Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Lavender Allee

I am afraid that my Lavender Allee has been completely neglected this year. I never got around to doing the early Spring weeding and we haven't cut back any of the meadow grass around the plants. Despite all of this, the plants are in full bloom and are doing really well.

The plants are in peak bloom right now which is about 3 weeks later than normal.

The best news is they are chock full of bees. As I knelt down to take these pictures, I could hear a constant buzzing coming from all of the plants. It looked like most of the bees were honey bees, perhaps from a neighbors hives.

There were also a smaller amount of my favorites, the bumble bees. Next year I have to find the time to replace dead plants, weed, and keep the grass down. The lavender is so pretty at a time of year where many other plants are winding down and provides so much important food to the pollinators. Plus it smells divine!

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Last Hodge-podge Flower Row

Tonight after work I went down to the big garden and finished planting my last flower row. All of the other rows were planted the first week of July but this poor one kept getting bumped down in priority. The original plan called for this whole row to be planted with various marigold plants that I started from seed this year. Sadly, by the time I got around to planting this last row, many of my young plants had died. I lost quite a few due to damping off during our rainy week and others simply died of neglect I think. So the ones that are still around are made of tough stuff! I ended up with a really hodge-podge row and ended up buying some row "fillers" at Grey's Garden Center. But at least it's all done now.

One of my successes from seed this year are the "Queen Sophia" marigolds. I had never planted marigolds from seed and found them to be as easy as zinnias to grow. There seems to be a bit of a variance in color pattern. Some of them, like the bloom pictured above, have quite a bit of yellow along with the red.

Others, like this one, are predominantly red. This is how it looks in the catalog picture. Either way I think that they are quite pretty.

Another new-to-me marigold variety that I grew from seed this year is the Gem series. I planted "Red Gem", "Tangerine Gem" & "Lemon Gem". The plants are danity in size and have delicate, feathery foliage. The little guy pictured above is a "Red Gem". It is the first of all of the plants to bloom.

I ended my morning in the garden by planting some nasturtiums. I bought a six-pack of "Lady Bird Cream Purple Spot" as an emergency filler. I ended up not needed it in any of the flower rows so I picked a bare spot of ground and planted them there. They look a little puny right now but I hope that they will start to grow and fill-in quickly.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Finally Finished!

Tonight I FINALLY finished planting my dahlias. All 199 are now out of their pots and planted into the ground. It took me 25 days this year to get them all planted - there was a lot of other things going on in my life and I am afraid that the dahlias took second place some days. It also didn't help that I lost almost a full planting week to rainy weather and super saturated soil. Nonetheless, I am now done. It will be so nice, in the upcoming evenings, to be able to focus on other tasks like watering & weeding. I am looking forward to putting the planting shovel away!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Evening Grosbeak Babies

Of all of the wonderful birds that live on our property throughout the year, I think my favorites are the Evening Grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinuse). Part of what makes them special is the fact that they aren't here for much of the year. They arrive in a small flocks in the middle of Spring and normally have migrated for higher elevations in June. For the last few years we have had one family stay and raise its family before departing. This year it appeared that we had two families stay as we often were seeing two males and two females at the feeders.This week our two families guess seems to have been confirmed. Early in the week I spied this female eating at the feeder. Beside her was this young male.

Every time she quit feeding herself he begged for her to feed him. It was quite effective! In past years it had appeared that our families always had just one offspring, so I though this was her only fledgling.

However, two days later I caught this female at the feeder with a begging boy on each side of her! Although the boys haven't yet gained their striking yellow beak and "eyebrow" stripe that they will have in adulthood, you can tell that they are males by their single, large white oval on each wing. As you can see, the females have white patches instead on their wings. This mother bounced back an forth between the two feeding them seed. What was funny was as she fed one chick, the other chick ate seed by itself. They both could do it but still wanted Mom to feed them! Our feeling that we had two families was most likely confirmed the next day when my sister saw a female feeding a female chick. Needless to say, I am very happy. It has been great having two families stick around this year and I am super pleased that they seem to have raised three healthy babies.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Almost There!

Tonight after work I went down to the big garden and worked on planting dahlias. I came so close to finishing up this evening. I planted another 15. That takes me up to 196 planted and just 3 left to go! I didn't finish tonight because 2 of the 3 that I still need to plant are up by the house. Pictured above, "Cornel" a dark red ball form ( and very happy to be out of their pots and into the ground!).

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Digging Up Bulbs & Replanting Bulbs

No, this picture wasn't taken today! It was, in fact, taken the first day of March this year. As you can clearly see, this beautiful clump of "tete-a-tete" daffodils is way to crowded. I tried to count the blooms and I think there were over 60 in this clump. And if you look closely to the right side of the daffodils you can see some Grape Hyacinth leaves trying to poke and find some sunlight. Clearly, it was past time to dug up the bulbs and do some dividing and replanting.

So tonight after work and dinner we worked on this project. First off, we added quite a few tractor bucket loads of Natures Best soil to the flower bed. The back of the bed needed quite a bit added and the front needed some leveling off as well. Then I gently took a spade to the spot where the daffodil bulbs were actually heaving out of the ground due to over crowding. I dug and dug and was amazed at how deeply they were stacked in the ground. I tries my best to distinguish between the daffodil bulbs and the grape hyacinth bulbs. It would have been a lot easier if they were different colors or something! When I was finally done I had a full cardboard box of "tete-a-tete" bulbs, pictured above, and half of box of grape hyacinth bulbs, pictured below.

I had so many "tete-a-tete" after digging up the bulbs I decided to make two new clumps out of them. You can see in the above photo that all of the bulbs had long, healthy root systems.

Then I dug a a third hole for the grape hyacinths. I am guessing that I have a few - how many ? - baby daffodil bulbs mixed in here. It will be fun to watch next Spring and see how good my guessing was. I was careful to give all of the bulbs room so that they could divide and naturalize for a few years without becoming too crowded again. When I was all done I stuck three wooden markers in the ground above each circle of bulbs so that I won't accidentally plant something else in that spot. A project completed!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Soggy, Damp, Wet!

It's hard to believe but we received another .4" of rain today. It did stop by late afternoon and this evening the sun was making an appearance. It has been days since I made it down to the big garden, so I strolled down for a look after dinner. Sigh. It was depressing down there. So very, very wet. I could stand still on the lawn and actually hear the water seeping into the ground. I had two holes dug in the garden where I hadn't yet planted dahlias. Both had at least an inch of standing water in the bottom. The ground is so saturated right now. I am concerned that the dahlias that I do have planted might have standing water near their roots. But here is nothing that I can now do but watch and wait.

As you can see, I am getting very close to having all of the dahlias in. Just this group left to plant. I should have finished up last weekend if the rains hadn't arrived.

The "Speckled Hound" Winter Squash all have male blooms that are open now. They don't have any female flowers yet so I don't have to worry about the rain washing away all of the pollen.

The "Hutterite Soup" bush beans are also trying their best. I would say about 1/3 of the seed hasn't germinated yet and I really don't expect that it ever will. I am afraid the seed has rotted in all of this cold and wet weather.

My flower rows are doing well. The plants have all settled in and are starting to put on quite a bit of new growth. Soon the rows will be defined enough that I can remove the stakes and string marking each row.

And here is a poor, wet bloom on a "Queen Sophia" Marigold that I started from seed. They are still in the trays that they were started in and the rain has caused many of the plants to dampen off. The stems are simply rotting at the point where they reach the soil. These natives of Mexico are having a pretty tough time with all of this wet weather.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tomato Update

Lost somewhere, in the rush to get all of my dahlias planted and the rainy weather that we have been experiencing lately, was the fact that my tomatoes desperately needed to have the second level put onto their cages. For the last few weeks, every time I watered them, I would think I need to put on the second level tomorrow. Finally I took the time tonight. It was of coarse, my harder than it needed to be. I had a good 18" of growth to wrestle with and get centered in the second tower before I lowered onto the first. I have been using theses tomato cages from Gardener's Supply Company now for over five years. I think that they are the best! They are made of a sturdy metal, square frame that collapses flat for storage. You can use one level for shorter determinate tomatoes or set on the second level for taller indeterminate varieties. They are super strong and I have never had a full grown tomato plant, weighed down by fruit, foliage & rain, tip over a cage in the Fall. That is saying something.

Anyway, here are the first three plants after getting straightened up and centered into the second level of their cage.

Here is group number two with only the first level of cage on.. There are four plants here but it is pretty difficult to make them out individually. And afterwards...............

much better!

Most of the plants are blooming now, though I am worried about our nighttime temperatures dipping below 50 degrees. Like myself, the tomatoes would appreciate a little more sun & a little less rain these days.

I do have two varieties that have begun to set fruit. This is the first tomato that I have found on the "Peron Sprayless OG" plant. It isn't much bigger than a marble right now.

The "Azoychka" tomato has set a lot of fruit. Some of them are getting pretty big but none have begun to turn yellow yet. I should have my first ripe tomato of the year from this plant.

While I was working in the vegetable garden Tom-Cat joined me. He is normally fenced out of this area so he is pleased to sneak in when I am not looking and have the gate open. Parvati, on the other hand, said it was much to cold out to be a garden helper tonight.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

And Even More July Rain!

Grey skies and depressed gardeners. That's the story around here! Around midnight it started raining again and this time it rained most of the day today. It has finally let up and I checked the rain gauge after dinner. Another .7 inches! That's 1.2" for the weekend and 1.45" in the last seven days. I looked on-line and the average rainfall here in July is .64" so we have more than doubled that. It wouldn't be quite so bad if I had everything planted. My plan was to finish up this weekend, but now I will be lucky if it gets dry enough to get back in the garden by Tuesday. So a Friday wrap-up looks more realistic now.  If it quits raining...........

Saturday, July 16, 2011

More July Rain!

Our cold and wet weather continues! Last night, at about midnight, it began to pour. It rained hard much of the night and the showers continued on and off today. Needless to say I didn't get any more dahlias planted today. The rain seems to be done now, although the sky is still charcoal grey with low hanging clouds. I just emptied the rain guage and this storm dumped another 1/2 inch! Will we ever get any hot, dry weather this Summer?

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Planting Continues

Back to working planting dahlia tonight. We got another 13 planted this evening and also unloaded the scoop of Nature's Best that Dad picked up for me yesterday afternoon. That should be more than enough soil to finish up planting all of the dahlias. After tonight's work I have planted 136 of 200 dahlias, so I am 68% done! Pictured above, two plants of "Granny Norman", a B sized Semi-Cactus form in a light bland of Pink & Yellow.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Garden Visitors

Tonight I went down to the garden after dinner to get some more dahlias planted. I had probably been working for about half an  hour when I heard voices coming down the secret path. They grew louder until I spied some young guests coming in the garden gate! Needless to say I didn't get anymore work done tonight. Sometimes garden surprises are plants growing that you didn't expect and sometimes they are people arriving that you didn't expect. My little cousins from Michigan were an unplanned joy tonight. Thanks for visiting my garden Quinten & Mikaila!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Digitalis " Honey Trumpet"

Last year, during a program at an Avid Gardner's meeting, we were introduced to Xera wholesale nursery. The owner Paul Bonine, gave a talk on new and unique plants offered by his nursery. One that really jumped out at us was digitalis "Honey Trumpet". This perennial foxglove is a Xera Nursery introduction. It repeatedly sends up multiple spikes of amber/honey colored bells that last from June until Frost. The plant grows to a size of 2' by 2'. When we had a chance last June to visit Xera - and do some shopping! - we picked up two plants of "Honey Trumpet". They settled right in and came back this Spring just fine. They have probably doubled in size and are just covered in these amazing colored bells. As the sun hits the back side of the plants, at it sets each day, the bells just glow. A highly recommended plant!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Rainy July Day

This morning I awoke to the sound of the gutter gently running. By the time my alarm went of, the rain was drumming quite hard on the rooftop. So much for a chance of showers! By the end of the day we had .25 inches of rain in the rain gauge. That is very unusual for our "normal" Mediterranean dry Summers that we have here. But this year's weather has certainly been anything but normal. The rainfall did allow me to skip out on watering for a day which was nice. It also turned the soil a beautiful dark color which really made all of the different shades of green in the vegetable bed pop. The contast of the two colors was striking to me.

As you can see, the tomato plants have just exploded the last few weeks. It is now on my "to-do" list to add the second tier to the cages. I have lots of blooms now on the plants but so far only one variety had set any fruit.

The onions are also doing really well. The bulbs are starting to expand now that the days are starting to slowly decrease in length. This is a plant of "Prince" a yellow storage onion.

And this is "Red Bull". You can clearly see it is a red onion.

I don't have any idea how my two Sweet Potato varieties are performing. The plants have definitely perked up since the weather has warmed up. They are now constantly putting out new leaf growth. I do love the rich purple color of the new leaves. They slowly mature to green.

My two plants of "Marina di Chioggia" Winter Squash that I started from seed have now tipped over and are starting to crawl. Soon it will be hard to see any dirt through all of the leaves and vines.

And a pretty bloom from one of my four plants of "Pastel Mix" Morning Glory. The plants are growing like crazy but so far I am a bit disappointed with the color mix. The label promised a mix of pink, purple & white but so far it has been white, white & white!