Monday, August 26, 2013

The harvest

I can't say it enough - this year was WAY better than any recent ones, and I'm going to say it is the best one ever in this yard. Raised beds, manure, and steady rainfall made all the difference.

The past few years, when I have grown potatoes, the yield was barely more than the seed potatoes I planted. This year, 2.5 lbs. of seed potatoes yielded over 30 pounds of potatoes in excellent condition. No voles, no wire worms, no potato bugs, just creamy smooth taters.

Similar story with the onions. The past several years the onions were puny, barely bigger than sets that many people plant. I tried different varieties, always with the same disappointing results. This year I have a small bushel basket full of big, juicy onions.

This is the first year in many that I planted sweet corn. I did something unconventional - planted the corn around hills of cukes and zukes. The idea was, if we had more record-breaking temperatures, the cukes and zukes would be somewhat shaded by the corn. The weather has been delightful most of the summer, so I'm not sure I would repeat this stunt. Also, pollination was a bit spotty due to the spacing of the corn plants. AND I waited a bit too long to harvest. Still, I'm satisfied with this first attempt.

With my heavy clay soil, I generally avoid root crops. With the raised beds, I decided to give them a try. The day I planted the seed, I was crabby and rushed and did not take care with the spacing, so I was surprised to find such nice turnips amongst the weeds (there are more - these are just a sample). I'm hoping some thinning will salvage the beets and rutabagas.

And then there are the tomatoes. I grew Roma (below), Fresh Salsa hybrid, Sun Gold hybrid, and SuperSauce hybrid. The SuperSauce tomatoes are HUGE but there are not many on the plant, so in the future I will probably stick with the Romas. I have been making fresh salsa with the Fresh Salsa, and they are okay. The Sun Gold hybrid is not as good as some other cherry tomatoes I have grown; next year I may try Black Cherry, per gardeninacity.

There are more successes (peppers!), mixed successes (garlic, green beans), and failures (cukes), but in general I am quite, quite, QUITE pleased. I expect the sweet potatoes will survive the rabbit/woodchuck attacks, plus there will be Brussels sprouts to look forward to. I'm already eagerly planning some changes for next year (e.g. pole beans instead of bush, so I can pick them without bending over). I may even get some more fall crops in before it is too late, a sign that the garden was a source of joy instead of pain this year. May it ever be so.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Not again!?!

When I left on vacation a week ago, the sweet potatoes were showing a healthy recovery from being eaten by what I presumed were rabbits. Upon my return, not only were the sweet potatoes once again decimated, but I saw this critter in the backyard. (Sorry for the quality of the pic.)

My old garden blog was named Woodchuck Acres because I used to spot woodchucks, aka ground hogs, on a semi-regular basis. I had not seen one in years, though. Until yesterday. Finn watched from the patio - guess it was a bit more than he wanted to bite off - and Betsy was not picking up the scent. Maybe I will brush the pets today and distribute their fur in the sweet potato bed. That trick discouraged the chipmunks; maybe it will work on woodchucks.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Asleep on the job

A few days a go, Just a Girl with a Hammer posted about bees sleeping in her Agastache. I did not know bees slept on plants. I thought they were like us and went home every night. Then yesterday morning I spotted a bee asleep on the Joe pye. It looked dead, but as the day warmed up, it began to stir and eventually continued with what sleep had so rudely interrupted the night before, gathering pollen. Or maybe it was breakfasting on nectar?

I can't imagine falling asleep at my desk at the end of the day, only to wake up and continue with my typing the next morning. Not even if donuts and coffee were to magically appear at my elbow.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

I give up

Once upon a time, I had this vision of a portion of my backyard being rather wild, but wild in a manageable way, full of plants that are native and attract birds, bees, and butterflies. Like many of my ideas, I started out too big and became overwhelmed with the amount of work to keep it all under control. Even with the help of my SO, we could not keep the undesirables like Canada thistle and Queen Anne's lace to a minimum.

Last year I mowed the area with the idea of turning the meadow into a mini orchard, but once again, this summer it had its way with me and my limited time and energy. I blame the daffodils - I wanted to save them all! - and the rains, which made everything grow rampantly, including the weeds.

With the rabbit damage in the garden, I reached my limit with anything that resembled bunny habitat, and in one fell swoop (which took an entire day), the meadow went from this:

to this:

I felt bad about it for about 5 minutes. Now it is a relief to see it all gone (I'm guessing the neighbors feel the same way). I still want to have some plantings for the birds, bees, and butterflies, but on a much smaller scale.

Monday, August 5, 2013

New boys on the block

Usually I grow plain ordinary sunflowers. They may be tall, they may be short, they may be big-headed or not, but they are all yellow and they all form seeds for the birds. Sort of like this one:

But notice the not-very-yellow sunflower in the background? I bought a packet of mixed varieties that are more ornamental in nature, the kind of sunflowers you might see at a farmers market. Sort of like these:

I recently learned that some of those fancy coneflower varieties do not make seeds, so are of no use to the birds. I am wondering if these fancy sunflowers will be seedless, too. No matter - their pretty faces are a nice surprise in the garden.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Z is for ZhaZhaZhaZinnias

I favor flowers that are less exotic, more prosaic, kind of everyday, very reliable. Flowers like marigolds and zinnias. I've been trying to capture the variety of colors and forms in this year's batch of the latter, with more success than I usually have. Because the colors in real life are so vibrant, photos do not do them justice. Here are my attempts. (All are 'Lilliput Mix'.)