Thursday, November 15, 2012

November 2012 Blooms

I'm actually making a Bloom Day post on the appropriate day.  Woohoo!

Not that I have much to show off (which is probably why I'm able to do this on time).  Today we'll look at what's blooming on the porch.  I haven't really prepared for winter, but I did hurry all the potted plants inside before Hurricane Sandy arrived two three weeks ago.  I didn't want them to blow away.

I bought this Osteospermum in the spring from the almost-dead-plant clearance shelf.  It survived, and looked healthy, but never flowered until this week.  So much for the front porch flowers I'd planned for the summer.

I thought the flowers would be purple, so the magenta color surprised me.  Yes, that's a pansy in there, too.  I had a few extra pansies from planting the front walk this fall, and stuck them in the pot which was still sitting out front at the time.  Kinda strange to have it indoors now.

This will be my second year trying to overwinter the hibiscus.  So far it is doing well on the porch, putting out more blooms than it ever did outside this summer.  Here's one:

Now I just need to remember to give this plant some water. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

October 2012 Blooms

Bloom Day was Monday, I took pictures Wednesday, and am finally posting Sunday.  Oh, well.  Here's what's blooming on the Crest in mid-October.

(Wednesday was a beautiful, bright, sunny day, so the photos are a bit flat and washed out.)

Mums:  some in the ground, some I planted in a pot several years ago:

Asters.  The New York asters and smooth asters are done, but these Tatarian asters are in full bloom.  Most are flopping, but I found some photogenic straight specimens.

In the still-going category, Lespedeza is still putting on a show in the front, and the sedum have gotten rather dark:

And in the "what season is it?" bucket, the zinnia along the front walk still think it's summer, while the pink penstemon and strawberries have gone back to springtime.

In the strawberries' defense, they are 'everbearing'.  They just too a long summer hiatus.

Not too bad for October.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

September 2012 Blooms

I'm a week late for Bloom Day, but I still have blooms to show off.  Early-mid September is always a busy time for me, and this year was no exception.  I knew I'd be out of town last weekend, and had ideas of snapping photos and posting early, but that never happens.  So, a week later, here we are.  But it's given the early fall flowers an extra week to refine the show, and I think it's a pretty good show.

Starting with the side garden, the tall sedum are at their pinky peak.

The peak of pink
Across the path, the variegated sedum flowers are just starting to open.  They will pink up some, but not as much as the other.

Midway down the path, Aster laevis 'Bluebird' is blooming.  This plant was confused and flowered in early summer.  But it seems to have consulted a calendar since then.

At the other end are the willow-leaf heianthus.  The tall plants (I forgot to pinch them back this spring) look rather weedy, but who can resist those sunny flowers?

Across from the helianthus, mistflower, which has taken a beating from recent storms.

The garage garden blooms include hibiscus, variegated liriope, and several tall phlox.

At the entrance to the upper garden,volunteer rudbeckia keep watch, while New england aster 'Alma Potschke' form a wall behind the tomato cages.

Also in the upper garden, Boltonia asteroides and a reblooming Stella D'Oro daylily.

The 'Fireworks' goldenrod is looking rather thin this year.

Finally, stealing the show in the front yard: Mexican bush clover (Lespedeza 'Gibraltar')

One of my favorite things about Bloom Day is that it forces me to slow down and look at the good things going on in the yard.  Now, back to my much neglected weeding.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Swallowtail (for real)

When my first swallowtail caterpillar sighting turned out to be a monarch, Samantha at Polliator Plates reminded me to go check my rue.  I've grown rue in my herb garden for six years, because I love the gray fluffy foliage, but I'd not noticed carpillars feasing there.  Sunday I took a closer look, and found one!

This one's definitely a swallowtail
Caterpillar closeup
When I returned with my camera to photograph my findings, I also found another one:

Number two
Whay does this make me so happy?  I have no idea.

In other caterpillar news,  Samantha has raised monarch butterflies from found eggs, and posted their progess here.  Fascinating stuff!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Garden (and Nature) Bloggers Saved a Butterfly

I don't know much about bugs.  Some are beneficial; some are pests.  Some can be bright and colorful; some are downright ugly; others are truly frightening.  I don't want any of them crawling on me.

I'm not very good at identifying bugs.  The one big caterpillar I know by sight is the tomato hornworm, which thankfully I haven't spotted in several years.  I did learn just recently, from a garden blog (I wish I remembered which one!), that it is the larval form of the sphinx moth.  Nifty, but I'm still going to squash the next one I find.

The other day I saw this on an onion stalk:

 A similar size and shape to a hornworm (slightly smaller), but brightly colored and rather pretty.  I might have squashed it anyway, but I remembered some Casa Mariposa posts on eastern swallowtail caterpillars, and thought this might be one.  Of course, if it were a swallowtail, shouldn't it be feasting on my parsley or carrot leaves?  What was it doing on an onion?

I came in and looked up the post I thought I remembered.  Nope, not my caterpillar.  Mine looks like this:

The caterpillar that looked like mine I'd actually seen at The Natural Capital, here.  It is a monarch caterpillar.  Ok, that's good, too.  Now I know why it wasn't on the parsley, but I don't know why it was so far from the milkweed!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Growing Gazpacho

One of my annual edible-garden goals is to grow gazpacho.  Since it's hard to actually grow soup, I'll stick with growing all the soup's ingredients.  Something I've not yet managed to do, though many years I come fairly close.

Here's today's harvest:

un-processed gazpaho
A few notes about that photo.
1.  The garlic, obviously, was not harvested today.  It wasn't even grown by me (my first gazpacho failure of the year: my garlic didn't bulb), but given to me by a friend. 
2.  See those nearly-black peppers?  They're the first carnival peppers I've picked this season
3.  Where'd that cucumber come from?  Didn't I rip out my monstrous volunteer last week?  Yes, yes I did.  But I have another volunteer, growing up the other side of the trellis arch.  This is the second of three cukes it has produced so far.  It won't get to 35, but it is making up for slow production with quality.  This cuke picture might just be the tastiest cucumber I've ever eaten (and those other 35 were pretty darn good). I'm not kidding.
4.  I tried growing onions this year, without success.  And my chives in a pot got rather dried up this summer; they're just starting to come back (you can see two little bits I snipped off, resting on the garlic).  So instead of my usual onion and chive ingredients, I'm using the green and white parts of some bunching onions, pictured.
5.  That's not nearly enough tomatoes for gazpacho.  Fortunately I have a friend with excess.
6.  I forgot to plant chervil this year (in fact, I've never planted chervil).  So the herb mix in today's gazpacho is basil, parsley, green onion (in place of chives), and tarragon.

How do I turn that into gazpacho?  I use a recipe I developed many years ago after a wonderfully yummy trip to Spain (where, in Sevilla, I tasted my first gazpacho:  I was hooked).  Upon my return home, I visited the local library (the interwebs weren't the bountiful resource of modern days) and checked out every book with a gazpacho recipe.  I could tell that none of the recipes was going to give me what I had tasted in Andalusia, but I was able to pull elements from this one and that one to get a pretty close approximation to what I wanted.  I've been using this recipe ever since.

Here's the basic recipe, with notes:
In a food processor, combine and process the herbs (about 1/2 cup packed.  My herb mix gets closer to a cup) and a clove or two of garlic.  Add 1/2 c olive oil and 1/4 c red vinegar (full disclosure:  I don't ever expect these to come from my garden) and process.  Add peeled, seeded, cored, chopped veggies (a small onion, 1/2 cucumber, the equivalent of a large bell pepper, and the equivalent of 4 large tomatoes). (Another disclosure:  I no longer go through the extra steps of peeling and seeding the tomatoes.  It's not worth it).  Process until evenly lumpy.  Add up to 3c of tomato juice and process to mix (at this point I have to take the soup out of the processor, and put it in a bowl with an immersion blender - my food processor isn't large enough to handle the full amount).

Serve garnished with chopped veggies and optional hard-boiled egg pieces (something else that will never come from my garden).

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Planting for Fall

I finally planted some seeds for fall crops today.  Probably a bit late for some things, but we'll see how it goes.

I've only tried fall planting one other year.  That was peas, and it didn't work out so well.  I planted them sometime in September, and they suffered from frost before they were ready.  I hadn't been worried about frost, because I knew from spring planting that peas are fine in frost.  I learned from this that while pea plants are fine with frost, pea pods and their developing peas are not.  They end up frozen.  And if I wanted frozen peas, I'd go to the grocery store.

So onto this year.  I know I should have sown my seeds 2-3 weeks ago, but I didn't.  Here's what I planted today, and some notes, including when the Maryland Cooperative Extension (MdCE)* recommends planting these things**:

 - Beets (chioggia and Detroit dark red).  I've never had success with beets.  Maybe a fall planting will make a difference.  Maybe.  (MdCE says plant fall beets June 20-Aug 1.  Oops.  Well, these dates are for centeral Maryland, and I have a later frost date than they do.)
 - Lettuce (tennis ball).  MdCE says plant head lettuce Aug1-Aug 15 and leaf lettuce, romaine and butterhead lettuces July 20-Sept 1.  So I'm close with this one.
 - Bok Choi.  I've never planted this before.  I got the seeds for planting this spring, but then read that bok choi would do better as a fall crop here.  I hope that's true.  MdCE apparently doesn't expect one to plant bok choi at all, but they do say plant cabbage (transplants) July 10-Aug 20 and chinese cabbage (is that what bok choi is?) July 1-Aug 15.  So I'm probably late here, too.
 - Carrots (chartenay).  Just because I had the seeds to use up.  I'm not expecting much.  (MdCE says June 15-Aug 1, so yup, really late)
 - Leeks (musselburgh).  I don't know if leeks even work as a fall crop;  this was totally impulse planting.  MdCE only lists them as a spring crop.  Oh well.

What didn't I plant?
- Spinach.  Here's something that would have actually been on time (Aug1-Sept 5).  I wanted to plant some, too, but I couldn't find my seeds.
- Kale.  It's overwintered really well before, so I should have planted it again, but I just didn't feel like it.
- Broccoli.  Because broccoli needs to be started even earlier and set out as transplants, and I didn't do that.

* yes, I live in Va, but really close to Md, and the MdCE has far more information available, so I use them. 

If you want to reference the full Spring/Fall planting guide, you can find it as publication #HG16 from the Home and Garden Information Center here.

** No, I didn't look up the planting schedule until after I planted my seeds today. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Cucumber Collapse

My volunteer cucumber has outperformed all expectations.  That's not hard to do when expectations were zero.  It was a volunteer after all.  But it outperformed any cucumber I've ever actually planted, too.

It was quite a vigorous vine.  Not growing tall, but spreading out everywhere, especially across the garden path and onto the patio.
Cucumber vine growing everywhere

Two cukes growing on the patio

But this volunteer was not invincible.  As cucumbers in my yard (and in the region in general) always do, it suffered from bacterial wilt.  Actually, a lifespan to mid-August is pretty good.

While it was producing, I harvested 34 cucumbers from July 6 to August 17.  One day last week there were 11 cucumbers in my kitchen.  I gave some away, but I ate most of them.  I averaged consuming half a cucumber per day.  While cucumbers are my favorite summer vegetable, sometimes the daunting task of eating the 6 or so cukes on my counter felt like a bit much.  But I persevered.

And today I took down the vine. I found four almost-cukes, ones that started rotting on dead vines before they were ripe.

Rotting cukes

Well, actually that pickle-looking one on the right hadn't started rotting yet, but it wasn't going to grow any more.

Now that the cucumber vine is gone, I can see just how much the scarlet runner beans were growing up in the same space.  I'm amazed they did so well.  Still no beans, though.

And as I was cleaning up the garden this evening, I found, hidden amongst the peppers and basil, one more edible cucumber.

Number thrity-five

Make that 35 cukes for my vigorous volunteer.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

August 2012 Blooms

I'm determined to post my photos on Bloom Day this month, even though my garden has been less than showy this summer.

I think the most interesting blooms at the moment are in the veggie garden.  I have a new volunteer cucumber that's flowering and fruiting;

Here are the scarlet runner beans I couldn't show off Monday:

This pattypan squash is growing big, but that flower hasn't even opened yet.  I can' say I understand how that works.

On the flower front, I have some lantana still in its nursery pot.  But since I let the lantana plant in my pot out front dry up and die, I'll use this as a replacement.  If I ever get around to potting it up, that is.

Joe Pye Weed are starting to open up. I love the pink billowy flower clusters.

 Out front, I have no idea what this plant is.  I got it in a swap last year, and promptly lost the tag.  But it is starting to bloom now.

Also in the front bed, the catmint is still blooming, and the bush clover is just getting started.

Rudbeckia usually carry the garden through the summer, but this year many of them have dried up.  Here's one in the front that's still showy.

In the 'what are you thinking' category, a few spring bloomers are confused.  Butterflyweed and penstemon are reblooming.

To see more August blooms, visit May Dreams Gardens.

also blooming:  echinacea, coreopsis, gaillardia, geranium, aster, balloon flower, boltonia, buddleia, crape myrtle, white rose, larkspur, liriope, zinnia, mums, tall phlox

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Gypsy: A Vegetal Truth

Why is it so difficult to grow peppers?  They get the same treatment as the other plants in the garden:  soil, sun, water.  They aren't plagued by pests.  The plants grow nicely.  But I don't get peppers.  I mean, I eventually (usually) get peppers, but not until fall when frost is threatening.

I've read that pepper plants really don't like cold, and setting them out too early in spring (even after the frost-free date), can hinder growth all season.  So last year I waited and waited, and eventually planted out my seed-grown plants.  It didn't help.

This year I planted several varieties of peppers that I started from seed (yellow, carnival, Zavory habanero, and fish).  I also planted one 'Gypsy' pepper that my cousin started from seed.  All were started around the same time and planted out on the same date, in the same section of the garden.  'Gypsy' was a slightly larger plant than the others, but not by much.

What do I have now?  Gypsy peppers!  I'm so excited to have peppers while it is still summer and I can put them in salads with my tomatoes and cukes!  Here are some peppers growing:

Gypsy peppers start out whitish-yellow and eventually turn bright yellow then orange.  Here is my first August-picked pepper (Monday, August 6th):

A portrait of Gypsy
Along with the pepper, more cukes and my first Brandywine tomato:

Since then (August 10th), I've picked four more peppers (including one yellow one that fell off while I was picking the others), six more cukes, and a mess of beans and maters:
These are cukes #25-30 for those keeping count (me)
The peppers have been delicious.  Sweet and crunchy.  There's only one more Gypsy on the plant.  I've already asked Sue to start more of these next year.

More good pepper news:  one of my plants is finally making a pepper! This is going to be a yellow pepper, I think.

See it?  There on the bottom? 
Of course, it is so small, it likely won't be ready until mid-September.