Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Better Late Than Never

At this point it's not easy to find beautiful flowers hiding among the fallen leaves.  However my Fragrant Lady's tresses, Spiranthes odorata, did not disappoint.  Granted they were a bit earlier and a little larger last year, but this is 2020.  I am thrilled to just see these lovely little native orchids again.

The individual flowers are small, about one-half  an inch in length.  I love the way they spiral up the stem opening from the bottom to the top.  I wish I could tell you that I got a whiff of the fragrance, but the stems are short this year and I was lucky to get close enough to the ground the take the pictures.  Because we keep a cage around these flowers the wind and falling oak leaves have already mulched these plants.  So far they seem to ignore the cold so I still hold out hope that there will be flowers into November.  Whatever happens it sure made me happy to see my lovely orchids today.  It is only right I should share their beauty!

Monday, October 19, 2020

Buck Rub

We have occasionally seen a young buck mixed in with the does and their fawns that seem to live here.  This buck is protected by NYS game laws which require at least three protrusions all of which must exceed one inch in length before it can be hunted.  This young stud only carries four points in total on both antlers so he is safe from hunters unless they are children.  Initially the antlers are covered with super soft appearing velvet.  When the antlers firm up the velvet must be removed by rubbing against small tree trunks.  Tree bark is removed in the process.  The tree in the right foreground carries the healed scab from an older rub.  Our authorized hunters were pleased to find this unmistakable sign of the presence of a male deer.  Perhaps a larger older male will take his gathering of potential mothers.


While tramping around looking for the buck rub, we brushed against Witch-Hazel branches.  The late in the year occurrence of flowers is this plants claim to fame.  We would like to have one of these trees under cultivation but digging a tree in our stony ground would likely kill the tree and injure us.  These specimens will be left to grow where they were planted.  It appears that last night's hard frost took most of the shine off of these flowers.

This moss is an absolute marvel.  How it can appear this bright at this time of year is a question without an answer known to us.  We purchased a moss book in an attempt to learn the names of the many mosses that grow here but we made absolutely no headway.  Moss names are incredibly long with the words providing no clue about the name.  So we are limited to simply expressing our appreciation of their bright color on a cold day.

Princess Pine is in a different class name wise.  Its growth visually resembles a small pine tree.  How could any plant so demure not be called a princess?   We would like to transplant this species but all we can find on that subject is descriptions that say transplanting is difficult with no explanation of why that is the case.  We suspect the the long somewhat deeply placed horizontal rhizomes connect with a mother root.  Without a connection to the vertical root, the plant piece may well perish.  To date we only visit this plant where it grows.


Back at the garden, we found this Gloriosa daisy flowering way out of season.  We found it to be a promise of what is to come after we both survive another winter.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Three Design Flaws

Our claim of design flaws focuses on the seat not the sitter.  We have purchased nearly one dozen Ames Lawn Buddy carts.  They are claimed to be used by adults but several have broken leaving them completely useless and the dignity of the gardener damaged.  This photo was not intended to show improper use but it does.  Behind the sitter a hinge pin can be seen.  Located on each side they are intended to keep the lid in line with the base.  If the weight of the person was closer to the other end, the stress on the hinges would be greatly reduced.  Sitting on the end as shown can place great strain on the hinges.  We have broken more than one.  When that occurs for most people I'm sure  the entire unit is trash.  I do not give up so easily!


The raised lid illustrates our correction of a design flaw in the lid itself.  The lid consists of two thin plastic casting that are glued at the edge.  Little imagination is required to see that the lid pieces will quickly separate.  If entry holes are drilled close to the bottom's edges, expanding spray foam can fill the nonsupporting voids.  With the two pieces connected, the side seams are less likely to split open.  If the foam is introduced after the split, duct tape can help connect the lid pieces.  We have experienced success if the alteration is completed before the new cart is pressed into service.

 This picture shows what may be the most serious design flaw and our correction.  As delivered, there were two small protrusions that mate with matching indentations in the lid.  One remains in place near the top of the photo and a ragged hole marks the location of the broken one near the bottom.  When both are in place, four points of support keep the lid aligned with the base.  With one broken, the lid will move to the side occasionally dumping the gardener into the tool storage cavity.   When that happens it is not a pretty sight and getting upright is not easy.  Becky hates it when that happens to her!

The wooden H is our latest attempt to save an otherwise useful garden tool.  Three sheet metal screws tightly fasten the side of the cart to each wooden support.  Actual use of the corrected cart has yet to happen but so far the seat seems sound.  The cross piece is essential in spreading the load to both sides but it negatively impacts access to the tool storage area.  That is a small price to pay if this modification prevents the eager weeder from being unceremoniously thrown to the ground or worse.  

Our first purchased cart came with a lift out tool caddy that is no longer supplied.  A redesign of that feature could include overhanging edges that were in firm contact with the outside edge of the cart. Ames Tool Company is welcome to incorporate any of these modifications into the future production of a better garden cart.  

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Clear Skies

Three days ago this hillside in late afternoon sunlight was stunning but no camera was available.  Clear skies have returned but the leaf color has moved closer to being past with little red now evident.  Between the green groomed field and the hillside is a narrow path where the grass is kept cut.  That path marks the end of our land.  The background wilderness is owned by someone else while the view is ours to enjoy. 

 This back meadow was recently given its final mowing of the season.  We stopped mowing here in early July expecting that the milkweed would regrow and nourish another generation of Monarch butterflies.  For some reason that did not happen this year.  It might be the result of the record breaking heat accompanied by totally inadequate rainfall.  It might also be the result of several years of mowing here.  We want this spot to look like a farmer still lives here.  We have other areas where the plants grow with no interference from us.  The Milkweed growing in those spots should naturally meet the needs of the butterflies.  Sharp eyes might find the two narrow paths that diagonally cross this field.  Since we have yet to see animals crossing here, we do not know if the paths are the result of our deer herd or our neighbor's horses that also graze here.  The Red Maple centered in the background still holds two of its five original trunks.  Imagine the display we formerly saw before the trunks began breaking off.  We are grateful that some of this splendid tree remains.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

All In

This is the last of our five named garlic varieties to be planted.  Several years ago it was discovered at a new plant and vegetable stand near Canadarago Lake.  Richfield Springs is an easier name and that is the one we use.  The garlic epidemic was raging at the time and this otherwise desirable variety has long been a problem.  Once again the cloves separated from the bulbs were impressively sized and firm.  Green tips are new to us but so many of the cloves displayed them that they had to be planted.  The golden tip in the picture  appeared on this single bulb.  We chose not to plant this one.  Twenty of the cloves showing green were planted in the last two rows of the bed.  With this written record we can make an informed decision about this variety at harvest time.  The green may just be the result of a strong desire to get growing.

Quack grass is our other unsolvable problem.  It is widespread in our former pastures that we mow for lawns.  Hours are spent trying to remove it from the planting beds but it always returns.  Our neighbor had established a beautiful garden that included a raised water feature.  He made a considerable effort to remove this invasive weeds return from his garden.  Not all of the long horizontal root pieces were pulled out so the new green leaf tips quickly returned.  His water pond liner wound up roadside and the garden was flattened and made lawn.  We haven't quit yet but planting beds have been lost to this pest.

A Cobra Head hand cultivator is our primary garden tool.  Even old arms can pull it through the soil removing weeds in the process.  Still hidden roots sometimes remain with new growth quickly reappearing.  These two impressively long pieces were today removed from ground that we had just recently weeded. A smaller piece was also removed from the new garlic bed where we had been persistent and diligent in our attempts to remove this pest.

 This closeup shows the return power of this plant.  I falsely believe that even the scent from a broken root can regrow.  Further attempts to remove this pest from the now planted garlic bed will likely disturb the cloves so we will simply break off any green leaves that push their way out of the ground.  Yesterday the peeled but unplanted cloves were an ingredient in  Garlic chicken for dinner.  It was fantastic and the leftovers will be even better.  Is their a better way to spend these clear October days? 

Friday, October 9, 2020

Crud Alert

One hundred eighty garlic cloves were peeled in preparation for planting before we discovered a problem.  In the past, the diseased growth usually appeared on surfaces at the other end of the clove as a brown spot.  This hole at the root end of the clove was easily seen resulting in removal from the to be planted group.  This picture made clear disease issues not detected by the naked eye.  The decision not to plant this one is not to avoid an empty place in the planted group but to keep this poison out of our soil.  Overall, our garlic appeared to be in excellent condition especially when compared to the more common infestation of years past.  We considered discontinuing soaking and peeling but in the end it continued.  It turns out that was a lucky but excellent decision.  This clove is a White Bishop variety.

This White Bishop clove escaped elimination at peeling.  The cataract removed sharp Becky eyes raised concern and removal from the to be planted pile.  Since all root and later leaf growth springs from this area at the base, we cannot be certain that there are disease issues with this clove.  It seems that focusing on unhealthy issues can make one a little crazy.  My aged eyes would have placed this clove in the to plant group and that might have been a sound decision.

Our original planting stock for this variety was purchased from local legend Charlie Bishop.  He planted a large section of river bottom land with garlic and traveled about the area selling his product.  One year we saw him at the Saugerties Garlic Festival.  Many pickup trucks there were parked in a circle with the tailgates facing the center of the group.  Most of the growers were standing around waiting for a prospective customer to examine their garlic.  Charlie was standing on a box loudly speaking like a carnival barker about how he grew his prized garlic in river bottom land directly adjacent to the mighty Susquehanna River.  Needless to say he sold far more product than the others.


This Purple Stripe clove was judged to be free of disease and therefore it could have been planted.  It was not planted.  This illustrates the unexpected issues following a sharp focus on disease.  Last year's harvest found empty spaces where Purple Stripe cloves had been planted.  We had no idea the cause of the failed plants.  At this point sixty cloves of this variety are in the ground.  This blog post is intended to provide a record of events available for future inspection.  At this point all have been planted.  Perhaps next year we will need to take a closer look at this variety when selecting planting stock as a result of its condition at harvest.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Sixty More Planted

There has been serious disease on garlic bulbs recently.  Fellow blogger Daphne posted a process intended to clear the cloves of the disease.  An overnight soak in one quart of water containing one teaspoon of baking soda was followed by a rinse and peeling of the cloves.  Then a three minute soak in vodka was followed by a rinse and immediate planting.  We spent just over one hour carefully peeling sixty cloves.  Great tenderness is required to prevent injury to the cloves.  Scissors are used to cut a small nick at the top of each clove  staying clear of the clove flesh.  Using that as a starting point, the clove wrappers are removed.  On occasion blue smoke and street talk fills the air.

 The forty cloves are from a variety named for its source Helen.  Sadly, she has joined the great majority but she was a powerful positive influence on both of us.  Attitude is everything and her constant expression of positivity still has its effect on us.  The twenty cloves are Purple Stripe that we use as a spacer between our major varieties.

Just a short time ago we planted three beds with eight hundred ten cloves.  Now we plant one bed with two hundred twenty cloves.  We now have only five varieties compared with the more than thirty formerly planted.  That still sounds like way too much garlic for an elderly couple but we need next year's seed in addition to what we eat or give away.  At this point we have one hundred twenty planted with one hundred still to go.

Garlic exists in two distinct forms soft neck and hard neck.  Soft neck is preferred for braiding but it does not do well in our rather cold climate.  We have planted only hard neck for decades.  Our main crop consists of four different varieties all carrying local names.  These are all of the Porcelain type and display larger cloves but fewer cloves per bulb.  Helen's seed this year all came from bulbs having exactly four cloves.  Our marker variety is a Purple Stripe type featuring smaller cloves but beautiful purple bulbs.

So far this year we have encountered no brown spots indicating the presence of disease.  This is a first for us in many many years.  We did have eight plants that displayed ground level rot at harvest so our concern about illness persists.  The peel and soak is time consuming  and tedious but we will likely continue it for the remaining seed stock this year.  Planting next year's garden at this time of falling leaves and cold nights lifts our spirits.  We are well aware of what is coming our way but the first crop of 2021 is in the ground.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Sixty Planted

Today the first sixty garlic cloves were planted.  Usually their planting date corresponds with my Father's mid October birthday but with the early heavy frosts it just seemed right to get the cloves into the ground.  Susquehanna White and Guilford Purple Stripe were the chosen varieties.  These varieties will not be found in any catalog as they are locally grown and named.  We discovered Susquehanna White at a hidden from the road organic garden stand.  A more perfect spot could not be found.  A south facing slope gently rolled down toward the D&H Railroad main line and the mighty Susquehanna River.  I have never before been envious of a garden location.  Guilford Purple Stripe was grown by a retired pharmacist that lived in Guilford.  It has a different growth habit than the rest of our varieties and is used to visually separate the other varieties.  Four by ten and two by ten is the general planting scheme.

This shows the remainder of the bed that will be planted over the next several days.  Another section of fence that is rotated 90 degrees was placed over the two pieces shown.  Since it was needed to close in the garden it is now tied to the fence posts.  All of our beds are five feet wide and our method of push a hole then skip two before pushing the next hole gives us ten plants per row.  The spacing for the rows is push a hole then skip four before pushing the next hole yielding twenty-two rows. 

This unknown to us Aster was just discovered growing near the Arbutus plants.  We plan to carefully dig it from the ground and move it into a garden spot.  Transplanting at this time of year is not usually done since Fall planting frequently results in frost heaved plants.  We must remember to cover it with a cage since the deer eat garden grown Asters to the ground.  The unusual color of the flowers is what drew me to this plant.  Asters are a huge family of native plants and we will try to find the name of this one.  Ed's Delight may have to suffice.

This is our second group of transplanted Arbutus.  We have found that the soil under White Pine trees suits Arbutus.  This is the time of year when the evergreen tree sheds its needles.  New growth pushes the old needles away so the tree always looks green.  Many of these fallen needles will be hand picked so that the Arbutus leaves receive enough sunlight all the winter.  I never realized that native plant gardening required so much work.

 This native New England Aster consists of but a single stalk.  The recent frosts ended many of the Goldenrod flowers leaving asters as the food source for late Monarch butterflies.  Deer left this wild plant alone but heavily feed on the same variety placed in my gardens.