Monday, August 30, 2010

I'm a winner!

Thanks to the Obsessive Neurotic Gardener (one of my favorite garden blogs - if you're not reading it, you should be) I am now the happy owner of a gift certificate to any CSN website. I'm pretty sure it'll be spent at their garden site. ;)

Thanks ONG!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Planning for next year

Since the growing season is slowing down and I'm putting the garden away bit by bit, now it's time to plan for next year! Yes, gardening is a never-ending journey but for those of us who love it that's the way we like it.

First Project: Spring bulbs

I always forget to plant bulbs in the fall for the following Spring. By the time Fall gets here I'm usually too tired to even think about planting anything. This year I've done a much better job at spreading out the work - and it's been my most successful gardening year yet, both in terms of vegetable production and aesthetics.

Tulip Field

So, in the next few weeks, I plan to go the local gardening center and purchase some daffodil and tulip bulbs. I'm tired of only have a few tulips every year (although that number does keep going up with our miracle 'family tulips') and even though we had a couple of daffodils bloom this year, that was a freak occurrence. And really, two daffodils? How is that anywhere near enough, amiright?

Golden Daffodils

Second Project: More Bird Baths

Since my sole bird bath was such a big hit this year, I would like to have a couple more spread around my other beds. I also like to add my own creative touches - and keep down costs - so I plan to build my own bird baths.

It looks pretty simple. All you need are some terra cotta pots of various sizes, some liquid nails, some paint and some sealant and voila, you can create some beautiful baths. These are just a couple of examples I found online.




You can make them as tall or short as you like and you can make them any color you wish. If you're not artistically inclined, you can always apply decals instead of painting - or just paint a them a pleasing, single color.


Third Project: Add Interest to the Flower Beds

One problem I always have with my flower beds is the lack of interest. The flowers I choose may be pretty, but they're pretty much all on ground level and that's all there is - flowers. My favorite gardens have garden art and, even more importantly, varied heights.

One simple way I plan to combat this flower bed boredom is to purchase a couple of low hooks to hang some baskets from. Another way to fix this issue is to build some planters - once again from the ol' reliable - terra cotta.


This example isn't finished, but it gave me the basic idea of what can be done with inexpensive terra cotta pots and bowls. A pot saucer can be added to the top to create a combination planter and bird bath.

The only problem I think I'll have with all that terra cotta is winter storage - it's not going to be fun lugging that stuff around at the end of the season. But I think it'll be worth it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Things are slowing down

Weather for the past week: Very nice. Low humidity, mid-to-upper 70's. It's been very comfortable. It's raining and a little chilly today, but it's a nice break. Our grass was turning brown in places, anyway.

So, the gardening season is winding down, now. The peas finished so I harvested everything and pulled the plants to compost. We couldn't keep up with the cucumbers and too many were getting overripe so I harvested everything that was left and composted the vines. I pulled all squash vines that weren't producing anything and composted them.

The only thing that's really left are the Pie Pumpkins, some Crookneck Squash and a ton of tomatoes. I'm keeping up with those and relatives are happy to help out as well.

So, in the past couple of weeks, my garden has gone from this:

Full, lush garden

To this:

Early Fall Garden
(Can you believe how tall those Marigold plants got? Maybe I should make of a hedge of them next year. :) )

I'm okay with this, though. I'm 'putting the garden away' in stages this year instead of trying to do it all in one day like I usually do. I've not only pulled non-producing plants but I've already spread compost for next year's crops. I did that last year and everything grew like gangbusters.

The pumpkins are almost all orange so they'll be next and I'm sure the tomatoes will be done in the next couple of weeks. There are still tons on the vines but not many of them have any green left.

The only thing left to develop are the buds in the Marigold ring around the birdbath and the new Hydrangea buds. These new flowers aren't nearly as big as the previous but I think the colors are much nicer this time.

Fully Bloomed

Still a few flowers to go.
I also like that the blooms are different colors. The first picture up there is the only one that came out that shade of purple/pink. The others are much more 'purple.' The contrast is nice.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Already?!

So, these have been blowing across our yard for the past week or so:

Pretty....wait....that's not a Summer color!
And this past weekend I looked up into one of our backyard Maples, looking for some birds, when I spotted this:

Definitely not a Summer color
So, Fall is on its way...already.

Fall is actually my favorite season - always has been and probably always will be - but since becoming a gardener I've become much more fond of Summer than I used to be. I used to loathe Summer. I grew up in Missouri, southeast Texas and Arkansas and the heat was nearly unbearable. It can get hot here in Maine but it's nothing compared to the south.

This Summer had a long bout of pretty bad heat and it has been a relatively dry season. That doesn't bode well for a colorful Autumn season, but I'm not going to complain. I'm just glad I live in a region that actually has changes of season and I'm especially happy to live in an area of the country that has such beautiful Fall colors.

It's a little early, but if you'd like to see some photographs of Maine Falls from the past five years, visit my Maine Fall Foliage photo album.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Enjoying the Bounty

The weather the past week has been very nice. Dry, sunny and warm but not hot - low 80's, high 70's.

The dry weather means that the tomatoes have started turning red and getting there pretty fast. I've had tomatoes for lunch every day for the past week.

All Tomatoes, All the Time
The squash have also been prolific this year and I've had plenty of Squash/Onion stir-fry.

Yum
Other items continue to grow, including a second wave of Hydrangea blooms. I didn't expect  it to bud again after I dead-headed the last flowers, but bud it did.

Late Season Hydrangea Blooms
And, of course, the pumpkins are doing great. This one is halfway to orange, although it's hard to tell in this picture.

Ready for the cool weather
I only planted Sugar/Pie Pumpkins this year, but this one is so big it's going to make at least two pies, maybe more. Which is fine. I loves me some pumpkin pie.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The reason I even started all this

The weather this past weekend was wonderful. On Saturday it felt like early Autumn - the temperature never got above 73 degrees. It got up to 80 on Sunday but the humidity was low and it was quite comfortable. Today it's not hot at all, but it is warm and the humidity has creeped up. We've had a humid summer this year, especially compared to last year. Funny, it rained a LOT last year but it wasn't an uncomfortable season.

Anyway, today was the day. My first tomato became completely ripe and I ate it with my lunch. I don't even know which kind it was - I grabbed it from the bush and skipped inside, giddy that it was finally red. I didn't even pause long enough to take a snapshot of it's beautiful color and form - no blemishes, no spots, no gnaw marks from field critters. It was perfect.

NOT WELCOME!
But sweet. It's the sweetest tomato I've ever grown. I liked it, don't get me wrong, it just surprised me when I bit into it. Along with that sweetness was a tartness I wasn't used to either. I'll have to make a note of which bush I plucked it from when I get home. I need to make sure to plant the same type next year.

Tomatoes are the reason I started vegetable gardening in the first place. Home grown tomatoes make store-bought taste like cardboard in comparison and it's this time of year that I most look forward to in my gardening life. I sometimes have enough to share with relatives, but when it comes to tomatoes, I generally eat them as fast as they ripen. This year, since I haven't had any problems with Hornworms (quick - where's some wood to knock!) I might just be able to share.

But don't count on it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Harvest and Welcome Guests

This past weekend's weather: Dry, clear and in the mid to upper 70's very nice.
Today's weather: Supposed to be the same. Bazinga!

This past weekend was pretty productive. Because of the nice weather I was able to get out and tame the wild pile of squash leaves into something resembling a garden. I pulled an entire plant that was producing nothing but leaves, leaving me more room to spread out the Buttercup Squash which has produced more fruit than I expected. Right now I have about 9 or 10 squash growing fast on just three vines.

The pumpkins are also taking off. I pulled all but three plants earlier in the summer and I've got four pumpkins growing.

Future Pies
I did some harvesting this weekend as well. Last week I picked about 15 cucumbers and thought I had them all. Well, I missed a few:

Cucumbers and a few Crookneck Squash
I'm going to have to try some of those cucumber salad recipes I've been seeing on other garden blogs.

I also picked the pea pods that looked ready. There were even more than I thought. I only picked half of them and have enough for at least three meals:

Plenty 'o Peas
I also did some cosmetic work on the flower beds - pulled weeds, deadheaded, etc. While I was working on the Phlox bed I noticed a visitor I've never seen before, ever.

Hummingbird Moth
I've heard of these and seen pictures but have never seen one 'in person' before. I was thrilled to finally catch a glimpse. He wasn't camera shy at all and I got several good shots. Later in the afternoon he returned with a friend and I think they hit every blossom on my fading Phlox flowers.

So far, still no hornworms. I've heard reports from other Mainers that they have them so I'm keeping a close watch for them.

The war continues...