fully half of her garlic bulbs proved to be in this condition.  This represents a serious problem for her.  Garlic is a major crop for her and she would never have sold bulbs in this condition had she known.  Disappointed customers and insufficient planting stock will prove major problems for her.

Daphne's system involves an overnight soak in water with baking soda added.  The cloves are then peeled and rinsed.  Garlic with large cloves peeled rather easily but our small tight cloves were a genuine challenge.  The brown circle of root growth at the base of each clove is a result of the overnight bath.  A double clove would have gone unnoticed had that clove not been peeled.

These discards show rot that would have likely killed the plant.  Regular clove popping would not have revealed the condition of these cloves.  Of the four varieties treated, nearly one clove in five was found to be unsuited for planting.  Since we have no experience with planting skinned cloves, half of each type was planted intact.  If the carefully drawn planting map can be found in July, we can compare the yields of  peeled cloves with intact cloves.

One of the attractions for us of growing garlic is the early start on the next season's garden.  Fall is a time of growth ending but today we planted for next year.  These buried cloves will send out root growth now in preparation for green growth that will appear soon after the snow departs.  Somehow that just makes me feel good.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Yankee Cotton

Milkweed pods are opening, releasing their cache of seeds to the wind.  When fluffed open each seed floats under a parachute of white silky threads.  A gust of wind can fill the air with these floating seeds creating a scene not unlike a snow storm.  An individual seed can reach impressive heights and soar great distances if the wind is favorable.  The white threads also latch on firmly to whatever surface they land on.

From a distance this field resembles a cotton field.  We are far north of cotton growing areas so there is no mistaking the actual plant shown here.  Why would we allow this much milkweed to produce seed  in super abundance?  It is the food source for Monarch butterfly caterpillars.  That is by itself some justification for this rampant seeding.  The sweet scent of the flowers fills the air in late June.  As a school teacher, my summer vacation started when the milkweed began to bloom.  That association with the flowers and their incredible smell combine to make this a highly desirable plant here.

The ground is heavily littered with seed fluff.  It clogs the air intake of my tractor where it is difficult to remove.  Recently cut grass is covered with milkweed seeds to the point where it cannot be used as mulch.  It is in reality a seed tape for milkweed.

Field mice will collect this bounty to build their winter quarters in our bird nest boxes.  They must eat the seeds since only the fluff remains.

Milkweed is a plant that is hard to eliminate.  These three plants are in the field where I mow.  They have been cut of repeatedly but still continue to sprout.  What grows from those small seeds is hard to believe.  A crooked white root will grow down into the soil for about one foot.  Then the root goes horizontal and runs seemingly forever.  I am certain that any root left behind will send up new above ground growth but I still allow some plants to grow in the garden.  Did I mention the sweetness of the flowers and the thrill of finding a Monarch chrysalis in the garden?

Monarch butterflies seem to be scarce this year.  A bright newly hatched male was seen today looking for goldenrod flowers still young enough to contain food.  We still have an occasional yellow flower head that will provide nourishment for this butterfly as he migrates southward.  Our overnight frost was light but the stragglers need to get a move on.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Garden Goodbyes

It's a fact of life that when you garden where we do, we have to say a fond farewell to the garden every fall.  Some years it is a quick ending with hard freezes or heavy snow.   Other years, like this one, it is more of a long lingering farewell.  These are, I believe, the last summer squash from this years garden. We ate them for dinner last night and I have to say they were fantastic.  Nothing can beat the flavor of just picked garden vegetables.  We also finished the last of our snow peas.  Ed's second planting  did not do well.  Heat stress and hungry insects limited our harvest to just fifteen snow peas.  That was not enough to make my favorite recipe, but I added them at the last minute to some garlic chicken and we really enjoyed their bright green color and crunchy texture.  

Tonight we will have the last BLTs of the season enjoying the remaining garden tomatoes and Ed's pretty leaf lettuce.  This may be the fourth planting this year.

I'm still making herb tea using fresh herbs from the garden.  Not all of the spearmint looks this good, but I can still find nice leaves to use.  We have of course saved some our garden bounty.  We have garlic, onions, potatoes, pumpkins and butternut squash in the basement.  I have dried some herbs and some tomatoes.  More garden treasure in packed away in the freezer.  It's all wonderful, but nothing is the same as fresh.   For a four season gardener, the time apart in winter, the anticipation of spring, the summer's rewards and autumn's farewell make the whole experience more special.

Every day there are fewer flowers blooming in the garden.  The bees are taking full advantage of  the time that remains.  We intend to do the same!

Monday, October 7, 2013

An October Walk In The Garden, Photos By Amy

The garden is winding down, but yesterday was a beautiful autumn day.  I watched two Monarch butterflies sail past me, flying over the roof of the house heading south.  Amy and I took advantage of the beautiful day to walk around in the garden and I gave her the camera as I often do.  Here are some of the things she saw.  An American copper  butterfly  could still find a Clara Curtis mum to drink a little nectar.

The summer sweet has turned a brilliant yellow.  A Grandpa Ott morning glory  is wound around its branches. The colors are gorgeous.  I never thought morning glories would winter over here. This one self seeds with abandon!  This clinging vine no matter how lovely has nearly achieved weed status!

The shapes, colors and textures of the top of Ed's stone wall make an interesting picture.  All too soon the plants will fade into the background and the walls will be the dominant feature in our garden.

It was surprising to see this woolly bear caterpillar atop a Chinese forget-me-not plant.  I wonder if those sticky seed pods will stick to him like they do to me?  These rust and black caterpillars bring back fond childhood memories for all of us.  It's always a delight to catch sight of one and this fall there have been many.

This spring the toad lily got frosted hard. I really wondered if it would be back, but here it is blooming in October.  It's flowers may be small, but they make up for it with their intricate pattern and lovely colors so perfect for a close up!

A stroll over to the hazelnut bush caused me to squeal with delight and surprise.  In all the years since we planted the hazelnuts we have picked at most 5  tiny nuts.  This year the bush is  covered with the intriguing papery husks that contain the hazelnuts inside.  You can see next year's catkins are already in place.

We got a basket and picked the nuts that we could easily reach. There are even more still on the bush.

It was wonderful fun to harvest this unexpected treasure.  Beautiful weather, flowers, stones, butterflies, fall colors and hazelnuts.  Who could ask for more than that!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

October Tomatoes

In recent years our tomato crop has ended just as it was getting started.  The name late blight is a misnomer here as the crop is ruined by it just as the first tomatoes are starting to ripen.  This year this scourge past us by and we have been enjoying fresh tomatoes for more than two months.  The remains of our plants appear dreadful but the plants continue to produce ripe fruit.

Two separate events conspired to kill these leaves.  Some unknown to us wilt first appeared on the lower leaves of the two plants next to uncovered soil.  Once underway it spread to other plants.  Pruning out the diseased leaves was likely futile as the nasty spores fell from the sick leaves on to the healthy leaves when disturbed.  This wilt does not harm the fruit but it does make sad looking plants.

Our September frost was light and patchy.  It ended the top leaves of the nearby squash and took out the mid section of the tomatoes.  Here the frost pours downhill and swirls around obstacles killing here and there while leaving some places untouched.  The frost was not severe enough to damage the actual tomatoes.

These unusual events have allowed us to compare the four different varieties of tomatoes planted.  These Ferline's are the best of the lot.  The tomatoes are rather small but are the most trouble free.  Their catalog description identifies them as having been developed to be disease resistant.  We find that description accurate.  Italian Goliath's came in second here.  They are the most robust plants and their fruit is larger but we have experienced some problems with diseased tomatoes.  Better Boy comes in next to last.  The large tomatoes split at the top providing a route for rot.  Uneven water supply causes these splits but since we do not have any control over the rain or lack of it, we simply discard either the top half or the entire tomato.  These large slices do completely deliciously cover a sandwich.  Siberian was a loser for us.  Plant growth habit featured multiple tops that could not be controlled  by pruning.  These tomatoes were small and unpleasant.  This variety will not appear here next year.  We will need to find a replacement.

The end of the season can be a sad event.  Our tomato harvest spanned more that two months and was bountiful.  We will with no regret wait for next year's harvest for our next fresh tomato.