Our reprieve of cool dry sunny weather is over. It's getting hazy, hot and humid again, but it is almost July so that's to be expected. I didn't get much done in the garden yesterday (Saturday). Got the cabbage bed weeded; those cabbages are ready to harvest. I'm not sure what to put into the bare ground that will be left. I finally got those lovely plants that I bought at Lurgan's over a week ago into the ground. The Japanese forest grass and the berengeria went into the Jungle Cliff area, the white astilbe into the shade garden below the arbor, and the pink veronica into the Below the Deck garden. I've still got some seed-started zinnias to set out and a wheelbarrow load of cannas and elephant ear that are leafed out and growing well. I think they might find a spot near the bottom of the Below the Deck Garden. I've also got some big pots of nicely growing dahlias that I should plant out as the early summer flowers like daylilies start to fade.
Quite a few years ago, I bought a dozen daylilies called "King of Hearts" (they were a special offer). They turned out not to be the deep pink shade I thought they were, more a melon pink, but no matter. As a "freebie" the vendor included a root of a daylily called "Heart of Africa." Today, for the first time, it bloomed. Jaw dropping. The deepest, darkest purple I've ever seen in a daylily, a rich maroon-black. It's been so long since I first got it, I had to stand there and try to remember what it was. It's up in the Storybook Garden, but it deserves a much more prominent place. Strange, the daylilies that I bought really arent' very eye catching, they're growing in a clump near the corner of the veg, but this random freebie is awesome.
I made 5 small jars of black raspberry jam yesterday but dang it the stuff did not set up well. I am the first to admit I am not that great at jelly and jam making. I lack the steely nerves and grim resolve required to let the stuff boil up furiously for the required length of time. Oh well, it tastes good, only a bit runny. I think I may have used too little pectin too.
This morning (Sunday), it was fairly cool early on so I decided to do a bit more work on that downed apple tree. What a mess. It was a huge tree and, like most mature apple trees, very "branchy." It looks like it split in two when it fell over and the tangle is unbelievable. To make matters worse, there's a huge festoon of poison ivy twined up into the fallen tree. I got a lot more cut away and hauled out, but there's still an enormous amount to go. At least I was able to get into the tangle and assess things. Half of the big lilac is destroyed; I went ahead and cut that out. It looks like a young wild cherry tree is very badly bent, but not broken over so it might straighten up with time and careful pruning. I was at least able to lift a very big heavy branch off that to allow it to begin to straighten up. And the fallen tree badly cracked a big limb on the surviving apple tree, so that will have to be removed. This is not exactly a tragedy because I was sort of thinking of removing that limb anyways last fall because it is low hanging and sort of "snakes" out from the main trunk at an awkward angle. Getting it out will open up the area under the tree and make it a lot easier to keep neat.
I'll need to wait for a really cool morning, get out there early in long pants, long sleeves, gloves, socks and boots and tackle that poison ivy. That absolutely has to come out of the tangle before anything else can be done about actually cutting up and removing the biggest chunks of the tree. In the meantime, I can keep working around it, getting the smaller stuff cleared out. Ugh.
The really blessed bit of luck was that the fallen tree barely missed the wires running from the pole to our house...by inches. There's a big limb sticking up right beside the lowest wire but not touching it. If it had snagged, I'd be without telephone service for sure. The electric wire is much higher and not near the branches.
I started some broccoli and cauliflower for a fall garden. My broc was a total failure this year; everything I planted bolted right out of the ground. This is a shame because I've only this past year learned how to successfully freeze broccoli and I was really looking forward to stocking the freezer with it for winter. I've tried--rather half-heartedly I admit-- having fall grown broc and cauliflower before but never had much luck with it. I'm hoping to be a bit more on the ball with these and maybe having something to show for it. This year, after I set it into the veg I'll tent it with garden fleece to keep the bugs off. Most years, the cabbage worms just devastate anything planted late.
I swear it's like eating cashews. I get next to a big downed tree with a lopper in my hand and *snip*. There, that's one branch gone. Maybe I could *snip* take another. And since I'm in there, *snip* another. and another and another. *LOL* Well, I got the entire huge maple in the Woodland completely stripped down. All that's left is the big telephone pole size trunk lying wedged above the path. It's a good 18 inches in diameter so that will require some help. The two big pine tree tops are gone. I kept snipping and lopping at them and now there's just bare trunks. I was able to saw one into two long pieces and move them into position as edges along the path, the other one is still in one very long piece (another telephone pole!) that I'll need some help with. The amount of brush these downed trees generated was stupendous. I must have hauled 20 loads up that frigging hill to the brush fence. Finally I said enough and loaded up the pickup truck, drove it to the dump, the guy only charged me $3 (instead of the usual 12). You have to unload yourself, but really that was just grab hold of the bottom of the load and heave and it popped out. I brought home a truckload of grass clippings to mulch the veg. At that price I went ahead and made up a second load and took that up to the dump too. It's good value; probably in September I'll be bringing those branches back as ground up FREE mulch!
Today I had to mow the lawn, and of course there's the housework that sits there staring sullenly at you until you get the laundry into the washing machine and floors vac'd and scrubbed. But in mowing the lawn I realized that part of the apple tree that fell over is sticking out into the lawn, so I decided to at least make a stab at that. It's a really bad tangle. The tree fell on top of and into the other apple tree and also a big lilac, all woven and twisted together. In fact, the only way I could see what was going on was because the down tree's leaves are wilted. It's the only way to tell what is what. I started lopping and snipping my way into that tangle, but lordy it's tricky. Everything is under so much pressure and tension. Kind of felt like one of those scenes in a movie where the bomb squad guy has to decide which wire to snip or else Kaplooie! At one point I snipped through a slender branch and it whipped back and swatted me a good one across the neck. From that point on, I was being even MORE careful *HA*. I managed to get several very big branches cut away and hauled out so at least the lilac has some of the weight off it and hopefully will start to straighten up. I'd like to try to get as much weight off the surviving apple tree as I can so it doesn't start to break apart. But I made myself quit because I don't want to overdo it and not be able to lift my arms tomorrow, after all that sawing.
Picked over a quart of black raspberries again yesterday, so definitely will be making some jam. Harvested all my peas and removed the plants. The soapy water did kill off the aphids/white fly, but the plants looked so damaged I decided they weren't worth keeping, not with July's heat coming on. I got about 3 quarts of shelled out peas, so that's pretty good for such a small patch. Blanched and froze most; we'll have some with supper tonight.
My new cherry tree (I think maybe 4-5 years old?) has enough cherries on it for the first time that I might be able to make a pie. I hope it thrives. We had a cherry tree here for many years that would be so loaded with cherries that we'd spend days picking and picking and invariably after we were glutted with cherries...cherry jam, cherry wine, cherry pies, cherry pie filling, cherry you name it... somebody would pull into the driveway and say "You really ought to pick those cherries." The tree finally died of old age and we removed it. This new tree was planted the next year after that, so it's been a while since we had a cherry harvest.
The weather has been very nice, cool at night, not too hot during the day, and blessedly low humidity. I think we're forecast for some rain this weekend. My sweet corn is nearly hip high so that's doing well. I see some very small green tomatoes forming. and some tiny green beans. The broad beans are covered in HUGE pods, so I'll try harvesting those this weekend. Still getting lettuce from those plants that were seed-started last FALL...they overwintered beautifully and I continue to pick leaves from them. Dug up a couple of stray potato plants that came up in the pea patch and we had baby new potatoes with grilled bratwurst. I simply scrubbed and boiled the potatoes, then sauteed onions in butter and a little sprinkle of brown sugar and salt. Very tasty!
I was just telling GrdnGuru that we had been spared the big storm that tore up their garden a week ago, but we got it yesterday! Around 5:30 pm this tremendous storm blew through, high wind, heavy rain, thunder and lightning. I really thought at one point maybe a tornado was coming because debris was flying horizontally across the windows. I was looking out the front windows and saw the power lines across the road snap, big shower of sparks. We're not on that "circuit" so our power never blinked, but the house across the road is dark. I called the utility company right away to report lines down. Later, after the storm, I was out walking around the property assessing damage and I saw the girl come home from work, I told her not to go in her back yard. The utility company didn't come out til around 8 pm and their house is still dark. I guess there must be a lot of damage to the entire area.
We did not have any damage to house, outbuildings, vehicles etc. except there's a shingle torn off our roof. But wow, do we have tree damage. In the front, the big river birch had a lot of smaller limbs torn off and one very big one that landed on the hedge. I got that all cleaned up yesterday.
Above the house, several enormous branches came down off the two silver maples (thank god we had those big limbs removed from one of the maples this spring!). One narrowly missed crushing the grape arbor. I got both of those also dealt with yesterday. After the storm passed, the sun came out and it was calm steamy and hot. Spent a lot of time just going around the place picking up limbs and hauling them to the brush fence.
Up in the Asian Garden, one of the maples has a main trunk snapped off about 10 feet from the ground and (weird) laying southward. The wind came from the north-northwest, so there was some rotation there. I haven't been able to get in there to see if anything else is down, but I don't think so.
One of the two ancient apple trees on our south border fell over. I haven't been able to get in there to see what else, but from the looks of it I think it may have taken another tree with it. I'm surprised I haven't heard from our neighbor but I guess since the tree fell into our property he figures it's my responsibility. I'm just glad it didn't fall the other way and hit the power lines.
Down in the Woodland I have some major damage. Those two dead pines that partially snapped off months ago completely snapped off, so two gigantic tree tops are down. A main stem of one of the silver maples broke over and it's lying wedged across a couple of other trees, like a telephone pole. Again, I don't know what else may be down because I couldn't get in there to assess things. There's a couple of very big branches down blocking the paths, and one across the Pond Circle. I think I'll try to tackle that today if this rain lets up.
It went from being a calm mild evening/night to pouring rain today. I am trying to work up the gumption to get on the poncho and get out there. Fortunately, nothing that's down is so vital that it has to be dealt with right away. I can peck away at all this mess all summer long and that's probably what I'll end up doing. I figure I can get most of the brushy stuff cut down and hauled away with handsaws and the big trunks I'll get someone with a chainsaw to come in. Maybe my friend T. will come over later in the summer if I buy him a case of beer!
Amazingly, the sweet corn, bean towers, and tomato cages didn't fall over, no damage to the veg that I can see. I've got some lovely cabbages down there and I should probably harvest a couple of heads and start some saurkraut this week. Plus, nothing better than steamed cabbage as a side. It's too bad cabbage gets a bad wrap as a veg because fresh and lightly steamed until tender, it can be as sweet as sweet corn.
Well, those chickens aren't going to feed themselves, so I better get the boots on and get out there! At least I don't need to water the garden!
I really enjoyed the trip to Lurgan's on Thursday. The selection was a bit picked over, being mid-June, but I got a lovely white astilbe for the shade garden below the grape arbor. That garden has come up in blue and white and I'd like to continue that theme. This spring it was spectacular, white violets, blue forget me nots (Brugmansia), and white tulips. Now it's white Annabelle hydrangea, white Chinese dogwood, and blue hydrangeas. The only "off" notes are the pale pink climbing rose (which I vow and swear is coming out of there this fall...I've been meaning to dig it out and move it for years now) and later the orange tiger lilies which I think I will leave in place simply because they're happy where they are.
I also got a pink Veronica for the Below the Deck garden. A Japanese forest grass and berengeria for the Jungle Cliff pond area. And two very intriguing Coleus (on discount!) for pots on the deck. I am going to take cuttings from the coleus and try rooting them in a glass of water. My mom used to do that.
We've had a week of clear cool weather but today the humidity is up, the sky is solid overcast. I don't know if we're going to get rain or not but I hope so. The more rain we get this time of year, the better. If it can keep raining off and on thru June, then at least there's a chance of a good summer. We almost always have a 6-8 week stretch of no rain at all and that can be a real bugger if it comes in early June because then everythign struggles just to get going. (Praying for rain and cooler temps for the West; I can't imagine enduring those heat wave temps.)
I spent the morning yesterday in the Woodland, clearing garlic mustard out of the new Glade area. The ostrich ferns and mini-comfrey I put in there last fall/winter are doing very well. Plus a small patch of sweet woodruff that has been just toddling along for years has suddenly decided it's very happy and become HUGE. Very glad to see it. I want the Glade to be just groundcover with spring bulbs (aconites, species crocus, etc.) coming up. The small trees I set into that area are also doing well, except for a mimosa that gave up the ghost. It might just be a bit too shady for that. Surprised and pleased to see that a honey locust I transplanted into the Pine Gap (which edges the Glade) is alive and growing; on first inspection this spring I thought it was completely dead but new growth is shooting from the base. I was just telling my friend Jacob it's best not to give up hope on plants too soon. Roots can do amazing resurrections. I think I spotted a struggling Japanese painted fern in there and I should go back and see if I can find it. If so, I'll move it to the Under the Steps garden.
Picked a cup of black raspberries the other day; I really really need to get some covers on those bushes to keep the birds from eating all the berries. It was very hard to remove all the flowers from the new strawberry beds, but I did it. The plants are doing beautifully and I'm hoping that next year I'll have loads of berries. Looks like we may get a fair crop from the red raspberries later this summer; I still haven't decided where I'll put a new bed of those.
Well, I think I'll get the workies on and tackle the Storybook Garden. That Monster Grass is coming back with a vengeance in the upper part of that garden and this is the perfect time to get it. It's got tall seed heads right now, so what I do is snip the grass back to a few inches, then soak it with Roundup. It's the only thing that works and even then it sometimes comes back. I'd really like to get some progress done up there. I'm finding that those farther-flung garden areas are much harder for me to keep on top of simply because they are "out of sight out of mind." Fortunately though, I see that as I get areas established, they usually don't need much more than a once a month "tidy" to keep them going. It's the early years that are the toughest, when the soil is freshly disturbed and the weeds just keep coming. Bunny Guiness recommends that you keep the planting in farther out areas increasingly simpler as you move out away from the house. That's really wise advice. It's why I've decided to plant the Glade in nothing but very vigorous ground covers and that's what I've decided to do in the Asian Garden as well. The Storybook Garden I am trying to work as a sort of "intermediate" garden...lots of really tough work horse plants like peonies and iris that dont' require a lot of water/fussing, plus flowering shrubs and early spring bulbs. I moved the salvias and phlox out of there...they need too much water/work and are doing much better near the house in the Below the Deck garden.
The past two mornings have been downright chilly! Yesterday it was 52F at 7 am. This morning 50F at 7 am. This is a wonderful reprieve right before the really bad heat and humidity set in so I'm not complaining. Clear skies too, absolutely stunning weather, the kind I remember from my childhood in the western PA mountains. My mom called it "sweater weather".
Tuesday morning I spent in the Woodland, pulling enormous quantities of garlic mustard. I filled six wheelbarrow loads, heaping full, and I'm not halfway done yet. I've read repeatedly that garlic mustard is a perennial, but I think it is a biennial, like other members of the brassica/mustard family. It seems to come in "waves"...one year, almost nothing, then the next it's everywhere. What I believe is that on the "off" years, all that you see is the flat, broad leaves which actually look very nice as a groundcover. Then, the next spring, up shoot the flower stems. In flower, it's a pretty springtime plant, delicate airy white blooms. But as it sets seed it starts to get very ugly and that's where I am at right now. Plus, a botanist friend once told me that garlic mustard emits a chemical that suppresses the germination of other species' seeds. I've noticed as I pull it that nothing (NOTHING) is sprouted underneath. It doesn't kill off existing plants, but no seedlings of any kind around it.
I loaded up the truck with the pulled weeds and I'm going to take them to the recycling center/composting area to dump. I have to get them off the property and I think the composting process up there is hot enough to kill off the developing seeds.
We got our water system back up and running. Needed a new well pump, a new switch and a new pressure tank. I had no idea how the water pressure was dropping slowly over the past several years until they put in the new pressure tank. Holy cow! My shower nearly knocked me over *HA*. Did you know it does NOT take 5 minutes to fill the average tea kettle? Turn the tap, and presto, filled. Who knew?
Got a discounted clematis "Pink Champagne" at Walmart and put that in yesterday, down by the greenhouse, where it can climb the veg garden fence. I've got two other clematis that I think I may need to move. They are along the wood rail fence of the south long border, in the shade of the big wild cherry tree. I don't think of that spot as shady, but they refuse to bloom so I'm thinking they need more sun. Lots of viney growth, just never any flowers. It's too bad too, because one is 'Niobe" a deep deep crimson. It's been so long I don't remember what the other one is! I've also got a very tiny vitecella clematis on the north facing veg garden fence. It's just this year putting on some real growth. In fact, I should get down there and tie it up the fence. That one was a real find. It was on a very deep discount scramble table at Tractor Supply a couple years ago; I don't think anyone knew what it was. It was tiny, but I only paid $1 for it and if it does well (I believe it's "Betty Corning') it should be spectacular in another year or so.
I want to get back to garlic mustard pulling later today, but, on the advice of a wise friend, I am taking the morning off and heading north. I haven't been to Lurgan's Nursery in 2 years and I need to play hooky today. I need some "me time." The past 18 months feel like one long stretch of laundry, litter boxes, book edits, vet visits, weeds, chickens, and dirty pots and pans. I'm going to browse Lurgan's huge grounds, maybe buy something for my garden, then stop and have lunch at a restaurant. If I feel like it, I may even stop in Chambersburg Hobby Lobby and pick up some card-making supplies. Spend. I want to spend. But only if I find it on the discount rack.