Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Kitchen Garden

Kitchen Garden 2012
 I am not very adventurous when I plan my kitchen garden each year; I tend to stick with the 'tried and true'. This year was no exception. In my four raised beds I planted red beets, bush beans, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, and peppers. (Earlier, I planted lettuce, spinach, radishes, and snow peas. These cool-weather crops produced well and are long gone -- I gave the last, bolted lettuce to the horse last month.) I plant just enough vegetables for the two of us, I do a little canning, and there's usually spare to give to friends and neighbors.

I finally bought a decent cucumber frame and it's working well. But I learn something new every year and I'm now aware that I mustn't plant the zucchini too close to the cucumbers when I use the frame, because the cucumbers are shading one of the zucchini plants. It is still producing fine squash, but they are slower to mature.

New Cucumber Frame
Because of the frame, the cucumbers are growing straight and not the curly-Q's of previous years.

Add caption

Oops! Spoke too soon ...

 Again this year, beets are one of my best crops, but bush beans are my favorite vegetable.

Beets and Bush Beans Share a Bed

My friend Charlene gave me this adorable wind chime.
 My morning ritual in the garden begins with picking produce that is ready. Early morning is the best time to pick vegetables.

 The peppers are not quite ready yet.

 Every year there are some failures. Looks like it's tomatoes this year. I planted three and two of them have blossom end rot. Oh, dear! The ones with BER are both heirloom tomatoes. The plum seems to be OK.

Roma Plum Tomato (left) and Red Brandywine (right)

Red Brandywine with blossom end rot.
 Uneven watering is a common cause of blossom end rot and this may be what happened here. I didn't mulch, which would have helped the soil retain water during the June drought. I suspect I planted in too shallow a bed also, so the roots aren't deep and strong. Another cause could be lack of calcium. There are so many factors, and I need to focus on prevention next year. That's one wonderful thing about gardening -- there's always next year!

This year's onions are magnificent! I picked some today and put them on the outside potting bench to dry ...

 Although I'm generally not very adventurous with what I grow, every year I like to try something new. This year it is spaghetti squash. I counted 6 large ones on the plant this morning and I am excited that they are doing well. They must be yellow before they can be picked, usually at the end of August. When baked, the inside resembles spaghetti. I'll keep you posted.

 A big disappointment is the new root bed as few of the parsnips germinated. I think maybe I sowed the seeds when the temperature was too high. I'm thinking of sowing carrot seeds, for fall harvesting, in the spaces, but I'm not sure if that will work.

 I don't forget the pollinators when I plant my vegetables ...

Sunflowers, planted to shade the potting shed.
 ... sunflowers are bird and butterfly magnets in the fall. I have milkweed and Queen Anne's lace growing along the bottom fence and I planted tubs of zinnias and marigolds there.

The pink milkweed is my favorite ...

Dill re-seeds itself every year and serves as a host plant for American swallowtail butterflies.

 Also, in the kitchen garden is my grow-bed of chocolate mint. I keep it under control there by not letting it escape the raised bed. I must move the chamomile though because the mint is crowding it out.

Chamomile and Chocolate Mint
 My kitchen garden is situated a little way from the house and I decided I would like my herbs to be closer to the back door. So I created a herb garden using cinder blocks which I placed along the edge of the patio.

 I lined the holes in the cinder blocks with weed block to stop the soil from falling through, and planted each hole with a different herb.

Now when I'm cooking, I just have to take a few steps to snip off what I need.

 How are your vegetables and herbs doing this year?

Pamela x

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Dragonflies and Daylilies

 The problem with taking such a long break from blogging is that I have so many new photographs that it's difficult to know which to post. There are always many changes in my gardens as summer progresses and blooms come and go. The cottage garden reached its peak a couple of weeks ago, and is now definitely on the downswing with some of the 'mainstay' perennials beginning their die-back. The weather has been brutally hot and humid, but the recent rain brought relief and a needed break from watering. With more than half of the country under sever drought conditions, we cannot complain here in the Poconos.

The pond continues to be a delight. We love the new double falls ...

The real frog is at the bottom of the picture.
Now the fishes and the frogs have rivals for our interest -- the dragonflies. We have two types: the blue ones are my favorite, but I like the black and white ones too.

Around the pond the roses are blooming again. The white gooseneck loosestrife is dying off and  the beebalm has totally finished flowering for the season. The daylilies come and go depending on the variethy.

 Three butterfly bushes, a pink, a mauve, and a 'dark knight' are heavy with flowers. I'm showing just one this time.

Butterfly bush flanked by hollyhocks and daylilies
 I am thrilled with the hollyhocks my friend, Katharine gave me. One is pink and one is red. They will grow much taller in future years. Behind the hollyhocks there are Russian sage and cleome. This bed was totally reworked this spring and I'm pleased with the results.

H.H. came home with another mirror-find. It has no frame so I leaned an old window-frame in front of it. The daylily at the bottom of the picture is Hermerocallis Chicago Apache - my all-time favorite daylily.

Hermerocallis Chicago Apache
 I have several varieties of daylilies, but Chicago Apache is my must-have. It blooms a little later than the others usually, but has more blooms and a longer bloom time. I love the rich color because by the time its flowers appear I am usually a little tired of the pinky, mauvy cottage-garden hues. I am choosing Chicago Appache as my sixth signature plant.

Some of my other daylilies ...

Hermerocallis Anita Davis
Hermerocallis Siloam Bo Peep
For my seventh signature plant I am choosing hosta ... not one in particular, but hostas in general. I couldn't have a shade garden without them, and in my perfect second-time-around garden, there will be no deer to eat them.

We call the large hosta bed 'Connie's Garden' because it was planted by my mother-in-law when H.H. was an infant. It was the only flower bed on the property when I came here nearly 25 years ago. I wonder what Connie would think of the garden now?

 Connie's hostas are bee magnets ...

Now you see it ...
... now you don't!      (Yes, the bee is all the way inside.)
 I've never counted how many varieties of hosta I have -- maybe a dozen. I even have hostas planted in containers at the entrance to the stone garden ...

 My new miniature hosta collection is filling out nicely. The plants are taking turn to bloom.

Do visit Diana's blog, Elephant's Eye , to see what signature plants she chose so far for her virtual-garden meme.

I plan to get back in the habit of posting 3 or 4 times a month but it is time consuming and during my break I accomplished a lot. I spent more time working in the garden, had two large garden tours here -- one included a tea party and the other a picnic, and I spent more time with my grandchildren. My nine-year old grandson stayed here and helped me prepare for the English tea party. He had great fun learning about his heritage, and is becoming quite an accomplished cook.

Making scones.
English teas are very popular here, especially with women's clubs, and I have been invited to speak about creating an English cottage garden at two of them recently. Fun!

I also read a lot of books the last few weeks, and not just garden-related ones. I have been working my way through Opreh's Book Club selections. So you can see I have been very busy, but my favorite activity is working in my garden. As always in the summer months, when it is very hot, I go outside about 6:00 am and work for two or three hours. I do this most days.

The cottage garden at the end of June.
A necessary task is dropping Japanese beetles into a bucket of soapy water. They are busy skeletonizing leaves and destroying flower buds. There are more beetles than last year, but still not too bad.

Japanese beetles love my roses.
Remember the ugly pasture fence I frequently complain about? H.H. installed wrought-iron panels all along it. I don't know whether to plant shrubs between the panels or plant flowers in the clay pots that I've placed there. And I am considering growing vines up the panels. Any suggestions? Remember I can't have plants too near the pasture fence or the goat will eat them.

How can I finish the new 'look'?
Strange blooming-times have continued all summer. This morning I found blossoms on the prickly-pear cactus which completely finished blooming (as it should) a month ago. I've never had a second lot of flowers on it before.

Along the same lines, we have said goodbye to the beautiful fields of oats around us.

Upper field with oats in June.

Yesterday, the farmer who tends our fields arrived with the harvester ....

... I wonder what fall will bring?

Enjoy your beautiful gardens dear friends!

Pam x

Baby Wrens (today)

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