Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Squash flowers and woodchucks

Aside from hoping for rain, it's a quiet time in the garden, except for gathering tomatoes and weeding. There'd been no sign of woodchucks in the satellite garden for awhile, so I hopefully transplanted a few of the trombocino squash seedlings that were growing in the main garden last weekend. It was an overcast day, so they looked good, and I had visions of the vines rambling over the mulch producing squash until fall, like last year. Ha! They were fine the next morning, but by late afternoon, THIS is what they looked like.

I checked out the developing squash on the large vine in the main garden, and felt better.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Hummingbird visits

In summer, hummingbirds visit the feeders and flowers in the garden. Coral honeysuckle and Salvia coccinea are favorites; each coral honeysuckle flower seems to produce nectar for a number of days, at least they're visited frequently. A female hummingbird investigated the Bolivian begonia in the hanging basket outside my study window this morning. She kept looking for the nectar in the flowers; adapted for hummingbird pollination, this begonia is one of the Andean species that relies on deception, not nectar to attract hummingbirds. Check out this link for some interesting information on hummingbirds. http://nationalzoo.si.edu/conservationandscience/migratorybirds/webcam/hummingbirds.cfm

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Friday, July 27, 2007

The view from my study

The birdfeeders are in full view when I'm at the computer. The usual parade of Carolina chickadees, titmice, and cardinals is always fun to watch. This morning, a flash of yellow alerted me to a visit by a male goldfinch. I'd recently filled up the thistle feeder, but he wasn't eating thistle seeds, but avidly eating black oil sunflower seeds in one of the main feeders. I took a few quick shots through the window, and then went outside to see that a female goldfinch was now on the same feeder.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Garden flowers

The coral honeysuckle outside the kitchen window is flowering again, encouraged by the recent thunderstorms. There's a lovely cluster of flowers hanging in full view when I stand at the sink. The female hummingbird has found them and has added it to her circuit of the three feeders and the Salvias in various spots in the garden.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Potato harvest

I had never grown potatoes before last year, but was inspired about how easily my colleagues had grew them in raised beds and straw bales. They're such fun to harvest -- magic to be discovering them underground. (If I needed to grow enough potatoes for us to eat all year, I wouldn't be so thrilled, however.) Digging beds for new potato patches was not too hard. My plan was to raise the clayey beds slightly, add plenty of compost, and other amendments, and mulch heavily with straw.

I ordered 'seeds' from Wood Prairie Farm, an organic potato grower in Maine. These are basically potatoes ready to sprout, cut up, and plant. And if you're going to grow them, why not try purple, blue, red, fingerling, and gold varieties! And, the kicker is that home-grown potatoes are much more delicious than store-bought, although maybe it's just the idea. They certainly seem crisper and fresher.

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Friday, July 20, 2007


Several good thunderstorms have helped the garden tremendously. We still need more, as we're behind over 10 inches this year already, but everything is looking green and lush. The view from my study window is striking right now- the purple phlox is looking great. The yellow on the right is the Threadleaf coreopis just starting to flower.

The society garlic (Tulberghia) in the garden shed border is flowering nicely, and the sage and anise hyssop that replaced the kale makes a nice contrast to the rest of the greys, greens, and purples.

The view from the sink at the kitchen window is nice right now; the beans and cucumbers on the trellises are growing well, and a couple of tomatoes are ripening.

The tromboncino squash rescued from the woodchucks in the satellite garden is attractive on the fence. Maybe it will produce some squash!

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Rain at last

It's been really dry here in the Southeast this spring and summer. We've had just enough intermittent thunderstorms to keep things from being totally crispy. Native wildflowers and shrubs are still doing fine, except for the ones that live naturally in damp places (Joe-Pye Weed, for example).

My vegetable garden, filled with domesticated plants from all sorts of places, isn't so conservative. The deep-rooted tomatoes and tough-leaved kales have been troopers; in fact this looks like it will be a great tomato year. The peppers, however, are just sulking in the hot dry weather and the last of the early summer lettuce is wilting, then bolting.

I've just amended (with compost) and sown seeds of chard, beets, and more lettuce in a couple of areas. We enjoyed the harvest of yellow fingerling potatoes this weekend -- absolutely delicious. They were grown in the "Satellite" garden (under the powerline and behind the winter honeysuckle).

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Main vegetable garden

In the raised bed garden that's the 'main vegetable garden,' I try to practice intensive raised-bed gardening, loosely based on the square-foot method. I'm afraid I'm not methodical enough to be precise about planting -- frankly, I like to play with my garden, but I do try to rotate vegetables as I can.

We eat as much as we can from the garden, but having it look nice is important, too. The garden is right out the kitchen door, so I think about it as a perennial vegetable/flower bed, even if it's made up of annuals. I want it to be pleasing throughout the year. Rotating out plants, reseeding, and routinely adding more compost and amendments; all of these things are part of my gardening year.

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Coffee grounds & woodchucks

I spread coffee grounds around the munched trombocino squash and violetta beans where the woodchucks have been partying recently.

Maybe the coffee smell will be a deterrent. It's a great soil amendent, in any case. Woodchucks seem to have very distinct foraging preferences -- curcurbits, tomatillos, kale, and beans are greatly preferred. Potatoes and tomatoes have barely been nibbled, except for a few flowers. The red mulberry was defoliated early, too -- another favorite.

What's surprising is that we've never had woodchucks in our garden before and our neighborhood is not particularly good habitat either. But we've spotted two out foraging, who scuttled back towards the brushpile. Hhrmph.

My natural gardening tendencies are challenged by herbivores like the woodchucks! At least they haven't been in the main vegetable garden, only the 'satellite' garden down the hill.

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