Friday, July 30, 2010

What I have learned

Today's Weather: Perfect. Earlier in the week it was getting hot and muggy again. Today, the humidity is low, the high for today is the mid-70's and it's supposed to be like this throughout the weekend. I'm feeling better today (I've been fighting allergies and a mild summer cold) so tomorrow I plan to get the garden into shape. The weeds are popping up and I hear whispers of a coup.

But today, I'm going to focus on what I've learned so far this gardening season. Every year I learn new things and I try to keep these lessons in my sometimes addled brain so that I can do better by the garden in the following years. For instance, after my first garden I learned that one pumpkin vine can produce more than one pumpkin. I also learned that pumpkin vines are long. Very long.

This year, I've learned that Buttercup Squash vines are long. Very long. I didn't give them nearly enough room and I have them going up over trellises originally intended for cucumbers (the cucumbers had to stay on the ground this year, but they're doing fine).

Lots of Squash
I have also learned that crookneck squash plants can grow much taller than two feet.

One lesson I keep learning but never retaining - cucumbers vines produce tons of cucumbers. I over-planted - again - and now my kitchen is full of more cucumbers than I can possibly eat. Yes, I have friends and family to share with but there's more than even they can handle. I don't know why, but I always plant more than I need.

Another lesson learned: Bird Baths are good.

I can't attest that this is the cause, but since I've added the bird bath to the vegetable garden, I've had much fewer problems with harmful bugs. I've seen Japanese Beetles, but the only thing they've really damaged is the wild rose bush next to the house. Also, I have still not seen any hornworms. Of course, I might just be looking for them too early. But given the fact that I haven't had problems with other bugs, I'm hopeful I'll win that little war this year.

I might have to find a different spot for the bird bath next year, though. I like Squash and they take up more room than I thought they would. I'm going to need that planting space back.

I've learned that it really bothers me when my gardens don't have clearly defined borders.

Every year something has always felt missing or undone in regards to my gardens. This year, I added rock borders and liners to the beds that didn't already have them and they just 'feel' right to me. I've seen some beautiful gardens with no definitive boundary markers that are absolutely gorgeous, but for some reason, when it comes to my own gardens, I need those defined boundaries.

Boundaries are good...for gardens
If I ever have the resources I would love to actually make a mowing strip around my gardens - foot wide paths of in-ground rocks, gravel, etc.. I really like the way they look.

But you see how the mulch just comes down to the strip? I don't like that. I'd still have to put in some kind of border. Yes, I am a bit obsessive-compulsive about some things. When I colored (heck, who am I kidding - I still color) it was always inside the lines. :)

I'm sure I'll learn even more before the season is over but the last thing I'll mention today is that I don't think I'll ever be happy with the way my front flower gardens look. I want them to be full and lush but they always end up looking sparse and scraggly. Yes, it's better this year - bushes are good - but still not anything like I want.

I'll just have to 'learn' how to get that done one of these years.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Healthy Garden

The past few days have been very pleasant here. The temps are in the low to mid-80's and the humidity is quite tolerable. Looks like it's going to last for a couple of days at least. If I had my way, this is what Summer would be like all season long. Still can't figure out how to get my way in all things, but I'm working on it.

I realize that I haven't posted much of anything about the vegetable garden for quite a while. Mayhaps you thought it failed miserably and I was avoiding talking about it to avoid the pain. Fear not! This year has been my best yet.

As you can see in the above picture, everything has grown amazingly well. So far (I'm knocking on wood right now) there haven't been any major bug problems. I have noticed more birds swooping into my garden this year. They're not eating any buds or flowers so I'm assuming they're taking care of the bugs for me, which is nice. I guess the bird bath was a good idea after all. :)

Ring of Fire and Buttons

The Marigold ring and Bachelor Buttons I planted around the bath are doing great. The Marigolds have started budding and the Buttons started blooming about a week ago.

Colorful Buttons

I've had a few surprises this year. Last year I planted peas but got about four pods. This year, I have tons of pods.

Green Pods

Another surprise was the size of my crookneck squash plants. Last year, they were one of the few things that actually did well and I assumed the couple of feet in height that they achieved was normal. This year, they're almost as tall as me and producing plenty of yellow, crooked vegetables.

The Buttercup Squash are doing well, also. I planted them for contribution to the family Thanksgiving and Christmas meals this year. Looks like I'll be delivering as promised.

I have been told that my Cucumber and Pumpkin bed looks out of control, but I happen to like the way it looks. More importantly, the bees love it. There's a plethora of flowers under the leaves and for the past few days I've had a practical swarm keeping busy under there.

I've spotted a few pumpkin gourds so there will be pie for the holidays as well. This does not make my dog happy. For some bizarre reason, she's afraid of pumpkins - especially when they're carved.

And last, but certainly not least, the tomatoes are doing awesomely! I've never had this many fruit before and I haven't seen one hornworm yet. I'm hoping my bird friends are keeping them away and that I don't come out one morning to find a devastated crop.

The flower gardens are doing so-so. Better than last year, for sure, but nothing like I want. The Tall Phlox, as always, delivered beautiful flowers this year. Sometimes I think I should convert all my flower beds to nothing but Tall Phlox.

So, that is how my garden grows. How's yours doing?

The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to Table: Recipes, Portraits, and History of the World's Most Beautiful Fruit

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Indestructable Plant

Today's Temperature: Low 80's, high humidity. Better than last week but still kind of nasty.

I've written before about my beloved Smoke Bush and the trials it has gone through over the past few years. This year it was finally decided to prune it down to its base and let it try to recuperate.

This was the Smoke Bush at its prime:

Smokey Beauty

And here is what it has gone through over the past four and a half months. I think it's pretty astounding, myself. Your mileage may vary. :)

March, 2010 - not looking too good and all bent out of shape

March, 2010: Pruned down to the basics

May 2010: Showing signs of life

June 2010: Leaves

June 2010: Leaves all over

Mid-June, 2010: Tons of new growth at the base

Late June, 2010: A little scraggly but looking good!

Late June: Not as large, but as beautiful as its old self

July, 2010: And it even gave us some flowers.
I am so proud...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ugh, Ugh and Double Ugh! (Wait, wouldn't that be Triple Ugh?)

I know I shouldn't complain but I can't help it.


Maine, in general, has very nice Summer weather. Sure, it'll get hot for a few days here and there but almost inevitably the temperatures will go down to something more tolerable after a day or so. For example, last Summer we used our bedroom air conditioner one night due to heat and humidity.

This year? We've had that puppy cranking for the past four nights in a row. I know, I know - all my southern readers are laughing at me and I don't blame them. I used to live in Florida and before that, Arkansas. Once May 1st hit, and usually sooner, the AC was turned on and it stayed on. In Florida, it was pretty much an all year thing.

But this heat is awful because we don't have the ACs to run like we used to in the south. In Florida it was necessary to even be able to breathe. Here, we only have it in the bedroom because we can't sleep when we're miserably hot. So, instead, we're miserable all day and only get relief at bedtime. Sure, we could just sit in our bedroom and read, write or surf the 'net but we don't particularly like to and, quite frankly, I feel guilty for leaving our dog downstairs to suffer in the heat without us. (She won't climb the stairs no matter how much we'd like her to sleep in the same room with us.)

So, here's me, whining and moaning about the heat. It looks like it might break on Saturday and get back down in the lower 80's, but we still have 2 1/2 more days of this oppressive heat, sun and humidity.

Oh yeah, and to make it so much more pleasant, our poor pooch got sprayed by a skunk last night. It was the first time she's ever been sprayed (I knew it was inevitable since we live in the country) and the first time she ever willingly got into the bathtub. Fortunately, the baking soda/peroxide/hand soap concoction my husband found online got the skunk smell out of her fur. Too bad it's still lingering on the front carpet.

And all during a week that opening the windows and airing out the house is just not an option. *Sigh*

Thursday, July 1, 2010

July is the earnest month

This month has two birthflowers - The Larkspur and the Water Lily.

Water Lily
The Larkspur is the symbol of an open heart and the Water Lily stands for Eloquence and Persuasion.

Yes, July seems very much a Jane Austen month.