Friday, July 23, 2010

Roses And Rain Barrels: Gardening In A Drought And Heatwave

David Austin Rosa, 'Lichfield Angel', after rain
It rained, at last, in these mountains! Hurray! I've lost count of how many weeks it was dry, but my rain barrels were without water for at least three. To add to our woes, the heat has been brutal, with temperatures sizzling up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Centigrade) with high humidity. I know there are bloggers in other parts for whom this is normal, but not so here -- my garden is just not used to it (and neither am I).

Daily watering has been a challenge. I planted a new rose bed this year, and I am glad I installed a soaker hose as none of the new plants, except for lavender, are considered drought tolerant. I planted three shrub roses and two climbers, a clematis, lavender, perennial geranium, and lupines. The border is edged with miniature roses. I showed the climbing rose Iceberg and the Knockouts in a previous post.

A soaker hose under the mulch keeps the new plants hydrated.

'Lichfield Angel' is named for a plaque of an angel in Lichfield Cathedral, England. 
I bought the David Austin mainly for its name. I went to school in Lichfield, and know every corner of the cathedral. The rose seems to like its new home, probably because HH incorporated a generous amount of organic matter in the new garden. I added four inches of mulch. As you know, mulching moderates the soil temperature and holds in water.

I have four rain barrels. My pride-and-joy is the one I won when, back in March,  Jan of Thanks for Today asked bloggers to write about sustainable gardening in honor of Earth Day. Click here to read my entry for the challenge. I am very grateful to Jan, Joe Lamp, and Fiscars for this wonderful prize. I located the barrel in my kitchen garden where it collects water from the tractor shed roof. Thanks again, Jan! Everyone should pop over and take a look at Jan's wonderful July garden!

Fiskars rain barrel with diverter that channels rainwater from the downspout into the rain barrel. Holds 57 gallons.

I also have two half barrels located near the flower gardens, and a full-size barrel that collects water from the barn roof.

Conserving water in rain barrels, mulching, incorporating organic matter into your garden, using soaker hoses, and drip irrigation are all important factors in xeriscaping. As you probably know, xeriscaping can be described as 'water wise' or 'water efficient' landscaping.

Another factor of water efficient landscaping is choosing plants appropriate to their site, so they can be maintained with little supplemental water. I don't have enough drought-tolerant plants in my garden (as exemplified by the new rose bed!) but I do have some:

Butterfly bush Buddleja davidii

Kobold Gayfeather Liatris spicata 'Kobold'

Yarrow Achillea 'Coronation Gold'

Purple coneflower Echinacea Purpurea. HH bought the mirror at a flea market.

Clockwise from bottom: Echinacea (with butterflies), lambs' ears Stachys byzantina, and yarrow Achillea 'The Pearl'

Other drought-tolerant perennials in my garden are black-eyed Susan, coreopsis, catmint, sweet woodruff, hellebore, and blue mist shrub. Marigold and zinnias are drought-tolerant annuals that I grow. For a comprehensive list of drought-tolerant plants click here.

In spite of the heat and lack of rain, I have some beautiful blooms today:

Shasta Daisy Leucanthemum

Spider flower Cleome basslerana, and Daylily Hemerocalis 'Chicago Apache" (far right)
Gooseneck Loosestrife Lysimachia clethroides

The gooseneck loosestrife is loved by the swallowtail butterfly

Turkscap lily Lilium Superbum

And of course sunflowers:

Sunflower Helianthus 'Del Sol'
Finally, here is a sneak peek at something exciting happening in my garden right now:

Yes, we are installing a pond. Of course, you will see the finished product in a future post.

Well, I hope my rain barrels stay full for the rest of the summer! And I hope YOUR gardening conditions are perfect!

Have a great weekend!
Pam x

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I Love My Bloomin' Kitchen Garden

Chamomile, Chamaemelum mobile, in the herb garden
This is a bloomin' marvelous time of year in my kitchen garden. I can see, and finally begin to taste, the results of my hard work. It's been extra-hard this year because of the dreadful, hot, humid weather with no rain until this week. But vegetables and herbs have beautiful flowers, so I decided to feature some of them in this month's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post. I have an ulterior motive ... I need to document the progress of my vegetable garden, as lately I neglected to do so.

As you may know, if you have been following this blog, I plant my vegetables in raised beds, containers, grow boxes, and a lasagna bed because of the proximity of a walnut tree. Walnut trees poison the soil with juglone, killing many vegetable plants such as tomatoes.

The kitchen garden is surrounded by a picket fence and pasture fencing. It is adjacent to the lower cornfield ... see how high the corn is now...

Four raised beds 4ft x8ft each.
I made the border along the picket fence in the lasagna method using layers of newspaper and organic matter.

The border along the picket fence is planted with perennials

Three tomatoes in containers next to the potting shed

So what is blooming in the kitchen garden on this July Bloom Day?

Pole bean, Scarlet Runner
The pole bean blossoms are making a striking show. My grandsons helped me plant the seeds around bamboo canes to create a tepee. We planted directly in the soil in front of the potting shed which is at the farthest point away from the walnut tree. There are no problems so far.

The boys love playing inside the tepee, and snacking at their little table.

We are enjoying the zucchinis. The plants are loaded with big, yellow blossoms, so we expect a bumper crop.

Squash, Sweet Zuke

I slice a zucchini and toss it in olive oil in a skillet, just adding ground pepper. It is delicious, but HH can't wait for me to make his favorite zucchini bread.

Future zucchini bread?
The blossoms on the cucumber plants are smaller versions of the squash flowers. The baby cukes are so.o.o cute.

Cucumber, Burpless Beauty
Some cukes are ready to be harvested. I'll slice them in cucumber sandwiches at my next garden/tea party, scheduled for this next weekend.

These will be in cucumber sandwiches made with dill butter
Just a few flowers  remain on the snow peas, but we harvested several quarts. I froze some of them. I will soon pull out these plants and sow another crop.

The bush bean blossoms are not so dramatic.

Bush Bean, Bonanza
Of course, there are no blossoms on the carrots, parsnips, onions, and beets. I love the way they look in their neat rows, but I will not show a close-up right now.

I am very nervous about my tomatoes as late blight has been seen in the Northeast. I lost all of them last year to the blight. I am growing three varieties this year. This one is the most advanced so far ...

Tomato, Celebrity
Other vegetables include sweet peppers and lettuce.

Sweet Pepper, Big Bertha
Can you believe we still have lettuce in this immense heat?

Lettuce, Heatwave Blend
Sorry, blooms are not featured in the previous three pictures and it IS Bloom Day, but I have planted annual flowers in the kitchen garden, to attract butterflies and bees and promote pollination. My favorites are zinnias, marigolds, and nasturtium (and sunflowers, of course, which aren't blooming yet). I grew the zinnias and marigolds from seed indoors for the first time this spring, I am proud of them.

Zinnia, Jazzy

Marigold, Happy Days
Nasturtium, Dwarf Jewel. Edible as well as beautiful
The kitchen garden perennial border includes purple cone flower, spiderwort, coral bells, lungwort, and bleeding heart. On one side of the purple cone flower is a new strawberry patch, and on the other side are three blueberry bushes. We have to be patient -- no fruit from the new plants this year. The green leaves you see by the water-hose are rhubarb.

Purple Cone Flower, Echinacea Purpurea
Spiderwort, Tradescantia

Coral Bells, Heuchera
HH provides a water dish for the butterflies; it contains horse manure. The male butterflies like to 'puddle' in the concoction from which they obtain needed minerals.

I see many butterflies, including these swallowtails, in the kitchen garden ...

Tiger Swallowtail, Papilio glaucus
Black Swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes
Finally, my son gave me a mechanical owl to ward off the birds. When approached, a motion detector activates ... its head moves round and it makes a hooting noise.

The owl works a little too well, because it really annoys the crows. They squawk and swoop down, 'dive bombing' the poor creature.

I thank Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Bloom Day on the 15th of each month. Don't forget to visit her blog to see flowers from all around the world. Thank you, dear gardening friends, for allowing me use this forum to showcase my kitchen garden.

Happy Gardening!
Pam x

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