Category Archives: vegetables

Gardening this week, or, Good intentions

Since I started this blog to keep track of my garden, I’m going to write occasional posts about what I’ve actually done in the garden (what a concept!).  I’m sure this is of interest only to me, but I hope that it will help me to plan and keep up with garden tasks, which was one of the original points of the exercise.

It’s early August, so it has been mostly hot and humid, though recent rain and a few lower-humidity days earlier in the week encouraged me to get out and look around.

  • weeded around the sunny border, getting rid of about half the witch grass that infests that bed, especially in and around the yucca
  • weeded the edge of that border along the driveway side, doing my best to cut back the verbena and butterfly bush that wave tendrils around to the annoyance (I’m sure) of my meticulous neighbors
  • speaking of which, the neighbors are parking one of their cars several feet away from the end of their driveway and are draping the hood with a sheet.  Could the crepe myrtle blossoms possibly be the reason??  neighbors
  • decided that next week I’ll cut down the beans and cucumber.  The beans were Anellino Verde from Seeds from Italy, a source recommended by Barbara Damrosch.  Well, the vines have overtopped my new bean solution.  Here it is in the early days,beanpole and here it is now, beanpole2leaning dangerously and not tall enough for the vines.   Worse, despite a few blossoms, I’ve harvested only one – yes 1! – bean so far.  Off with its head.  The cucumbers are bitter even when tiny and worse when they get as big as this.  cucumberI can’t remember the variety but it was a six-pack I picked up at Earl’s.  Yuck.  Can’t wait to pull these out and start sowing some fall crops.  At least the basil and parsley are thriving.
  • hosta trimming time is here, so I methodically went through all of them under the oak tree and decapitated the seedheads.  Here are the before and after.hostas beforehostas after
  • planning to plant fall crops next week (second week in August), including these newly purchased from Renee’s Seedsseeds I must be more fond of radishes than I realized…

Spring sowing

Poppies, both buttercream and the classic WWI variety, were a great success, sowed in late February and blooming in mid- to late May.red poppies

buttercream poppiesMeanwhile, as you can see from the fallen petals above, the columbines self-sowed with great vigor.  You would hardly know that the great culling of 2016 had ever taken place!  Here’s the sunny garden, still chock full of blue columbines (plus the purple allium ‘Sensation,’ I think).blue columbines I am continuing to pull them out once they’ve seeded, so I’m probably not making much progress…  I do try to shake the interesting colored ones, like this white one, in hopes that they’ll spread and grow next year.white columbine

Additional seeds are sugar snap ‘Anna,’ doing very well this year after a slow start (I sowed them in February but they didn’t do anything for about a month); zinnias and cosmos; and some vines for the trellises.  They’re up but not doing much yet.

The pink garden

The raised bed is on the side of the house where the neighbors tend to see it more than I do, since it abuts their driveway.  It’s been sort of a mess over there – scraggly grass, bulb cutting garden that soon flops over, self-sown datura and more recently bronze fennel that gets out of control.  But since I installed the ‘Antony Waterer’ spirea to complement the dark pink crepe myrtle that hangs over the fence to the back yard, I’ve thought of it as the pink garden and have begun to proceed accordingly.

The spirea is now accompanied by a variety of sedums, including ‘Autumn Joy’ and ‘ Matrona.’  I’ve also planted several dahlias, my experiment this year in doing it right.  Six of the nine I planted seem to be thriving (the other three, I think, were planted too shallowly).  Otto’s Thrill, Park Princess, Fascination, Lambada and Renoir are planted here and on the edge of the sunny garden.  Here’s someone else’s picture of the latter:dahlia RenoirSo far they are just sitting there, awaiting their stakes, which of course I should have inserted at planting time, but one does what one can.

The other part of the so-called pink garden is the raised bed I put in a few years ago.  I’ve had pretty good success but it tends to get out of hand at the height of summer, particularly since I’m inclined to let self-sown plants have their way.  This year I vowed would be different:  orderly rows of vegetables, bordered by flowers that would bloom all summer.

Here’s a look at phase one, two rows of Tuscan kale (from seed smuggled in from Florence), plus arugula and lettuce, a few chives, and some self-sown potatoes that I can’t quite let go of.  Discipline is already failing…  DSC00975But the rest of the story is the scraggliness of the grass in that corner.  I had been planning for some time to lay weed block cloth and cover it with mulch, and I finally did.  In the course of this project, I also moved the edging rocks and made the garden beds just a few inches deeper.  It may seem contrary to eliminate plants (grass) for mulch, but see how much better it looks already?  Here’s the before:

DSC00976Note that the dahlias have not yet been planted, and the perennial pea vine is running wild.

Here’s the after:

DSC01003A few weeks ago I planted marigolds and zinnias along the edges of the raised bed.  The arugula is already going to seed, as is the cilantro in the whiskey barrel.  There’s a tomato in there that will take over soon.  The green pot is for the squash seedlings, if they are still alive in a few days.  Need more potting soil first.  And I’ve moved the two blue glazed ceramic pots to the mulched area with some idea of planting something in there.  A work in progress, the pink garden, but looking better and more intentional already.

First harvest

The sugar snap peas were good this year, even though for the first time I had aphids.  They washed off easily and didn’t seem to affect the crop or the flavor.  Aren’t they sort of amazing?  Here they are with a ladybug and something else common whose name I should know (sowbug??). You will have to click on the image to see what I’m talking about.


And here they are clustered on the pea trellis after the spent peas were pulled up.

Ladybugs are a natural predator of aphids, but clearly I could have used more of them.

Now that you’ve seen some bugs, whet your appetite with the delicious harvest of lettuce (bug-free).

Yesterday I added some crunchy, peppery radishes to the salad.

The carrots seem to be coming along fine – I’ve thinned them once and need to do it again.  The potatoes in a bag, an experiment, are growing exuberantly. I didn’t hill them up as soon as I should have, so we’ll see what happens.  Once they bloom, I think I can search for the harvest.

My clever tip for growing spring vegetables:  WATER.  That, and the absence of the groundhog my neighbor relocated to the wilds of Stafford County, have made  this a successful harvest season so far.  But when I plant my beans later today, I’ll enclose the seedlings in netting, just in case.