A week of on and off rain and the green world has just exploded with fresh growth. Right now, I feel like I'm safest just standing back out of the way! I got into the much expanded shade garden that is surrounding the grape arbor (the grape arbor itself is in sun, but the slope below it is shaded by an arborvitae hedge). Getting those couple of huge branches taken off one of the big silver maples to the south of this area really opened it up and everything in it is growing like I've never seen before. I've got some hydrangeas in there that have just sort of mooched along for years, but this year I'm seeing a lot of flowers for the first time.
I spent all of yesterday morning in this section just doing some much needed tidying. Catnip has sprouted up all over the place, huge towering plants 5 feet high. I cut a lot of them back to knee height, removed a good number altogether. I like having it around, the bees love it, the cats enjoy it, but it can get unruly, especially as it starts to fade. The clumps collapse outward so that the ripe seeds can spread, and they tend to smother anything around them. I always find it so interesting to see how plants work to ensure the next generation gets a good start.
Cut down and pulled out some paper mulberry shoots that are still popping up here and there. But I was very pleased to see that the big main stump and a couple of big secondary stumps are completely dead. This proves that cutting the shoots back and spraying with roundup does kill the roots. This is a relief because for a while there I was afraid I'd be battling this invasive tree forever.
My water iris 'Louisiana Gamecock' is in full glory in the biggest Pond Circle pond, where it has nearly filled the basin, and also in the Jungle Cliff small pond. Just beautiful, deep dark purple petals like rich velvet. This morning the first of the yellow water iris has also bloomed; it is very pretty but looks a little wishy-washy next to its neighbor.
Got the Roma tomatoes mulched with grass clippings I hauled in late last week. Those clippings sat all weekend in the truck, in the pouring rain, so you can imagine what they were like. But it made a good job and I had enough to also mulch the Big Boy row and the peppers. I still need another truckload to do the sweet potatoes. I should probably advertise for clippings on Freecycle, but I'm afraid that people will just start dumping bags of grass clippings in the driveway if I do. Probly safer to just go get them at the dump.
No water. I got up this morning to a very slow stream of water in the kitchen. As the morning went on, slower and slower. I have the "well guy" coming over this morning. I'm hoping it's just a switch or something and that they don't need to pull out the well pump. At any rate, I am probably going to be told I need to replace some of the water equipment because everything is about 34 years old (except the pump, which was replaced once or twice?). I just hope the guy doesn't "soak" me too bad! *yuk yuk* Oh come on, it was funny...
Spent the entire morning in the Below the Deck garden, deadheading peonies, iris, cutting back the spurge (a "wild" variety that looks pretty neat very early in the spring, with it's acid green flowers and sort of frondy leaves, but which dies a very slow and ugly death. I cut it right back to the ground every June), and pulling more Canada thistle and spent clumps of fleabane. I also removed the temporary fence I put up in late winter to keep the hens out of the lower section; the asters and cannas, etc. that I planted in there are firmly rooted and growing so I'm not worried about the hens kicking them out.
I've got a big problem with the Canada Thistle and a form of perennial bindweed that just runs rampant throughout the lower section of the Below the Deck garden. I know that what I should do is refrain from pulling the festoons of bindweed and instead cut it down to a few feet and then spray it with roundup, but it's so nasty I just can't stop myself heaving it all out of the ground as much as possible. Same with the thistles. The best way to keep them in check is to snip them off about 1 foot above the soil then spray with roundup. But it's just so tempting to get a hold of one and pull it right out. I usually get a huge long tap root and anybody would think, well, that's that. It won't be coming back. Na uh. Danged stuff has lateral roots like spaghetti very deep underground and it always (ALWAYS) comes back.
The cleanup took a lot longer than I anticipated so not much else done except for some tidying as I moved around the property to dump loads of weeds, etc. in the barrow. Tomorrow I'd like to set out the zinnias I started indoors in early spring; they'll go into the Below the Deck garden.
We totaled nearly 2 inches of rain in 2 days from this last storm. Everything is pretty much flattened from the relentless water, but nothing is damaged and I know that one day of sunshine and everything will be growing like blazes. My patch of sweet corn looks like it doubled in size in those 2 days.
Lots of rain. It started raining in earnest (and here too! *yuk, yuk*) yesterday around noon, and it's continued with on and off heavy rain overnight and into today. I estimate we got about 3/4 inch, maybe more.
I planted out my cukes, yellow summer squash, and zuchinni, all of which I started in pots earlier. This is the first time I've ever tried this; usually I just direct seed them. I don't think it bought me a lot of time though, so I might not do this next year. I think I'll also direct seed some of the same things to get later crop.
Harvested a nice little bunch of carrots from seeds I started way back in January in a deep pot. Again, I don't think that really bought me a lot of time so I don't think it's worth the trouble. If I direct seed carrots very late in the fall, let them overwinter, I'll probably get just as good or better a crop next year.
Peas look terrible. I'm going to spray them with soapy water again once the rain stops.
Harvested enough rhubarb to make 4 pints of preserves, plus 1 pint for eating now. Dang it, only 1 pint sealed, so I'll have to store all 4 pints in the downstairs fridge. I hope this was just me, and not the fact that I'm using those jars B. gave me OR those lids I ordered online (although I think I did order them from the Ball company and you'd assume they would be ok.)
Got the driveway bed and the front bed tidied up. I have a pedestal in the Front Bed with a small solar lantern on it. This year it's nearly invisible behind ferns, lilies, etc. so I moved the pedestal forward but the lantern looks too small and stingy. I would like to put my Japanese lantern (concrete) on it, but to do that I'll need to make some sort of base for the top of the pedestal. I might try casting one out of concrete, using one of those black plastic oil drip pans that I got from Dollar Tree for $1. They are really handy to have around the garden, they make great drip pans for big pots.
Spotted another groundhog nosing around the garden shed yesterday so I bought a cantaloupe and I'll have to set up the hav-a-hart trap today. I don't like doing this, but I can't have more damage. My friend B was upset because one of her dogs killed a young groundhog on her property; they have a den under her pool. She doesn't have a garden, so she looks on them as sort of pets.
It's really hot here, and the humidity the past few days has been brutal. After getting very heavy rain about 4 days ago, everything green is just loving it though. The grass is growing so fast, our normal every-10-days schedule is now every 7 days. By noon, it's too hot for me to work outside but I have been getting a lot done early in the mornings.
I'm finally out from under the crushing work deadlines so now I can get out in the garden and not feel guilty about it. Yesterday and today I concentrated again on the veg because that's where the weeds are always worst. I need to get up to the recycling center and see if I can get a few bags of grass clippings to use as mulch on my tomatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes. They really seem to like the extra nitrogen too.
I'm trying also to get a few other things done as they present themselves. For instance, this morning, after weeding and tidying in the veg, I did a little work on the brick/concrete pad outside the veg garden gate. One corner was a bit low and the flower bed beside it was a bit higher and the hens have been kicking mud and mulch onto the pad since last fall. What a mess. And naturally, the dirt gets into the crevices between and weeds sprout. So I pried up the corner, reset it higher, put in a couple of boards along the edge to act as "edger" to the bed and keep the dirt from spilling out. Then weeded and swept the entire pad. Looks much better. Once it's cleaner, from rain or from repeated sweeping, I want to get out the cheap stain and color the concrete brick red. That was a pretty good idea...the concrete pad in front of the garden shed really looks like it's made of laid brick. The stain held up pretty well through the winter, but I noticed that the later sections that I did, where I did not mix in any oil-based stain, seem to have faded/worn away a bit more. Next batch I'll add in the oil-based stain to the latex stain. It doesn't exactly mix in, but I guess it's enough that it sort of helps the pigment penetrate and stick better.
Lots of dead heading and tidying up...the peonies really didn't get to shine this year. I had loads of bloom, but the sudden heat just melted most of them within a few days. I'm glad that my very early blooming white tree peony had a long stretch of cool/cold weather, those blooms lasted for weeks!
I'm utterly disgusted with my asparagus. I started plants from seed about 3-4 years ago (I've lost track) and put them into a spot where I thought they would do very well. Apparently I was wrong. Skinny, spindly things, I was able to get a tiny handful of stalks to eat this spring. I've been coddling and feeding and watering, mulching that patch....and this morning, it's devastated by Asparagus beetle. That's it. I'm cutting it to the ground. I'll start again next year. I decided that since Im taking out the black raspberry patch in the veg and moving it over one bed, I'll renew the soil in that bed, add lots of sand, and make that the asparagus bed. And try again. It just makes me so depressed because I used to have an excellent asparagus patch in the veg and stupidly tried to move it when I expanded the veg. I can't remember where the good original patch was, but I suspect it might have been where the black raspberries are now. I'm tired of fighting asparagus.
Having fried chicken and cauliflower for supper tonight, the last of the heads from the veg. I'm trying to get in as much of the romaine and iceberg lettuce as possible because it wants to bolt. The romaine did pretty well; the iceberg, as usual, did only mediocre and I lost half the heads before they developed. Loose leaf lettuce always does much better for me, it seems to take the heat a bit better than the head varieties.
Peas are suddenly covered in aphids/whitefly. I sprayed the entire row with soapy water and hope that will solve the problem. Never again. I hate growing peas. Almost every year , I get cajoled into growing them and when I do, I always end up thinking it is not worth the effort. Some veg, you just can't beat it fresh out of the garden: sweet corn, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes... But peas? Frozen peas are every bit as good (in my opinion) as fresh and when I factor in the labor of growing, harvesting, shelling, etc. it is just not worth it. And now aphids. Bah. *hack, spit* Never a'gin.
My broad beans are setting pods. This is only the second time I've grown them and last year I did not know what to do with them and the entire (very small) crop went to waste because I dithered around and waited for E (who talked me into planting) to tell me what to do with them and she din't. *HA* This year, I'm picking them young and cooking them like you would green beans, which is, according to the British cooking show I watched, an acceptable way of preparing them. WHen they get bigger, you shell them out and cook the beans like you would limas.
Today was the big bad day for the two "foster" kittens. I had to turn them over to the animal shelter so they could take them all the way to Gettysburg to be spayed/neutered and microchipped. Fortunately, they were done and back by 1 p.m. so I got them home. They are now officially MY cats: I paid the adoption fee, signed the papers and got them the hell outta there. Poor things are exhausted and finally sleeping quietly. the boy was hyperactive for a couple of hours after we got home; I suspect the vet used buphinorphren as a pain killer and it's been my experience that some cats have what is known as a paradoxical reaction to it: instead of sedating them, it makes them excited and hyperactive. My own vet knows never to use it with my cats; it's permanently in their records, but this unknown vet must have used it on Bart. He finally collapsed and will probably sleep for a few more hours. I'm really not happy about all this; I think that the little girl (Goldie) is way too small for surgery like this and she looks very poorly, very droopy and sad. I gave her some warm kitten milk and boiled chicken, got her tucked up in her bed and she's also sleeping quietly. Hopefully by this time tomorrow we'll be back to normal.
I'm in the home stretch with the "dying kids" book, just a few more hours of work and it's outta here. What a relief. I finally feel like I have time to devote to LIFE instead of editing.
I've been trying to spend at least an hour every morning in the garden. This time of year, it's easy to fill up that hour. I try to plan what I need to do, prioritize things, but seriously....just plunk down with a basket and a pair of secateurs anywhere on the property and I'll be busy for an hour. Mostly I've been concentrating on deadheading and tidying up the last of the late spring flowers (iris are almost completely gone over, peonies fading, roses coming into their own). This morning I did a lot; I got all the spent celadine removed from several beds, removed all the spent iris stems, and did a careful once-over of the Top Border iris for iris borers. I found 5 of the little monsters, none bigger than about a half inch, all still in the leaves. This makes probably 15 that I've found over the past 2 weeks, in various iris clumps. This is astounding considering how diligently I went through my iris last fall, digging them up, digging out borers, replanting and even sprinkling some of that Spectracide around the Top Border iris. Constant vigilance. That's the only thing that will finally control and defeat iris borer. I've really developed an eagle eye for the tell tale signs of borers...look for an iris leave that has a tattered wet or greasy looking edge. If you pull it out (or cut it as close to ground level as you can), and then use a fingernail to split the leaf, you'll almost invariably find a small borer in there munching his way downward. When the borer eventually reaches the base of the leaf, he chews his way into the rhizome and that's when you have real trouble. They can eat the entire rhizome and kill the iris. Im determined to get rid of these pests. I love iris and I would love to have many more varieties, but that's not going to happen if I can't get a handle on these borers.
I've also been bringing out my dahlias from the greenhouse and planting them out in the borders, wherever I find an empty spot (usually whereever the annual celadines or fleabanes have come out). So far I've put in five nice big plants. I think I've got 5 or 6 still in the GH, so those will probably get planted out this weekend. I need to spot in a few in the circular island bed in the middle of the veg.
The veg is suffering from benign neglect, but steaming along despite the weeds. A couple days ago, I got one patch of beans and cabbage weeded, weeded along the russet potatoes, and planted out my cantaloupe plants. This morning I got the second bean patch weeded, cleaned up the circular center bed, and weeded and dusted my cabbages (which are really getting chewed up by cabbage moth caterpillars). I've been harvesting various lettuces and radishes pretty regularly. Very disappointed in the purchased broccoli plants...they bolted right out, never set heads at all. I think I'll still go ahead and harvest the tops for boiled greens, but not at all pleased with this. Same thing happened with my own seed-started chinese cabbage. Very few germinated and the couple that did, went straight to flower. I thought direct seeding them and the pak choi would be ok, but it did not work this year. Next year, back to starting them indoors and setting them out when I set out the earliest cabbages. The purchased cauliflower plants, on the other hand, have been stellar. I wish I had bought more. All four produced lovely sweet heads. I have one more to harvest for supper tomorrow night.
I've been lazy about the rhubarb this year, so I should get in there and pull a few stems and put up some pints for winter. I finally FINALLY got 100 canning jar lids delivered, had to order them online, I can't find them anywhere locally. Now that I have lids, I won't be so stingy about getting things in jars.
The black raspberries are covered in green berries, but I've learned from sad experience that's no guarantee I'm going to get a good crop. That bed is slowly petering out and this will be its last year. I've already got two new named varieties in the ground in a new bed area; I'll be layering those and hope to get at least a total of 6 plants by fall to start the new bed. I'll probably be doing the same for the red raspberries too; I just haven't decided where to locate the new patch.
For the first time in YEARS my Liberty apple has a lot of little fruits on it. Two things: We let it get way out of hand, way too big and shaggy and then I removed the Yellow Delicious that was acting as it's pollinator. That tree had to come out because it was leaning so far over it was beginning to uproot and it was tearing up the brick sidewalk in the Pond Circle. I thought that since I had two well grown fruiting crabapples nearby, they would act as pollinators for Liberty, but apparently not. Last year, I planted a new Yellow Delicious in another location and it blossomed for the first time this spring. And we did some pretty drastic pruning on the Liberty last year too. Result: Apples on the Liberty. I'm going to wait until July or August and then get in there and do more pruning. It really has gotten out of shape.
And that about catches me up here!