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.

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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:

zucchin1 2017

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):

tomato caprese 2017

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.

Turn your back, and the zucchini have shot up another foot

zucchini flower croppedOK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it sure feels like it, especially after all the rain we got last night. We even have our first flowers!

We are experimenting this year with growing the plants upright by containing each in a large tomato cage instead of using a “fence” to keep them from sprawling all over the raised bed. It seems like only a week ago they were still pretty tiny. Now the leaves have topped the second of four rings. I try to push the leaves back into the cage before they get too big. So far it’s working.

The idea is that by growing the plants up, it will be easier to see the actual zucchini before they become the size of a baseball bat. I have another incentive to harvest them small — apparently it encourages more flowering.

This is how big one plant looks on the last day of spring. The top leaves are ginormous!

zucchini in cage

The other advantage is that it can be easier to spot the squash vine borers that attack the stem and kill the plant. That’s been our problem in the last few years, of course just as the glut gets going. This video is inspiring me to start checking, to find out what I need to use for dusting — and to start fertilizing since the plants are heavy feeders. Good thing I have some TerraCycle worm poop fertilizer, made in down the road in Trenton. I worked a little bit into the soil, ready for the next rain, which might come Friday.

Keeping leaves off the ground helps fight against bugs. This video says I also need to scatter Sevin Dust carefully around the base. But it does seem like nasty stuff and kills beneficial insects like bees, which we don’t want to do. So I’m googling away for other ideas. This video suggests just spraying dishwater detergent dissolved in water could do the trick too, at least with aphids, and can work on cucumbers. Sounds like that requires some persistence. Maybe we will use some of the aphid-fighting Neem we already have.

Want to weigh in?

We are using the cages the same way we would use them for tomato plants, so the narrowest part is at the bottom and the prongs are in the soil. If we wanted to test it the other way, well, it’s too late. Plus we’d have needed some kind of clip to keep the cage from toppling over in the wind. We have no idea how heavy the plant will be and whether an upside-down cage could support them or would tip over. That first video says we should have bamboo stakes too. One more thing to do…

 

The newest immigrants in our garden come from Mississippi and Maine

tomato plants from MississippiOnce again, we have used our travels to help stock the vegetable garden.

Four of our 15 (!) tomato plants (and it’s NOT my fault this time) are Brandywines we picked up at a farmers market in Jackson, Miss., in March. Four for $1.50 and the potential to get a jump on the tomato season was just too irresistible. (And for the record, you can take plants on an airplane as carry-on. I have done it several times.) I had expected one of the Brit’s colleagues would have wanted one or two in a trade, but nope. All the better for us.

It’s been a rainy and generally cool May and June, and the plants aren’t the tallest tomato plants we have. (That would be one of the sungolds we grew from seed.) But all four have yellow flowers, compared to just three of the others.

And when we were visiting friends in Maine last weekend, we stopped at a garden center that we had mail-ordered from many, many years ago. The prices were great then and still are attractive. Best of all, we found three varieties of leeks at 16 cents a tiny plug. Not that there was only one leek in each plug! So we have bigger, more established plants than the ones I had bought in Indiana last March that were perhaps as thin as a strand of angel hair pasta and which didn’t fare that well. (OK, I could have watered those more.)

leek seedlings from maineWe bought 18 plugs (six of each variety), so less than $3 before tax; we have more than twice that many plants. There’s the Megaton, which it seems should be harvested in the fall, rather than left to cope with snow; the Gervaria, which a seed company describes as a mid-season harvest; and the Lexton, which that same company describes as very frost-hardy. It will be an interesting experiment and taste test.

We also picked up a robust Canada Red rhubarb plant that looks like it could be three. I decided not to stress it by trying to divide it.

This is to make up for a frustrating experience with a national mail-order company. We ordered eight bare-root plants at the end of March; the lone Canada Red bare root in our order is now out of stock, as is our order of purple potato seedlings, and we’ve been told we won’t get them and had that portion of our order refunded. We’re still waiting on the Glaskin’s Purpetual (two sets of three bareroots — but worryingly, the website lists them as now out of stock, though our order is still listed) and the Crimson Red jumbo bareroot. The shipping date has been pushed back time after time, and I’ve been oh so tempted to cancel the whole thing. We will never use them again.

Our Maine friends also gave us some flowers that they are constantly dividing and moving. If they can survive the deer and the rabbits (and one has already been attacked by something), I’m going to let them fight it out with the Black-Eyed Susans. And I’ll post some photos.

Repotting Mr. Ficus

ficus repottedWe own a ficus tree that’s a hand-me-down from a neighbor. She bought it in grad school and when she unloaded it on us a few years after we moved in, it was outgrowing its ceramic pot. I bought a much larger one, also ceramic. The one drawback was its weight (I admit I could barely lift it empty — these were the days before resin pots were everywhere). The plant thrived in the extra space, though, and we developed a routine for getting it out on the deck in May and back inside in October. We even got the point where it didn’t lose most of its leaves over the winter.

But it was getting cramped again. The roots were taking up so much space that you were never sure how much water got below the soil line. So time to repot.

This time I got a resin pot. That was the easy part. Getting a tree that’s taller than me out of the old pot was a bigger challenge. We took a knife around the edge of the pot, but that didn’t do much. So we rolled the pot down some planks onto the grass and started loosening up the soil on top. Tugging at the plant still didn’t do much. We rocked and shook the pot. Some movement. More loosening. More rocking, using the slope of our backyard and gravity to help us. Finally it came out!

What a rootball!

ficus rootballThen I followed the directions of a video and gave the rootball a haircut — down the sides and along the bottom. That should help it spread out. (The trowel gives you a sense of the haircut — it is shorter than the pot the plant had been in.)

ficus after haircutThen we put it in the new pot. OK, we used garden soil (infused with Miracle Grow) instead of potting soil, and we didn’t have any vermiculite or perlite handy to loosen it up. So maybe it is heavier than it needs to be. But as long as the ficus tree is happy….

I just don’t want it to shoot up so much that it is scraping the ceiling this winter.

 

Peonies and more in time for Memorial Day

Here’s some of what’s blooming in the yard right now. The peonies and the allium bulgaricum have never looked this good, and I love the weigela (red prince) we bought last year. It has certainly doubled in size, and those deep red flowers are visible from the kitchen window.

peonies white

peonies plenty of white

peonies pink

peonies fuscia and other plantsYes, there’s still plenty of purple, which is normal for us in May. Siberian iris, amsonia, Nepeta Walker’s Low, even more large allium balls than w’ve had in a long time… And these allium bells add some fun to the mix.

bulgaricum

Love this!

weigela blooms

Here’s a debate: Should I move some of the yellow swamp iris (not that I have a wet area in my yard) to mix in with the purple Siberian irises (nice color combination), or is it invasive and I should be ripping it out instead?