Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Digging Begins

Today I started the annual task of digging up all of my dahlias. I have 199 plants set out in 15 rows.  I began today by cutting down 3 rows. These will be the tubers that I lift next weekend. Then I dug up the 3 rows of dahlias that I cut down earlier this week. I ended up with 42 clumps. I was pleased at the condition of the tubers that I dug today. With our cool, wet Spring & Summer I was really concerned that the tuber growth might have been affected. But he tubers are all full size and seem to be firm, with very little signs of rot at this point. After I got everything dug I hauled them back to the house. I then gentle hosed each clump off and trimmed them of all the misc roots and stocks. Then they went into the shop to await division and further cleaning.

Here are four nice clumps of the Pom "Willo Borealis". It looks like I should definitely have enough tubers to grow and to share next year. In the picture below, you can clearly see the swollen eyes on tubers, right where they join the stock. This makes dividing so much easier.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Frosty Morning & A Lovely Afternoon

We were below freezing again this morning. For those of us counting, that's three days in a row. Quite unusual for this time of the year. The difference today was that the sun came out early. It quickly warmed up and we had a beautiful day. Our big leaf maples were glowing in the low afternoon sunshine. This is why we love October.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Even Colder Night #2

Last night the official low at the airport was 27 degrees. We had a reading before dawn of 29 degrees at our house. As you can see, the extra three degree drop in the temperature finished off my dahlias. They are a pretty sad looking lot now. The good news is I can proceed now with my digging and dividing without feeling guilty about cutting down blooming dahlia plants! Tonight after work I went down to the garden and cut down my first three rows. It was a quick and easy task. Since we haven't had any rain for over two weeks, the ground is nice and dry. I can't believe that I am chopping down the dahlias and I don't have mud sticking to the bottom of my shoes. The dahlias plants are also really easy to work with right now. The frost has essential "freeze-dried" the plants. They are dry, light and easy to carry off to the burn pile. Clean up has never been this easy - seriously! I'm just not used to these easy working conditions.

Here's two rows after I was done. I left about 4" of stem above the ground on each plant. This gives me a nice handle to hold as I gently lift the tubers and a good place to wrap the name tag around as it is carried home. I will let these tubers rest in the ground until Sunday before I dig them up. This will give the tubers time to be "shocked' that the plants are dead ( or in this case cut off). The tubers will immediately begin to harden off and cure underground. The eyes on the individual tubers will also begin to swell. When I dig the tubers on Sunday it will be much easier to see where I should make my cuts and the tubers should store over winter better as well. I have fifteen rows of dahlias this year. My goal is to dig 3 rows every weekend and then wash, divide and label the tubers from those plants during the following weeknights. Sticking to this schedule I will finish digging on Thanksgiving Weekend. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The First Killing Frost

This morning on the way to work the car thermometer read 32 degrees. As I drove by the big garden I slowed down and tried to see if I could find any signs of frost damage. I thought that the dahlia foliage looked a little bit darker than normal but with such a quick glance I couldn't be sure. After work I walked down to the garden. Sure enough, the season is officially over! As you can see, all of the dahlia foliage was blackened by the freezing temperature. All of the new growth had turned to mush too but the main stem on each plant was still alive. It didn't get cold enough for a complete kill on the thick stemmed dahlias.

Tonight it is suppose to get even colder. Since I have had this much damage already, I am hoping that tonight's cold delivers the final knock-out punch! It was interesting to see what was damaged and what few plants survived.

My two beautiful rows of "Persian Carpet" zinnias were killed as were the other two varieties of zinnias. My row of mixed marigolds however, survived just fine. My theory is the heat from the earth kept the air temperature from freezing from a height of about 12" high to the ground. Since the marigolds are all just about 6" tall, they all made it ok through the night.

I was very thankful that the marigolds didn't freeze. I planted 3 varieties in the Gem series; "Lemon Gem", "Tangerine Gem" and Red Gem". One of my "Red Gem" plants appears to be a sport. Instead of the solid red petals tipped in orange that the other plants displayed, this plant had many blooms with orange petals overlaid with two red stripes. You can see some examples of this in the picture below. So, I decided to save some seed from this plant and see what I get next year. Perhaps this was a one-off, and will stabilize next year. Or perhaps I have the seed for a neat variation in the "Gem" series. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Last Bouquets of the Year...?

Tonight, right after work, I headed straight down to the big garden. The weather forecasters are calling for the possibility of our first frost of Fall tonight. Yesterday I had picked two bouquets of flowers but I still had a lot of blooms yet to pick. I went through the dahlias and picked a bucket full of red/orange/yellow blooms and then I picked a bouquet of all my Pom dahlias. After I got home and arranged everything I took all of the bouquets outside for a group picture. After all, this could be the last hurrah of Summer!

Here is a close up of my Pom bouquet. I really love this dahlia form. The small, round blooms look sweet, all bunched up together in a mass display. They also remind me of my late Grandmother who also admired this form.

Here's my bouquet of "Persian Carpet" zinnias.

A close up of my pink/white/purple dahlia bouquet.

And my fiery orange/red/yellow bouquet.

This "Jac's Julia" bloom got its own vase. This is a new variety for me this year and this is the first bloom to open. I love it! Here's hoping that it has made some good tubers. I would love to grow more than one plant of it next year.

You can tell that there has been a huge change in the temperature today. It is another lovely sunny day, but there has been a constant, strong, cold wind. As I staged these bouquets tonight my two garden helpers remained curled up in their beds!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Birthday Harvest

My birthday weekend coincided with the first frost advisory getting issued by the National Weather Service. At this point, there looks to be a chance of our first freeze arriving Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. With this news in mind, I devoted much of my birthday to harvesting the garden - so much for a lazy, restful day! I started down in the big garden. There are lots and lots of flowers left on the dahlias and zinnias. They have all really come on strong this month and I can't stand the thought of all of those last blooms getting wasted by a cold night. So, I started by cutting a bucket of dahlias in the white/pink/purple color group. Then I cut a bouquet of "Persian Carpet" zinnias. I thought both "arrangements" looked pretty stunning against my purple garden bench.

It was also time to harvest my "Speckled Hound" Winter Squash. My poor four plants did the best that they could. They were planted in half day sun and really struggled. Amazingly, each plant did set one fruit. The fruit on the far left, above, best represents their potential. "Speckled Hound" is a boxy shaped winter squash with a concentrated sweet, nutty flavor. The squash are a light orange color with a randomly patterned blue/green overlay. And the skin is amazingly smooth. It almost has the feeling of being waxed. They grow to a size if 3-6 pounds. My four however came in a little below that. They were 2 lbs. 2.5 oz, 1 lbs. 9.4 oz., 1 lbs. 12.8 oz., and 2 lbs. 5.1 oz. for a total of 7 lbs. 13.8 oz.

My final big project of the day was harvesting my "Hutterite Soup" bush beans. I am truly a bit amazed that I was able to get a harvest out of these bean plants. They were planted from seed on July 2nd and I wasn't sure that there would be enough good weather to see them to complete maturity. As you can see, underneath the bean leaves, the beans are starting to turn yellow and dry. We have had a nice stretch of 10+ days without rain and that has really been a blessing.

I pulled up each plant one by one and clipped of the bean pods. It took me over an hour but I ended up with a full garden trug for my efforts. Now I can lay them out in trays at home in a warm room to further dry for a few days.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Late October at the Market

Today was a picture-perfect day at the Farmer's Market. The early morning fog had burned off completely by 9:00 AM and the sky was a lovely clear blue. Even thought we didn't need anything in particular at the Market, it was just too perfect a Fall day to stay at home! Once again, there were large, stunning displays of Winter Squash.

This clever flower vendor used an assortment of squash and pumpkins as vases. A perfect seasonal centerpiece.

Another special Fall treat - Apple Cider. This vendor was handing out free samples - it was delicious!

I loved this display of cauliflower. All three colors stacked together.

Many of the stalls were selling long stalks of of brussel sprouts.

And there were many, many different apple varieties to try. Liberty & Jonagold seemed to be the two most popular.

There were at least three stalls selling mushrooms. These were labeled as Golden Chanterelles.

And more Winter Squash. You can tell what I love the most! I was also impressed with the size of the pumpkins, pictured below. The vendor assured us if we purchased one, he would hold it at his stand so we wouldn't have to walk around with it. I should hope so!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A burst of Color in the Dahlia Patch

Every year, as the daily average temperature drops and our nights become cool and damp, my dahlias get a second burst of life.  Although the blooms are smaller at this time of year, they re-gain perfect form and attain dazzling, saturated color. Above, is a lovely bloom of "Sean C" a purple and white collarette. I didn't have a good bloom all of September to take to a show. But now my plants are blooming heavily and the blooms are perfect!

I got my "Sorbet" tuber planted very late this Summer. This is my first open bloom this year. It's worth the wait!

Here is a lovely bloom of "Jo". I am so pleased to see this bloom. I lost all of my tubers but one this year and wasn't sure that it was going to sprout and grow. It is also no longer sold in any catalogues, so if I lost it, it was gone for good. Happily, it took off in late July and I can now enjoy its first bloom of the year.

A fiery bloom of "Canoz Anne" a Waterlily form in a dark blend of red & yellow.

A cheery bloom of "Lulu Island Dad" a miniature ball form in yellow.

And my first open bloom of "Chimicum Davi" a miniature ball form in pink.

As you can see below, the dahlia plants are starting to look a little ragged but they are still producing a lot of blooms and color to enjoy.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Sights of Mid-October

Today was the first day in October that we didn't get any measurable rainfall. Finally, a sunny warm October day to enjoy. After work I took a quick walk around the property. The berries on the Wild Honeysuckle just glow like jewels right now.

The split-leaf "wild" blackberries are attaining some great Fall color

The Wild roses hips are also lovely right now.

And here are the leaves on the "wild" Himalayan Blackberries.

We have found one "wild" apple tree on our property. It is growing in the shade and is very tall and scrawny as it attempts to find some sunlight. It is loaded with apples this year and the sheer weight of them has bent it over. I haven't ever eaten one the the apples but might have to give it a try this year since they are within reach. I imagine that they aren't a very good eating quality but they certainly are pretty with a beautiful red blush over their yellow/green skin.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Garlic Planting

Part of the fun of gardening for me is trying to grow something new each year. This year I wanted to give garlic a try. I LOVE garlic but recently spent $10 for 8 heads at our Farmer's Market. Yikes! So this Saturday I visited Down-to-Earth to have a look at their garlic selection. Jackpot! I have said it before and I will say it again - we are so lucky to have this store in our town.

They had 17 -yes 17 -organic varieties to choose from. They also had one free pamphlet explaining how to plant garlic and another free pamphlet describing each variety in-depth. After much consideration, I narrowed down the field to 3 finalists: "Chesnok Red", "Nootka Rose", and "Silver Rose". Here is the description of each from the pamphlet:

"Chesnok Red" Hardneck : Large bulbs with purple stripes, hard tight heads, and easy to peal cloves. An excellent garlic for baking with a nice creamy texture. Pleasant medium pungency, long lasting flavor. Late Season.

"Nootka Rose" Softneck: Nootka Rose is a well colored variety with the potential for high productivity. The cloves are streaked red on mahogany. Nootka Rose makes an attractive braiding garlic and has a robust flavor for a softneck. Late Season.

"Silver Rose: Softneck: Silver Rose boasts large bulbs with purple stripes. It is an easy to peal garlic with hard, tight heads. A great baking garlic, Silver Rose has a creamy texture and long lasting flavor. Mid Season.

 "Pictured from left to right; "Chesnok Red", "Nootka Rose" and "Silver Rose".

Here is an individual clove of "Chesnok Red' waiting to be planted. Both the bulb and the individual cloves were tinted with such a lovely red/purple color.

I built a raised row to plant the garlic in and then laid out all of the cloves. Per the instructions, I added 1 Tbs. of Bone Meal to each planting hole and then in they went, pointed end up! Then I watered them in well. That should be it for a while. I think that I will see some green shoots appear before our weather turns cold. If so, I will have to cover the row with remay to give the young plants some protection from the birds. Now it's time to sit back, watch, and learn.