I recently heard another gardener recommending "weeding with secateurs" when the weather is this dry. It sounds like a good idea. Instead of trying to pull weeds out of hard dry ground, which is difficult and also disturbs the soil and makes it dry out even more, she said just snip off the weeds at ground level. You'll kill a lot of them and those you don't you can pull out later. I think I'll do that, especially since some of my weed problems are mostly bigger plants here and there rather than mats of smaller weeds. Pokeweed and some sort of wild sunflowery thing seem to be a big thing here this year, the Canada thistle seems to be fading thank the gods.
I got the Pond Circle beds cleaned up yesterday and what a big improvement a little tidy can make. I really REALLY need to get those Ostrich Ferns out of those beds. I remember when I first got them, they struggled along and I coddled and hung over them like babies. But wow, once they got their feet under them, look out...they are spreading like wildfire. This fall I want to move a lot of them into the Stumpery and into the Asian garden.
Phlox are coming into full bloom this week. The later developed hybrids seem to flower a lot earlier than the old-fashioned standard varieties, but the older varieties are much better scented. When they are open, you can smell the fragrance all over the lower part of the garden in the evening, but these new varieties don't seem very perfumed. I'm really glad to see that with the new varieties, two things: 1. They are a lot taller than they were advertised to be and 2) that strident color seems a lot more pastel than they were advertised. I got all of them as Clearance Rack items at Lowe's 2 years ago and wasn't real keen on the "compact size brilliant color" the tags said. I like tall graceful stuff with soft colors.
I'm makign note of areas in the borders where I think daylilies would do well. I have a lot of daylilies up in the entrance to the Fairy Glen but as the trees/shrubs grow up there, it's getting too shady for daylilies. I noticed that none of them bloomed this year, so they'll need to come out in the fall. Since I widened and opened up new borders last fall, I do have room for them elsewhere.
I'm also making note of areas that need a good tidy. What with one thing and another, there always seems to be small areas of the garden that just get "forgotten" for a couple of years. I've got one area near the entrance to the Stumpery that really needs a good cleanup with pruning and cutting back. There are a few shrubs that really have gotten large and I noticed some blackberry canes starting to shoot up in there too.
I'll probably be out of town Friday/Saturday. My cousin John "Sonny" Horbal passed away. He is a contemporary of my brother and sister (80 years old), so I don't really know him very well, but he was always nice to me when I was a kid and I want to pay my respects. My family is odd in that we have a really wide spread in our ages/generations. Most of my cousins are close to my age but some are much older. I am hoping to spend the night in my Aunt Mary's house; it will be nice to wake up on a summer morning in my old childhood neighborhood.
I have a feeling we may have entered our nearly annual "dry spell"...we went from really abundant rain to suddenly dry weather. Nearly every summer we get a "spell" of 6-8 weeks of dry weather that can be anything from just "nice weather" to truly horrible drought mixed with high temps and high humidity. Yesterday evening I got out the hoses and laid out the watering system. I didn't get it completely hooked up, but at least it's in place and ready to go. Watered the top border and the under the steps miniature hosta garden (which, by the way is doing really well and starting to look like I envisioned it. I'd really like to get more mini ferns and a LOT more moss growing there too. I had an idea to string these tiny tiny solar powered light down the dry stream bed feature, but two things are stopping me: 1. I'm afraid it might look a bit too "twee" and 2. Smokey the cat who absolutely adores chewing through the thin wires that come with things like computer headphones and tiny fairy lights has chewed through this! I was able to painstakingly fix it, but I'm not sure if my repair will hold up...and also, if she won't just chew thru it as soon as she finds it outside. *sigh*
Picked over a quart of red raspberries this morning. There should be another smaller picking later this week. I think I'll make a pot of jam and some ice cream.
Spent a nice hour weeding out the brick pathways at the Pond Circle. That was my first real garden on this property. It's changed and evolved over the decades, but I still like it best and always enjoy it. I have, however, been neglecting that area simply because it is matured and rarely gets overrun with weeds or needs much of anything. One thing it really does need is a good going over. some things have been a bit overexuberant and need lifting/dividing (ferns and hostas!) The two "mirror beds" on either sides of the approach path look pretty bad...they are in the process of being redone. I had to remove the cherry (dead) and the apple (badly leaning) that used to grow in them, which let in a lot of light (good) but left a big visual "hole" in the design (bad). I've replaced the trees with two matching 'Jane' magnolias and I'm slowly putting in plants that are pink or cream flowered. I'd love to keep the shades of pink close to that of the magnolia and carry that pink thru the year, but it's hit or miss because I've been busy elsewhere. If I get a little time this week though, I think I'll do some really serious work in there and try to get things looking better.
In that same area, I've got a big decision to make. The original design was the circular pond in the middle. A circular path around it. and three curving beds around that. Then there's the line of the "woodland" as backdrop to the whole scheme. On the outside of the curved beds, there's just open grass. In the early days, these were two fairly large grassy areas and we kept them mowed as lawn. But with the woodland yews and dogwoods maturing and the Long Borders getting gradually wider, those two grassy areas are really small now and this year it just seemed too much bother to get the mower in there. The result is two very weedy draggly looking spots. I sickled down the grass in the northern plot and I'm going to do the same to the southern one this afternoon. I'm seriously considering doing away with these grassy areas altogether, but I'm not sure how I want to go about it. I'd sort of hate to lose the outer edge of the curved beds, just have them blend away into the plots. I'm thinking I could use a broad pathway along the outer edge of the curved bed, further widen the Long borders to meet it, then remove all the grass, etc. from the other side and put in woodland groundcover to extend from under the yews/dogwoods to meet that side of the path. Will need to think about this.
We went from unbearable high heat and humidity to suddenly cool and dry. Friday morning I got up to "hot fog"...the overnight temps had stayed in the upper 70s and there was so much humidity the air was full of clammy warm fog. Horrid. I decided it was a good day to stay indoors. Then early afternoon, went out to get in the mail and the air was clear, dry, breezy and cooler. Overnight Friday the temperature dropped and it's been in the low 80s. Last night (Sat. night) was positively chilly...down into the low 60s! Dry though and that's always worrisome. I hoped we would would have had some rain with the weather change, but only a light drizzle. However, thanks to the almost nonstop rain we've had earlier, things aren't looking too dried out...yet. I'm already starting to spot water though.
Harvesting a lot of red raspberries this week. First green tomatoes of any size are appearing. That new-to-me variety of tomato called Ten Fingers of Napoli (bought it just for the name!) is apparently living up to that name: the green tomatoes look like long cylindrical fingers! I can't wait to see them ripe.
Already overwhelmed with summer squash so I made a big pot of chicken stock yesterday and I plan to blenderize the squash and make summer squash bisque to freeze/can for winter.
Concerning: I have not seen one Monarch butterfly this summer so far. I never did make note when they appear in our area, so it might just be a bit early for them.
We're still under a heat wave, our temp hit 96 yesterday and the high humidity pushed the heat index to 106. It's brutal to be outside after around 9 a.m. The worst is that last night it did not cool down very much. i can deal with hot days, but hot nights are awful because I hate HATE sleeping in an air-conditioned room. Even on fairly hot nights shut off the ac vent and open the windows. Last night I had to leave the vent open and the windows closed.
Got up early and MADE myself get down into the veg and do some much needed cleanup/weeding. I am pleased to see that my past few years of meticulously removing Galinsoga weed from the east end of the veg has paid off. I did a "once-over" and only got out a small amount. The west end is another story... Just mats of the stuff. I cleaned out the entire mess from the peas/beans bed, and from the tomato bed. There's about 2-3 wheelbarrow loads of the hateful stuff! Unfortunately, I left this too late and there were a lot of seeds dropped. I will do there as I did in the eastern beds: let the seeds germinate, then hoe them out, and repeat repeat repeat. It's hard to get rid of, but not impossible if you just keep after it. The damn stuff comes up, flowers, and sets seeds so FAST! One morning you see a seedling, two days later, there's ripe seed on it!
My peas were a bust this year. They came up fairly nicely, but then a bunny chewed them. Fenced them off and they regrew, then we had so much cool weather and rain they did not flower until late. Then we had a very hot spell and that stopped the flowering. Finally got some peas on them, then this heat wave hit and the whole patch collapsed and turned yellow. So all I've got are a handful of pea pods. Oh well. Peas are always an "iffy" thing here... I never used to grow them, then started, and now I'm seriously thinking I won't bother again. Unless I can learn to plant them as a fall crop? It's just way too much trouble for way too little reward, and then you know you buy frozen peas and they are as good as fresh.
Picked a nice "mess" of green beans from the Provider plants that were put in between the pea rows. AFter I weeded and harvested the beans, I gave them a good drink and I'm hoping they'll start really pumping out the beans.
Harvested two heads of Faro cabbage yesterday, one for me, one for a neighbor. Excellent shape, nice size, good hard heads, fantastic flavor. I made half of one head into a big bowl of cole slaw.
Harvested one head of Chinese cabbage. I better get in there and use that up; it really does not like this very hot weather. I made what I call "Chinese holupki".... I use loose sausage mixed with chopped onions, grated carrots, a 1/2 teaspoon Five Spice Powder (you can omit this), and a beaten egg as the filling. Wrap small amounts of the meat in Chinese cabbage leaves (no need to precook the leaves) and put them in a shallow pan on top the stove that you've heated up with a little oil and chopped garlic. In a cup, Mix up 2 Tablespoons of sugar, 2 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce, 1 teaspoon hoisin sauce, 1 teaspoon fish sauce and maybe a half/or three-quarters cup of water. Pour this over the cabbage rolls and simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Then stir in a little cornstarch/water mixture to lightly thicken and serve over rice. The Chinese cabbage is much much finer textured and milder than regular cabbage...almost like lettuce rather than cabbage and this is really good. I also added some snow peas from the garden for the last 6-7 minutes of cooking time...you want them crunchy, not soft.
I spent a couple of long hot hours yesterday driving around getting estimates to fix some rust on the pickup truck. I am astounded that there are actually people out there who believe a small piece of shaped metal and a few hours of work is worth $900. I'm going to have to think about this....
In my ramblings, I passed Lowe's so stopped in to see if they had copper/sulfur powder (they did not: just sulfur...which is strange because I bought copper/sulfur there last summer...). And to see if they had a small bag of plain peat moss. They did not. By mistake I bought a bag of Miracle Gro brand peat moss a while back to pot on my carnivorous plants but the man who sold me the seeds made me swear by all that's holy that I would not, never, no sir, not never put any sort of feed in, on, or near them. So I need just a small amount of plain peat moss and all Lowe's sells are those giant bales. Anyways, as always, I checked out the Clearance rack and pot a small pot of calla lilies. I've wanted them since I saw this absolutely fairy-tale picture of a garden in Italy with calla lilies cascading down either side of a ferny, mossy, babbling brook, and these small softly tinted varieties are really pretty. I want to grow them in a pot in the Jungle Cliff area, then bring them in for winter. (The Jungle Cliff area is really looking nice lately. I think I'm almost there!)
My family has a story about calla lilies. When my mom and dad were getting married way back in the 1930s, my mother wanted her favorite flowers for her bridal bouquet, daisies. But in their wedding picture, she's holding this honking huge bouquet of calla lilies and ferns and despite the glowing smile, there's this tiny hint of disappointment on the bride's face. The florist got her order mixed up with some "Italian girl's" order and the brides ended up with each other's bouquets. So, from a young age, I've always known what calla lilies were and was brought up to despise and loathe them. *lol* My mom often told me how really disappointed she was that she had to go to the altar not carrying her favorite flowers. When she passed away in 2004, I made sure that everyone who sent flowers to the church for her funeral mass sent daisies. Her urn was wreathed in daisies and there were banks of daisies all over the place. So my mom finally got her daisies.