Tuesday, June 22, 2021

June Gardening Journal

After a slow start due to a cooler than usual spring, the veg garden is inspired by warmer days and rain at just the right time. The soil was starting to dry out on the surface and Jim several times watered the tomato plants we set out on June 8th.

Monday morning the air seemed heavy, there was a restless breeze, but the sun shone.
I worked at setting more plants in the new raised bed, fussed over seedlings in the greenhouse; 

I disinterred dwarf monarda from the inhospitable rough garden strip to the more favorable spot vacated by feverfew and nigella which had become too boisterous for the narrow raised bed that flanks the front entrance.
We set out the last of the tomato plants raised from seed in our greenhouse, harvested a colander of young beets. I discovered the trailing yellow stems of parasitic dodder weed at the edge of the beet row, gathered up the strands and put them in the burn pit. 

I first encountered this strange pest two years ago draped over weeds and wildflowers alongside the shed at the end of our lane. Last summer it festooned itself along one edge of the rough garden.  I suspect it can never be entirely eradicated in an area, but if discovered fairly early what can't be picked up can be sprayed with a vinegar solution.
I started drenching the affected beet plants, then decided to pull the beets in that area and keep a watchful eye for any further invasion. 
Jim keeps the garden well tilled and hoed to discourage weeds.
Gardens are a labor of love--each season brings a few unpleasant surprises in terms of weather, blight or pests.

By the time I had showered, done some computer work for Jim and retreated to the east porch with a book, grey clouds were surging about and the branches of the trees along the drive were whipped by an increasing wind. A tentative mist of rain, a mild rumbling of thunder, then a pause before wind-lashed rain and rapidly cooling temperature drove me indoors. 

The cats don't like rain, especially when heralded by thunder. Several who had been lounging on the porch hurtled through the sunroom to pile on beds or take refuge in darkest corners. 
I settled with my book in one of the leather chairs near the east windows with a glass of iced tea to hand and Teasel-cat on my lap.

It rained much of the afternoon, a few hard bursts, alternating with the kind of steady showers which refresh rather than flattening the garden.

 Blue Lake beans climbing their fence, with a row of potatoes in the background beyond the impossibly thickly crowded carrots.

Beginning to plant the new bed. Nursery plants--an autumn aster [Grape] Russian sage, grey-leafed yarrow. Looking fragile are blackberry lilies, yellow coneflower, aromatic aster--all small seedlings from my greenhouse.  These plants were intended for the wildflower garden I hoped to establish under my west bedroom window, a project that is physically beyond me just now. I will pot on some of the seedlings and hope that by fall I am able to work on that small plot.

Working on three early mornings last week I pruned back the roses and foxglove on the east and west retaining walls. Japanese beetles have arrived and cluster on the few remaining buds. Daylilies are blooming, the stalwarts of summer weather, seemingly untroubled by the beetles.

Coneflower "Twister" raised from seed last summer, interplanted with pale prairie coneflower.
Sadly these are not impervious to insect damage.

 Daylilies in the rough garden strip. They seem able to cope with heavy soil and weeds.
In the three seasons we've been here I've laboriously weeded and mulched that strip--a thankless and exhausting task that is now beyond me. 
I plan to move some of the plants, leaving only the larger spreading kinds to tough it out.


Sunday, June 13, 2021

Gardens and Weather; Journal

Clary sage. The single survivor from last season's seed-raised crop.
A biennial, so left in this weedy spot to flower and hopefully provide me with seed for another year.

The coarse leaves of clary have an astringent sharp scent, but the flowers are pleasant. The buds are particularly fascinating. I have three very tiny plants in the greenhouse which I hope will be ready to set out late in the summer.

This milkweed is a more refined form than the common wildling. It is loved by butterflies and when the monarch caterpillars discover it the plants are quickly gnawed to naked stalks.

When the peonies have been shattered by rain and the early roses are succumbing to Japanese beetles, daylilies take over.

Echinacia/coneflower in its simplest form--sturdy, dependable, holding its own in the rough garden strip.

Echinacia backed by aster.
In other gardens I've set out nursery purchased exotic forms of coneflower, never as hardy and self-perpetuating as the generic.

Buds on the double orange 'ditch lilies' originally dug up along the Old Gradyville Road and moved with me first to the Amish farm and then to the new house.

The veg garden has flourished in the recent gentle rains. In this plot are Better Bush tomatoes, a hill of muskmelons [purchased plants] and cucumbers. Dwarf sunflowers edge the far side of the plot. [Planted for me by Jim before I was able to work outside.]

We've had two meals from the Swiss chard. Beets will need to be thinned. Jim has staked the Carolina Gold tomatoes and put up the fence for the Blue Lake beans to climb. Blossoms are appearing on the potato plants. We didn't buy seed potatoes, but salvaged some that sprouted in the pantry. A row of carrots is badly in need of attention--carrots are a frustrating crop. Jim used his seed planter which has metal disks sized for a variety of seeds--the carrots, never-the-less, went in much too thickly.

Carolina Gold tomato.  We've been applying a fungicide to the tomato plants about every 10 days in the hopes of holding off the usual devastating blight. Frequent rains since the last application may have rendered it useless. 

Rain came in bursts nearly every day during the past week; looking across the meadow the view was of gathering clouds; the pattern was showers lasting 10 or 15 minutes, followed by steamy sunshine, then another shower. 

A brief downpour made way for a fiery sunset.

Smoky orange, a streak of blue, a quickly changing palette of grey, lavender and apricot surrounding the sun as it sank into the ravine at nine o'clock on Thursday evening.

Daybreak Friday brought crashing thunder, pounding rain, power blips, before the weather settled for a steady rain through the day. The air has been heavy with humidity and heat--thankfully a later occurrence this season than is usual.

Steamy sunshine on Saturday with a thrashing wind and another brisk shower at dusk.
It was damp this morning, but sunny. I cut back the roses on the east wall, trimmed most of the nepeta. The pinks that edge the west wall are next on the list--already sending up fresh growth in the center of the withered clumps. Foxglove is going shabby and needs cutting down, perhaps leaving a stalk or two to set seed. 
The beauty of flowers is transitory, easily blighted by unfavorable weather, subject to ravages by insects. The roses had a good flush of bloom, most of the peonies came on before the rains, the clematis have been a joy. Nigella seeded itself with a vengeance, swallowing last year's clumps of balloon flower. The thyme edging the raised bed in the west garden was hardy through the winter and spread lavishly before being blackened by too much moisture. I've pruned away damaged stems, but not feeling very hopeful for its survival--it doesn't like wet feet.
Still potting on seedlings in the greenhouse, disentangling the roots of pot-bound nursery purchases which I hope will revive when they can be situated in the new raised bed which is a work in progress.


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The Flowers of May

May in south-central Kentucky is a time of flowers.
In my garden this means peonies, iris, foxgloves, as well as a first flush of bloom on clematis and roses.

In spite of damage to the leaves by sawfly larvae, my David Austin shrub roses outdid themselves in this third season since planting.
Above is Queen of Sweden, a very stately upright bush.

Queen of Sweden and Roald Dahl.

A planting of Double Red Knock-out roses anchors the south wall garden. Most of the seed-raised foxgloves tucked in front are shades of rose pink--probably offspring of the variety Camelot.

 The old-fashioned pink peonies are early bloomers, sweet-scented and heavily petaled.

Crowded near the peonies is an aster that will bloom later in the summer.

Red valerian leans out from the house corner on the west retaining wall. Miniature lilies have been moved on from two earlier gardens. The edging of pinks were seed-grown last season.

Common sage tucked into the raised bed by the front steps outgrew its space, probably because the bagged soil used in the bed is too rich for most herbs. The plant should have been pruned about the time that I was 'laid up' with the DVT--by the time I was on my feet, I decided to allow the rampage of blue to run its course.

A white foxglove with pale freckles. The 'Sutton's Apricot' foxgloves which bloomed last year near the white ones made no appearance this year. I'm hoping that a few of the potted on seedlings lifted in late January will prove to be that variety.

The west wall garden with pinks in full bloom, rose and lavender foxglove.

I lost the tag for this lovely David Austin rose; I think it is The Poet's Wife. In previous years few of the buds fully opened. This year there has been a profusion of these frilly blooms which have a refreshing citrus scent. 

Plants which self sow can be a delight--or they can become vigorous interlopers.
Nigella seedlings should have been thinned early on; they took over, completely swallowing several plants of platycoden/balloon flower which is slow to emerge in the spring. Nigella happily produces several 'crops' of bloom in a long Kentucky summer and reappears to do it again another year.

Clematis plants Samaritan Jo and Edita were meant to share a trellis. I had no idea both would explode with a tangle of blossom the year after their planting. These two had a rough start in 2020, being uprooted several times by a belligerent racoon just days after they went into the ground.

It has been a joy to bring in roses and peonies during their brief time of glory.
I have run short of tiny jugs and bottles to hold them.
Scooping up fallen petals is a small price to pay for this corner of scent and color.
I would like to display some in other spots--on a bedside table or a corner of my desk. 
The resident cats take too great an interest in bouquets!

Rainfall was sparse mid-May, not quite reaching drought conditions but dry enough to have us hoping for showers. It was perfect haying weather. Tractors and hay wagons lumbered along the country roads, huge round bales dotted the shorn meadows. The sun-warmed smell of sweet clover and meadow grass mingled with the aura of blackberry, honeysuckle and the invasive rosa multiflora. 

The rains arrived in the early morning hours of 28th May and continued until the sun reappeared on Sunday. Slow rain, falling in bursts, dwindling, streaming down again bringing chilly nights and days of green darkness.

The peonies and roses, slightly past their best, bowed to the ground, heavy-headed. 
In the vegetable garden beets, carrots, potatoes, green beans, all revived and grew with tremendous energy.
After a blue sky day of sun and wind on Sunday [in time for a family picnic!] the weather has again brought spotty showers.

I've pruned away the shattered peonies and roses, dead-headed the Knock-Outs--an ongoing chore.
We are grateful for the gentle rains, for the postponement of high temperatures which so often begin to overwhelm before the end of May.

The time of spring flowering is over for another year. In the next few days I need to work at cutting back tired plants, weeding. 
As we move into June the daylilies and the container plants will take over the task of providing color. 
A number of things are growing on in the greenhouse, waiting on the completion of the new raised bed under construction by the front door. 

My gardens will never resemble the photos that appear in coffee table tomes or alluring seed catalogs.
I will never have sufficient energy or time to give the best of care to my plantings.
Beset by weeds, insect pests or struggling under my benign neglect, my gardens continue to delight me.