If Duke Farms can live with dandelions, should I?

183B6D70-D1D0-40C1-98C6-54610F440B89I finally visited Duke Farms in Hillsborough. This is the former estate of tobacco heiress Doris Duke, which until not that many years ago was only open for tours. The foundation that runs the place has made some changes — her house has been torn down, and the focus is even more on sustainability and native plantings. Clearly that includes no (or perhaps minimal) pesticides, and their gardeners have not been charged with digging up dandelions or my other nemesis, hairy bitter cress.

Given that I filled the better part of a five-gallon bucket with dug-up dandelions yesterday and have another two giant recycling buckets full of hairy bitter cress just waiting for the monthly yard waste and brush collection, should I just learn to chill?

I hope to be back in a few months to see the meadow in bloom. But do not come here looking for a traditional garden with lots of flower beds.

Here are some other images from the day:

A ruin? The foundation of the mansion James Duke stopped building after his tobacco business was broken up.

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Another ruin? The remains of the burned-out hay barn and what I think sums up Doris’ taste in sculptures:

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The coach barn (first for horses, then for cars) … because every garage needs a clock tower.

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No, this wasn’t the house.

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The Durham bull, to pair with the one I saw on a bike trip through Durham

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Can I have a piece of this hosta? I like variegated ones.

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And some brilliantly colored orchids in the Orchid Range (Doris was big on orchids).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Leeks, and a resolution for next year

IMG_1395(How did this not get published when I wrote it in November??))

The leeks we bought in Maine in June have been amazing!

No work, most did really well (and I will take the blame for those that didn’t, because they ended up having to fight with tomatoes). I don’t know that we have ever had some this thick and with this much white.

Next year I will call the place in late May/early June (unless we find ourselves headed to Maine) and mail-order a flat of 72 or whatever it takes. At 16 cents a plug, and a healthy one, not like a hair strand, is there a better deal? I’m sure we can find room in the beds. Even at the expense of tomatoes– famous last words! (Kale could shrink first?) And if you want to be part of my order, speak up.

Here are some other late harvests: a mixing bowl of hot peppers (guess I better freeze some) and lemongrass headed for a pot to overwinter (will see how freezing some stalks works out).

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See what vegetable in our garden survived the winter

92331542-26ED-4E80-AD9D-1A56C5993EF2Back a few months ago, when it was regularly falling well below freezing, I decided to try to save some kale that was still growing in one of our raised beds. I knew kale was hardy, but just how hardy? I pulled out some old sheets to create an ad hoc row cover. It rained, then snowed and snowed some more. The wet sheets stayed in place for about three months, as much out of inertia as any snow cover that would disappear within a few days.

Finally, as the calendar (if not the weather) turned to spring, I pulled off the covers.

Most of the kale stalks had rotted. But to my surprise, some were showing little shoots of green leaves. Now that I’ve given them more time and light, they’ve gone even greener. Time to start eating from the garden again (or adding this to my favorite Instant Pot recipe of the moment, Melissa Clark’s Moroccan Chickpeas with Kale.)

Too much yellow?

black-eyed susansMy second-grade neighbors told me yesterday that there’s too much yellow right now. Here and in the neighborhood, where I have certainly shared the wealth of black-eyed Susans. This is part of our front yard right now. What do you think?

I like that we should have color for the better part of two months. What other perennial can give you that?

My fall replanting plans include creating wedges in the mass of black-eyed Susans and spreading out day lillies that can then create clumps over the years. I also want to move some red crocosmia that bloomed at the same time as lilac bee balm to create another clump and to spread out the color and height.

More from the vegetable beds

Our test of growing zucchini is a tomato cage seems to be a success. We’ve already gotten more this year than in the past, so keeping the leaves off the ground seems like the way to go (though I am wondering if bugs have since gotten to the more prolific one — note to self for next year: keep plants in separate beds to prevent bugs from hopping from one to the next).

These photos are about 10 days old:

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I failed at keeping one really well contained in the cage, though the sprawl seems to be less than in years past. Regardless, it’s ginormous.

Next year we’ll try with cages upside down to see if that helps better contain the early sprawl and then just let them spread out after a rung or two.

zucchini2 2017The tomatoes are doing fine, though I am concerned about the number of dead leaves near the bottom on so many. We’ve had plenty of rain this year, but it tends to be in short, heavy bursts, rather than a slow soak, so maybe the plants aren’t getting as much water as I think. Or maybe we’ve got a case of something else?

The first Brandywine from our Mississippi plants was this deep red and so tasty with basil from the garden (and mozzarella from the store):

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The glut is starting

vegetable harvest july 21 2017To sum it up briefly: We can’t keep up with the zucchini. Too hot to do much baking! When we’ve had enough of kale salad, the greens are becoming pesto. There’s been more than enough for that. This evening marked our first harvest of beans, and the Sungold tomatoes are kicking off the tomato season. We harvested the first two three days ago and have had a few more since then. At least we’ll soon be able to use up cucumbers by making gazpacho.

The next debate for the garden: what to plant where the peas have been? A fall crop of peas? Try again with beets? Find a zucchini plant in the clearance section at a garden center and have a fall crop?

Feel free to weigh in.