Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July 2012 - Belated Blooms

I took some Bloom Day photos a day late (I was traveling on the 15th), but neglected to do anything with them.  So here, 10 days late, I'll show you what was blooming way back when.

The reality:  not much.  It's been hot and it's been dry, so there's not a lot to look at outside the veggie garden.  Coneflowers and Rudbeckia, my summer staples, have even been looking sad and wilty.  The annual rudbeckia dried up and called it quits.

The front garden is the star this month, if anything really stars in my seemingly barren yard.  Along the front walk are some zinnia.  I started these from seed and transplanted them in late spring.  I always wish I had more of them.  Perhaps I should try direct-sowing.

In the front bed, the self-seeded four-o'clocks are doing their thing, filling in the otherwise blank spaces.  Catmint is still blooming along also, if sporadically.

I have cannas in that bed also.  I grow them for their tropical foliage.  Mine have never flowered, and I've been okay with that.  So I was surprised to see this plain-leaved one in bloom.

Around back, phlox are brightening up the garage bed

The structure there was supposed to hold cucumbers.  Only one seed sprouted in that new location, and it hasn't done much.  That's okay, I have more cucumbers than I know what to do with, thanks to a volunteer in the main veggie garden.

Friday, July 20, 2012


Over two months ago, I started this post about strawberries.  I blame my lack of blogging over the last two months on this unfinished post.  For some reason, in my mind, I couldn't appropriately blog about much else until I finished this strawberry post.  For example, there's a plum post coming (if only in my head).  But everyone knows one cannot post about plums until one posts about strawberries.  Right?  Well, maybe.  So here goes:

Last year I purchased and planted some everbearing strawberry plants.  I could have gone with a well-favored named variety, but my frugal nature won out.  You see, these plants, named only "everbearing strawberries", were about a dollar cheaper per pot than the named berries.  What's a dollar (or five in my case, as I bought five pots)?  Not much in the grad scheme of the garden, until I noticed the (cheap) pots actually contained two plants per pot.  There went my plan to buy the "good" plants.  These would do, especially since I had no idea whether strawberries would "do" in my yard at all. 

Yes, I did know strawberries run, and that I would have been just fine buying only five of those other plants because they would have muliplied enough to fill the bed by this second year.  But at that particular moment I wanted the instant gratification of berries the same year.

In went the plants, next to the weeping maple and just downhill from the dwarf blueberries.  They made a few berries last year (eaten by squirrels, birds and voles), and put out lots of runners, to try to take over those blueberries.  I got zero berries for myself, but spent lots of effort reigning in the spread of the berries.

On to 2012.  This spring I made sure the plants weren't crowding each other out, then let them do their thing.  They flowered in early spring and made little green fruits: 

And then the berries started to ripen:

I was not about to let all the critters get to my berries before me this year.  Since there were only a few berries ripening at this point, and I didn't yet have a fencing scheme planned, I tried protecting just the few berries I had:

Yes, that's a leg of hosiery wrapped around the berry cluster.  It worked well, allowing the berries to ripen in safety.

Those were some tasty berries!

There were several problems with this method, however.  First, it would be very labor intensive to put every ripening berry into a stocking-guard.  Second, I found that while the berries were in the stocking I couldn't really tell if they were ripe.  So I had to pull them out to take a look, then put them back in.  I was very concerned about bruising the fruit in the process.

So I got out the bird netting and draped it over the berries, securing it to the ground around the edges with a combination of landscape staples and bricks.  My first attempt was a failure, as I found the next set of ripe berries munched away before I got to them.

I found the hole in my barrier and staked it closed.  Success!  Soon I was eating berries for breakfast every day.

(A note about 'everbearing' strawberries:  while they do continue to bear fruit throughout the summer, they still produce a flush of berries in the spring, just as the june-bearing plants do.  Since my netting scheme made weeding nearly impossible, I removed the netting after the major crop was finished. I'll let the critters eat the later fruits.)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Volunteer Cucumber

I've been away for about a week, and I'm really behind on posts (more behind than just that week).  I do intend to catch up sometime.  But something really exciting happened this evening that I have to share:  I found a cucumber!

OK, so one might expect to find a cucumber in a veggie garden.  I have them every year.  Why is this one so special? 

First, it is a volunteer cucumber.  Grew up all by itself.  I had several volunteers this year.  I accidentally weeded one.  I tried to transplant another (it died).  And the third one I just let be, even though is was growing next to the arbor where I'd planned to plant beans this year (crop rotation and all...).  Well, this one plant is trying to take over my whole garden.  I think it tripled in size in the week I was away.  (Sorry, it was too dark when I was out this evening to take a pic.) 

Second, I had no idea it was there.  Last week the vine had a bunch of flowers, and if I squinted just right I could pretend there were baby cucumbers behind some of the flowers.  Tonight I was happy to see actual cucumbers growing; some should be ready in a few days.  Then, as I moved some lower leaves to pull a weed, I saw a perfect, full-grown cuke:

I brought it inside, peeled and sliced it, and ate half of it right away.  It was delicious in that way the first cuke of the season always is.

Plus, it made me feel less guilty for eating all that fried chicken for dinner.