Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Giants in the Mudroom Flowerbed

Last April 29th, I tackled a big project in the mudroom flowerbed. I lifted out most of the plants and added a great deal of new soil to the bed. Once I got it evenly filled and leveled, I organized and replanted the bed. Then I gave a strong "haircut" to the few perennials that I didn't move.

I am pleased to report that everything survived the upheaval and most of the plants have thrived in their new location. They all appreciated a little more elbow room too. In particular, two plants have really gone crazy with their growth this Summer.

If you look at the first picture, you can make out two little plants of Salvia Guaranitica "Black & Blue". For the first time in many years, we had two plants over-winter. They were both small, 2-3 inches in height. I dug them up and re-planted them near each other. Now, six moths later, the plants have grown together and created one enormous salvia. It is over four feet high and has been covered in beautiful blooms all Summer. We haven't ever grown a Black & Blue Salvia of this size before.

The long, tubular flowers have been a hummingbird favorite. Their blue color is such a pretty contrast to the lime green coloring of the leaves.

The other "giant" in the mudroom bed this year is the Salvia Microphylla 'La Trinidad Pink" . It was a really big, happy plant last year too. I gave the plant a major, hard trimming this Spring and was a bit worried that I might have cut it back too much. I shouldn't have been concerned! As it has every year, it grew like crazy and has taken over a lot of real estate. It is another favorite of the hummingbirds who love its hot pink flowers. It has been blooming constantly since July and will continue until we receive a hard frost.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Chopping Down the Dahlias

It's the last weekend in October and that can only mean one thing - it's time to begin cleaning up the dahlia garden. This is the weekend that I always begin this process but it seems early this year. The dahlia garden hasn't been hit with a killing frost yet  and I didn't finish planting this garden until the middle of July. Because of both of those circumstances, from a far the garden still looks lovely.

However, up-close is a different story. We have had quite a few heavy rains the last 10 days. The weight of the water had snapped at least 50% of the blooms. Although the plants are still covered in buds, the rains are preventing me from getting any blooms worth harvesting.

I started chopping down the four rows that were the first four rows that I planted back in July. These tubers have been in the ground the longest. The clumps should be large and fully mature by this time. I left a stalk on each plant about 5" high and covered it with tin foil. This prevents the rain from falling down the hollow stalk and collecting on the crown. By chopping down the plants today, I have sent the tubers the same signal that they would receive with a killing frost. They now "know" that the growing year is over. They will cure in the ground for the next week and will be ready to lift and store. Also the tuber eyes will begin to swell over the next week. This will make my cutting much easier when I am dividing up the clumps into individual tubers next weekend.

Ta-da! The first four rows cut down and curing. Next weekend they will be the first tubers to be dug.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Kitchen Garden Clean-up

Today I tackled one of my least favorite tasks of the Fall season; cleaning up the kitchen garden. This task was made a bit easier by today's weather - overcast and a very mild 68 degrees. I had already harvested all of the Winter Squash, Onions,  Morning Glory seed, and Tomatoes. It was now a "simple" matter of picking up all of the spent plant material as well as the assorted cages, towers, and plant markers.

As always, it took me much longer than I had expected! Here's the view once my work was completed.

I assumed that the only vegetable that would remain in the garden would be the two "Tuscano" kale. However, the "Galina" yellow cherry still looks good. The 10-day forecast seems mild, so I thought that I would leave it in and see if I could get one more harvest out of it before the first frost.

I am waiting to harvest any kale until the first frost or two. All my gardening books indicate that the kale will become much sweeter after it is exposed to a period of freezing temperatures.

Like so many plants, Kale is architecturally interesting.

There are still many tresses left on the "Galina" cherry that have yet to mature.

Here's the "compost" pile of assorted plant material. I know that the deer will quickly discover this  vegetation and make quick work of cleaning it up. They love tomato plants.

While I worked alone for much of the afternoon, I did have this sweet little bird supervise me for a while. I was able to get quite close to it and it just calmly remained perched on the garden fencing. On the other end of the "assistance" spectrum were these three slugs. Absolutely no help what so ever!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Birthday Dahlias

With the exception of last year, we often experience a killing frost during the first few weeks of October. While this early frost facilitates the digging up the the dahlia plants, it always made me sad to have the season end so soon. In particular, I miss having a birthday bouquet to enjoy on the 23rd. This year we dogged a bullet! The night of October 4th we hit a low of 32 degrees at our house. However, there was no visible frost on the ground and the bird baths didn't even have a skiff of ice on them. Right after that, our nighttime temperatures began to rise. Happily, the dahlias are still very much alive and pumping our blooms on the 23rd of October. 

"Cobequid Pinwheel"

"Happet Ideal"

These are my first two bloom of "Higgo Wonder". Last year, we had a frost before the plants bloomed at all.

It was definitely worth the wait. It is such a striking combination of purple and white.

"Joal Louisa"

"Chimicum Davi"

My first bloom of the year of "Jac's Julia".

"Pam Howden"

"Canoz Anne"

A partially opened bloom of "Hillcrest St. Charles", another late one.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The First Mowing

Each October, after the first Fall rains arrive, I begin mowing some of the fields around our house. I usually begin this long process in early October and it consumes much of my weekend time for the next six weeks or so. Due to my Maine vacation, and our lingering Summer drought, I wasn't able to begin my mowing until this weekend. I started on the bank, directly across from the front of the house. As it always is for me, my project took longer than expected and I accomplished less then I had hoped! I think due to the heavy June rains, the grass is taller and thicker than I ever remember it being at this time of the year. I had to mow over many areas multiple times. Even with all of the challenges, it still feels good to have one small section done.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

October at the Farmer's Market

I finally made it back down to the Lane County Farmer's Market today. It has been over six weeks since my last visit and so much has changed. We are now almost a month into Fall. All of the "classic" Fall produce was present but there was still a strong showing of the Summer crops. Frankly, I think there is more abundance at the Market right now, in the middle of October, than at any other time.

Sweet Potatoes, a favorite of mine, have arrived. This vendor had three different varieties for sale.

As you would expect, there were apples for sale everywhere. It is always interesting to see all of the different varieties that are available and read the descriptions of each.

I am always a bit surprised to see fresh ginger for sale. It is so unique looking and completely different in appearance then what is sold at the supermarket.

This creative florist was using hollowed out pumpkins as containers for her arrangements.

Beautiful flint corn. This variety originated with the Abenaki people of Maine.

I loved the signage at this Market stand. Beautiful & informative.

\They also produced a sign for their pepper collection.

Brussel Spouts are another Fall & early Winter favorite.

A heaping basket of Parsnips. I need to try roasting some this year.

Like apples, pears were also in abundance.

The late-season potatoes looked good too.

And how could you resist fresh caught Chinook Salmon or Rock Fish?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Harvesting Morning Glory Seed

This is a picture of a volunteer "Dawn Star" morning glory that germinated against the climbing trellis in the big garden this year. It is one of my all-time favorite morning glories and I wanted to see if I could save some seed from it this year.

Some morning glory varieties are better seed producers than other varieties. In my experience, "Grandpa Ott" is a great seed producer while "Heavenly Blue" is not. Back while it was blooming, I wrapped green twist ties around a couple of "Dawn Star" bloom clumps, so I would be sure I was saving the correct seed after the flowers had faded. Of all of the clumps that I marked, only one had set seed. To further complicate things, these pods were still fairly green. Since a lot of rain was in the forecast, I clipped off theses three pods and brought them inside to dry on a paper towel. Hopefully the seed is fully mature and will germinate in the Spring.

I also wanted to save seed from my monster "Mixed Colors" Pink morning glory that was growing up in my kitchen garden. It smothered the support tower this year and was covered in beautiful two-tone pink flowers all Summer long.

I had literally hundreds of seed pods from which to harvest on this plant. It definitely falls into the category of "awesome seed producer". I would say over 2/3 of the pods had already dried and were just starting to split open. Each pod contains four shiny, black seeds.

When I was finished I had a small plastic container half filled with seed. I will have plenty of seed to start plants for myself and to share with others. If you save morning glory seed, be sure to keep it out of reach of children and pets. It is highly toxic.