Greengirls Helen Yarmoska, Nicole Hvidsten, Martha Buns, Connie Nelson, Kim Palmer and Mary Jane Smetanka are dishin' the dirt from the back-yard garden and beyond. Whether you're a greenthumb or greenhorn, they're eager to learn from your mishaps, mistakes - and most importantly, your sweet successes - all growing season long.
Everything is winding down in the garden. The bee balm is spent, the cardinal flowers are drooping, the tomato plants have withered to spindly stalks.
But I just got an October surprise: morning glories -- beautiful, blue blooms bursting forth on the vine I planted from seed back in late May.
The vine had grown big and vigorous, engulfing my trellis and twining upward to the house. But I hadn't gotten a single flower. I asked some master gardeners about my less-than-glorious morning glories, and they agreed in their assessment that I probably didn't have enough sunlight.
So I checked my vines at mid-day. They seemed to be in full, bright sun, but maybe there weren't enough hours of it to coax the plant into flowering.
I had given up on seeing flowers, at least this growing season. But, lo and behold, they finally made their appearance. Morning glories are supposed to produce flowers about 60 days after planting from seed, but they have been known to take up to 120, according to several gardening websites I checked this morning.
Mine are definitely in the late-bloomer category, but they were worth the wait -- even if I can enjoy them for only a week or two.
What's going on in your garden? Any late-summer -- or fall -- surprises?
I have the answer to the age old question
, and it’s the chicken.
Through a Master Gardening project, I met a friend who started raising chickens this Spring. The project was working with Cargill employees to raise food to donate to non-profit agencies. Yes, it’s super cool that the two gardens and over a hundred volunteers grew and donated over 825 pounds of food for those in need, but let’s talk chickens.
Someday I want to have a few egg chickens roaming my yard. However
, it can’t happen now in my tiny lot in the suburb which I live. But my friend, she lives in the country. She’s raising 23 chickens and has a 100 square foot coop that’s set up as a moveable tractor. The chickens are free range, but are gathered up at night to safeguard them from fox, eagles and coyotes.
She says they all have personalities and has named several. I’m amazed at how the cute little fluffy chicks turn into fun looking egg layers. The two pictured here are called The Chipmunk and Bu (Bu is the first one).
It looks like her flock is a mixed group so there should be several different kind colors of eggs. Right now, they are a little over three-months-old, and they should start laying eggs in 2-3 weeks. I can’t wait. I’m going to be one of her new customers.
So for now it’s the
chickens. Then it’s the eggs.
Do you have a flock or a special friend with eggs in hand?
Share your story.
Seven heads of cabbage, two Swiss chard plants, four kale plants, and one big bowl of cucumbers are still out there awaiting attention. When it's forecast to be 32 degrees or less overnight, that's when I find myself scurrying around first trying to harvest it all, and then trying to cram it all into 14.7 cubic feet of refrigerator space until I can get it processed into soups and such to go into the freezer. (I won't even contemplate the freezer math.)
One of my resolutions at the end of last year was to trying to avoid the annual last-minute scramble, so I've been trying to make inroads on the kale and chard so I don't have to pick all of it at the same time I'm trying to pick the stubbornly green tomatoes and bring in all the herb pots. But with the recent fall weather and shored-up fencing, the kale has taken off faster than I can seem to pick it or find room in the refrigerator around all the broccoli I'm still trying to finish off. The four vats of soup I made last weekend didn't seem to make much of a dent in the cruciferous bounty. And there's only so much that can go into kale chips.
Luckily, kale can survive cold temps fairly well and some people think it tastes sweeter after a touch of frost. I've sometimes resorted to leaving a bunch of the kale to take its chances once the refrigerator is packed to the gills. It's nice to have something left to harvest after the freezing frenzy has died down.
I did harvest an enormous bowl of basil last weekend based on the cool forecast. Forty minutes of destemming the plants yielded 3 pints of pesto, and one less chore to face on the night before a real frost.
So the final math question: How many days will I have before the frost finally overcomes the urban heat bubble in my back yard?
That’s the feeling I get in fall, when the heads of the black-eyed Susans and coneflowers turn black, the sun-scalded hosta look tattered and the tomatoes begin to sulk in the cold.
But it’s not over.
The U of M mums are blooming, some of them in mounds as big as a shrub. And sweet autumn clematis, which has spent all summer crawling up and over the garden fence, creeping up the arbovitae and reaching with grasping tendrils into nearby perennials, has finally exploded in a mass of tiny white flowers.
I reexamine the garden in autumn. This year I see issues everywhere. Even after a summer of renovation, I have some major reworking to do next spring. But I won’t forget the fall flowers when I begin tearing things out. They remind us that autumn in the garden isn’t an end at all, but a beautiful bridge to a new gardening year.
Do you have a favorite autumn plant?
Gardens are perpetual. This time of year I find myself thinking about what to do and not to do in my garden. I dig out the dusty note pad at the bottom of my garden bag and start making notes.
Cannas - out. They were supposed to be an exotic, elegant wall of foliage and bloom against the back drop of my garage wall. Results were, eh, OK. I will go through the effort to dig out the bulbs, but they will be placed behind my peonies in a different part of the yard.
Roses - In. I know they're a hassle -- spraying, pruning, tipping. But when I saw the Honey Perfume rose at the MN Landscape Arboretum, I had to have it. As a beekeeper I truly enjoyed that three honeybees were digging their way into the nectar of this lovely rose.
Tomatoes – diversify. I planted Brandywine tomatoes from seed and with the exception of one cherry tomato plant, that’s all I planted. Although they were listed as indeterminate (not all coming ripe at the same time), due to our super-hot summer and my planting time, they all started turning red at the same time. I had to take a day off work to make sure all of the fruit from the 12 plants didn’t go to waste. Then, there was blight. I planted 8 plants up at my cabin garden. When they were exceeding 5 feet, I thought I better bring the cages from home. Well, I didn’t clean my cages with bleach like they recommend and in one week, the poor plants were wilting, brown and yucky. Add another note to the book. Blight – Bad, sterilize cages, use disease resistant plants.
Pond – re-do! Two winters ago, we had a very dry Fall, and virtually no snowfall. So in Spring of this year, my pond
barely held any water. The water lilies died, the marsh marigolds died, I didn’t plant Josephine’s lotus flower right and the pond grew a green slime in the water instead of roots. Come spring. All will be tossed and replaced with new plants and new beginnings.
What’s on your list? What worked for you and what did not?
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