I feel like I'm busy, busy, busy, but there's not much of note to talk about. I got 7 quarts of green beans canned yesterday morning, with 2 more quarts fresh beans in the fridge for supper the next couple of days. We had a spectacular day Saturday, cool clear breeze out of the north...I spent the entire day doing "deep cleaning" housework. Laundered bedspreads, carpets, slip covers, curtains, etc. A big pile of cat bedding; some will have to wait for another day.
I need to get into the veg and put cages up. I think that deer has come back, noticed more chewed off leaves on the sweets than I thought. I put cages over the sweets and I need to get something over my cukes too, I noticed a couple of top leaves nibbled off. Also need to get the sprayer out, with that stinky Liquid Fence. I was going to do that yesterday, but got side-tracked. I tell you, I'm starting to hate veg gardening. I feel like all I do is fight the tide.
I've been lazy about getting a second seeding of anything into the veg. I really ought to plant beets and carrots. My red beets did not germinate at all well this spring. I am going to try using up what I have and buy fresh in the spring...I'm tired of planting seeds that don't come up. Beets are always a hit or miss thing for me. Some years I have more than I can shake a stick at, other years, nada. Past couple years have been nothing or next to nothing.
One thing I've noticed is that for the first time, the "no till" method really worked for me in the veg. I've tried it before and I've always said it did not work for me because of my heavy clay. But I've been adding sand (in addition to the tons of compost I've added over the yars) to a lot of the beds for the past couple of years and apparently that did the trick. This spring for the first time in my history, I did not "turn over" any of the garden beds, just planted directly into them. Everything is doing very well, and I'm noticing a lot less weeds. The weeds are worst where I worked the soil the most; the carrots/beets/parsnip/lettuce bed, where I raked the soil pretty well to make a soft seed bed. Usually by mid July the galinsoga weed is like a tall carpet over the entire garden, this year, not so bad. I think the addition of sand opened up the heavy clay enough so that my germinating veg seed are getting off to a good start, instead of struggling to get roots down into clay.
I'd like to try to start some coneflower seeds. I've been seeing some big beds of coneflowers in other gardens around town and it's really pretty especially at this time of the year when things start to fade a bit. Also, last year, I bought a selection (on clearance of course!) of daylilies from Smokie's Garden, all of which were noted as "mid season" or "late season." They are really doing nicely for me and I'm glad to see the color is extending into July. Another surprise was a small clump of liatris that I don't even remember planting...up and flowering and the color (a sort of rosy lavender) looks great with my dark reddish purple butterfly bush.
I am not very good at "designing" a flower border for color. What I've been doing the past several years is just planting stuff wherever in the border that fronts the veg. It's sort of my "experimental" border. I get to see what the flowers look like, when they bloom, and how the colors work. Sometimes I get very lucky and the combinations are great. This summer the white flowered Loosestrife and the bright red monarda bloomed simultaneously AND intertwined. What a spectacular combination! And since both are fairly...let us say "vigorous" growers, they really blend and twine together to form a big patch. Definitely going to put them together in other areas where they can do their thing without getting too "thuggish".
Back into the soup today weather-wise. But we've been getting regular, moderate rain (no damaging deluges so far) and to have rain in July here in Southcentral PA is always a blessing.
This morning (Monday) I had every intention of tackling some cleanup/tidying in the Iris Border, but instead ended up doing a major tidy in the little garden above the grape arbor and on into the Asian Garden. I also couldn't resist getting the saw and loppers out and taking at least something off that broken off maple up there. It's a massive trunk (one of 4) laying across a young white pine and a beautiful autumn olive. If I don't get some of the weight off soon, it's going to damage or kill those trees. I was already pretty tired and hot from weeding, but I managed to make a start. I'll need to get a ladder up there to do any real good. I'd like to at least lift the worst of it off the other trees. Ideally, if I could get a rope around the fallen trunk, it may be possible to drag it sideways off the trees and possibly get it to snap off completely from the main tree. It's broken over, but still attached to the main tree, just a big splintery stub. One good thing is its location; it's right next to the brush fence, so no hauling. Just lop and toss.
I picked about 5 quarts of green beans yesterday and there are loads more coming along. We had some for supper and I'm holding the rest in the fridge for a day or so until I can pick again and get enough for a canner load.
A deer paid a quick visit to the veg. The tops of the wax bean plants were lightly browsed and a few leaves were torn off the sweet corn, but no major damage. Definitely not a groundhog. They tend to munch from the lower leaves up. I had a bottle of deer repellent (not my usual brand, this smelled much better, sort of cinnamony/spicy) so mixed some up in a bucket and sloshed it all around the perimeter of the veg and onto the bean and corn plants. Also covered the bean beds with fabric for night and set up a sort of "scarecrow" with a left-over bean tower draped in fabric. This evening if it cools off a bit, I will mix up some of my standby horribly stinky "Liquid Fence Deer and Rabbit Repellant" that I buy at Lowe's and give the veg perimeter a good spray and also do all my hostas.
I think (HOPE) this deer was just passing thru. The damage happened the night of the Fourth and with the Yahoo's around here shooting off fireworks and guns all night the animal was probably spooked, disoriented, and wandered onto my quiet property. It's the morning of the 7th now and no more sign of deer visits.
Dug out my first patch of early carrots, very disappointed. I used the seed I had been given, that had come from Walmart, and whatever variety these are, they are short and fat instead of long and slender. A nice bunch of carrots, but I'll just use them for cooking.
Picking a lot of salad greens/lettuce. It's tending toward bolting but I honestly don't think the flavor is that much different, maybe a little more bitter, but not unpleasant. So instead of ripping it out, I just break off the taller stems and strip the leaves to use.
Some green tomatoes are forming, lots of blossoms on the Roma. I've already got a couple of banana peppers on one of my pepper plants.
Finally, R was mowing the lawn on Saturday and nearly ran over a baby robin. He brought in the house and I've been feeding it (canned cat food and boiled chicken). We have a big old bird cage a friend gave us, and the bird is doing well. I know that robins spend the first week or so of their lives on the ground after they leave the nest but with cats prowling around, this birdie had no chance of surviving. I'll get him flighted out and set him free. He's doing pretty well but I never get my hopes up with baby birds. Wish us luck.
I just spent the whole morning outside in the garden armed with secateurs, snipping my way around the garden. It was wonderful! I got so much done and it looks a lot better, especially down in the Rose border where I sort of hunkered down, and along the top of the South Border where the lamb's ear really needed to be cut down. Of course, now I've got windrows of snippings/weeds heaped up all over the lawn, so the next part isn't going to be fun...raking up all that stuff, loading it into the wheelbarrow, and hauling it to the compost heaps.
When I was telling R about this, he said "See Something, Snip Something." It's the new motto. I should have a tee shirt made up. HA!
The different varieties of daylilies are really coming into their own this week. And, once again, I don't know what the names are because the tags are gone. I know I can retrieve the names by looking at old receipts and I keep telling myself this would be a good way to spend a very hot afternoon, in the house, getting the names onto permanent garden labels. It will happen. Some day.
Finally, a thank you to MaryE, from whom I learned that there are two kinds of ants that invade houses: Sugar Ants and Protein Ants. THroughout the winter/spring, we were dealing successfully with an ant problem using those Terror Ant Baits (clear syrupy liquid). No ants. Then, a month or so ago, another invasion and the Terro (which must be attractive to sugar ants) had no effect at all. The ants ignored it. Using her information, I bought a box of Borax at the supermarket (laundry aisle, you can add it to your wash as a detergent booster) and mixed a half-teaspoon of Borax with a teaspoon of canned cat food (protein). Put this in an old lid and set it at the back of the kitchen counter where cats can't get it. Two days later, no ants. And I saw the ants crawling all over the cat food as soon as I put it out.
Oh, and speaking of the laundry aisle in the supermarket. Ask your market to stock dry detergent in cardboard boxes. Our WalMart now carries Tide and Cheer in cardboard boxes (the way laundry detergent always used to be sold, before they started liquifying it and selling it in plastic jugs). Those plastic jugs are an environmental nightmare and we are doing all we can to reduce our use of products packaged in plastic. I've eliminated plastic from my laundry routine except for bleach and I'm working on that. We've switched to bar soap instead of shower gel too...I buy a homemade superfatted soap from a neighbor lady and it works great even in our hard water. Next up: shampoo bars. I've been told the superfatted soap will work as shampoo, but should expect to rinse with vinegar/water to make sure the soap rinses out. I kind of don't want to go to that trouble, but will if I can't find a better alternative.
Today was one of those mornings where I felt like all I did was walk in circles. Moved the last of the plants out of the greenhouse...back and forth and back and forth to get most of them into their summer locations. Then back and forth from the garage to the grape arbor area, moving two dining room arm chairs and a wooden slab that I want to paint and assemble into a garden bench. (Painting will have to wait til evening because it's too hot just now).
I got the remaining zinnias into the ground, picked more black raspberries, and some cherries. I think I have enough for a small pie. Did a little tidying in the Below the Deck (lower) garden. That area is so raw and new it's just wild with weeds. I'm going to have to keep after it better. I'm glad to see that the hostas planted there and the pachysandra seem to be doing a lot better this summer than last. It's incongruous to have these out there in the full sun area, but they were originally part of the shade planting surrounding the big Mugho Pine that died and had to be removed. Last year, we had a late very cold snap/freeze that browned the early foliage on the hostas and pachysandra, which were already struggling to adjust to the full sun exposure. This year, the spring was much kinder, the plants are better acclimated to the sunnier conditions and everything looks better. The little Japanese maple that I planted last fall to replace the Mugho is alive and looks ok, but I'm not seeing any new growth. I'm hoping this is only because it needs a year to get some roots on it. If you recall, I was appalled to find almost no roots on that tree when I got it out of its pot after buying it at Lowe's. I have to admit I'm surprised it survived the winter.
The whole place is starting to get that mid-summer shaggy look. Everything needs a good cleanup, a lot of dead-heading, cutting back, and weeding (although the weeds are not as bad now as in earlier years). If it cools off a bit, I'll take a whole day and do nothing but. I find that I'm able to do more "weeding" with just a pair of secateurs (snips). And it's a domino effect: the less I have to pull weeds out and disturb the soil, the fewer weed seeds get exposed and sprout. For example, I used to pull out the spent daisy fleabane but now I just cut it off at ground level; I'm seeing a lot fewer weeds.
This is a very inspiring little 12-minute video about how urban "guerrilla gardeners" changed the face of New York City from the 1960s onward. If they did it then, we can do it now.
Still plugging away at getting that downed apple tree dealt with. I didn't cut anymore off it today but I did get the enormous pile of brush I took off it yesterday hauled up to the brush fence/dead hedge. AND I discovered another tree down. An old mimosa up in the Casey's Cave area went completely over. That tree has been on shaky legs for the past several years, so I guess it was inevitable. I'm hoping there's still a rooted stump left. If so, I'm confident it will regrow and I'll have a nice healthy young tree there again. That's going to have to wait until the apple tree is dealt with.
Got the wheelbarrow load of cannas and elephant ear in the ground, in the Below the Deck Garden. *whew*...not a big job, but in the heat and humidity, it seemed like it took forever to dig 10 holes and plant the stuff. I also popped in 6 of the zinnias; I've got a bunch more to go in, but that's for tomorrow morning. I was just telling Slowcala that although it is really miserable here by mid-afternoon, the early mornings are really quite glorious. I just keep hoping we'll get some rain so that things stay fresh and green and don't start to dry out. I'm back to collecting gray water at the kitchen sink and tonight I'll put a bucket in the shower with me. I've been bucketing gray water around the upper sections of the gardens since last summer, even when we've had wet weather. I figure it can't hurt to "charge" the soil up there with as much moisture as it can hold and I have been seeing much better growth and bloom up there this year. Plus, the graywater contains nutrients so that helps. The soil over the entire top of the property can use all the help it can get.
I'm trying to work up the gumption to get the cabbages harvested, the jars sterilized, and the saurkraut started but feeling lazy.