Friday, August 31, 2012

Harvesting vegetables

It's amazing how small gardens can be productive.  I feel like I don't have very much space in my raised beds in the mountains, but coming back for the weekend, I harvested LOTS of beans, ripe peppers, and squash.  This after harvesting everything last weekend, including all the small beans and squash. The tromboncino and Tatume squash and the remainder of the tomatillos and tomatoes will be edited this weekend -- the squash leaves are suffering from mildew. I'm going to leave the butternut squash to mature -- that's fun. Never had any of those before!

All of the cool-season fall greens and root crops that I sowed earlier are looking great, and popping up much faster than they do in the low soil and air temperatures of spring.  The beds were dry, but I gave them a good soaking this afternoon.

I just finished 'putting up' everything that I harvested last week yesterday evening.  So there's a second round waiting for me, too.  At least the tomatoes are largely finished!

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fall planting

I'm a gardening answer person periodically on a call-in radio program for our university's Your Day Public Service Radio feed that goes throughout the state.  It's fun, and I'm glad to encourage gardeners of whatever knowledge level to learn more and have fun doing it.  I pitched in today as a last-minute guest for my friend and colleague, Bob Polomski (and substitute for a much more well-known gardening 'personality') - Felder Rushing, whose Mississippi radio base needed to switch their focus to Hurricane Isaac.

Today's calls were typical, from ornamentals to vegetables.

I'm always reminded (and try to encourage folks) that learning about plants is fun, and rewarding.  Before adding landscape plants, learn about them.  Vegetables, ditto.   If you've  inherited an overgrown landscape, learn about what you have and prune things back judiciously.

Talk to your extension agent, too. He/she often knows a lot about what you're interested in planting.

Oh, and planting in fall is the best practice, too, throughout the Carolinas, even if maybe you can't acquire the right plants.  Try, however!

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012


The buddleia in the far border has been attracting LOTS of butterflies.  Monarchs, tiger swallowtails, skippers, and more.
Buckeye on Buddleia
Silver-spotted skipper nectaring

It's been fun to watch the activity over the last few weeks!

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Monday, August 27, 2012

More planting

I'm wondering how we'll eat all these greens, if the seeds I'm sowing are productive, unless the resident woodchuck in the back woodlot creeps out!  But I have barriers that I'm planning to use, too.

I spent yesterday evening turning over the beds in the satellite garden in the Piedmont, and cleaning out the Oxalis that had colonized my containers, and sowed more lettuce, spinach, turnips, chard, and kale late this afternoon.

Maybe the edges of Isaac will water them in for me; otherwise, I'll get them nicely settled in tomorrow.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Cleaning up

I spent quite a bit of time today cleaning up the raised beds in the mountains today. This meant editing some tomatoes that were not producing very much, along with some squash plants.

I'll add some mushroom compost and organic fertilizer over the weekend, and sow more fall greens and lettuce!

Uh, having two vegetable gardens is way too tempting.  How can I resist replanting?


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A pileated woodpecker

Behind my office is a Southern red oak in decline.  Limbs have been trimmed and the top has already broken, although we're not inclined to take it down just yet.

My colleague pointed out to me this morning that a pileated woodpecker was busily working a cavity high up on the trunk - what a great sight.  This is a blurry image from early morning (cropped, of course!).

It's probably a feeding cavity based on my bit of research, although I'm hardly an expert on bird behavior.  Not the time of the year for a nesting cavity, certainly, and pileated woodpeckers forage in dead and dying trees in search of a favorite prey item, carpenter ants, according to All About Birds, Cornell Ornithology Lab's online field guide site. 

Or perhaps it's foraging for some sort of other insect larvae, too.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Pizza peppers...

I love thick-walled and productive pizza peppers.  One source is Territorial Seed, where they describe them as hot, but I haven't found them to be hot at all.  They're juicy and delicious. Totally Tomatoes may offer the same variety, hard to know.

And they're certainly the most substantial peppers that I've ever grown (in terms of being as close to as thick-walled as greenhouse peppers).

'Pizza' peppers
Here's an image of a couple of peppers from the garden (one from the Piedmont, one from the mountains). The larger one is from a well-watered mountain container, the smaller was on its own.

I left the edge of the lime in the photo for a size perspective.  They're not big, but delicious and the plants are productive!

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Looking forward to garden visiting

In just about a month, I'll be visiting gardens in Germany and the Netherlands for a couple of weeks on a self-guided garden study tour.

I've been wanting to do this for several years, after I started learning more about the 'new wave' gardening trends practiced by Dutch, German, and English garden designers, creating naturalistic gardens, and often using many of our North American natives.

It should be quite interesting.  I'll be visiting Piet and Anna Oudolf's private garden during their open days, as well as Mien Rhys' garden, now open to the public.  There are a number of other destinations on the itinerary, too, Hermannshof and Weihenstephan. The latter requires dealing with Oktoberfest visitors, so I may not make it there.  We'll see. But there are lots of other gardens, natural areas, and cultural sites to visit, too, so I'm totally looking forward to the traveling.

I spent a year in Germany as a post-doc almost three decades ago, so it will be interesting to return.  My gardening companion and I went to an International Botanical Congress in Berlin back in 1987, and spent 3 weeks traveling in Germany, Austria, and Northern Italy, but we haven't visited Germany since, choosing more far flung places to travel to (the exception have been trips to Northern Italy in 2001 and Southern Italy in 2008).

I'm currently immersing myself in reading and listening to German (it's amazing how much that I still comprehend), and enjoying reading gardening blogs in German, too!  It's great fun to be able to listen to podcasts, read magazines online, etc.

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

A gift of peppers

Coming back down from the mountains for the beginning of another fall semester, it was a gift to have a green and flourishing garden.  Yes, it's overgrown, the meadow is a mess (but there was a southern-bound monarch flitting around the scruffy common milkweed plants, too).  The zoysia lawn that came with the house is looking great, thanks to intermittent rains throughout the summer.  In the last two summers, we came home to parched beds and a crispy lawn, with the woodland garden parched, so it's great to have something different.

My main perennial border doesn't look too bad, but has the usual redbud seedlings that need to be cut out (this was last year's post about the same problem).

Happily, the satellite garden is ready to plant with fall greens, or almost ready, after some quick turning of beds.  I'd spent quite a bit of time on my last visit prepping soil, adding compost, weeding, etc.  Hooray!  And the main vegetable garden, ditto. 

Except for the hulking Florida Anise that has engulfed my potting bench AND access to the last block in the main vegetable garden.  I think I'll need to get in reinforcements, and they won't be my gardening companion or assistant, both of whom have other responsibilities this fall.  Tim has classes to teach, and a new book project, and Woody, well, he's got cheering up duties and is healing a sore knee.

But, it's fun to contemplate sowing seeds of hardy greens, spinach, and lettuce here, and maybe I'll try some beets, peas, and fava beans, too. Who knows?  Every season brings something new to the garden.

Finally, the gift of peppers.  A 'pizza' pepper plant in the satellite garden had 4 beautiful red peppers on it.  They're thick-walled and sweet.  Definitely a gift from a plant that had had no care all summer.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Scarlet runner beans and window boxes

The scarlet runner beans have been a standout in the front garden beds - the leaves haven't been bothered by anything and the flowers just keep coming. Bean production isn't high, but that isn't really the point with scarlet runners. They're lovely!

Window boxes
The window box plants continue to look great!

Woody's keeping an eye on what I'm up to!

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Foraging for mushrooms

The vegetable garden is continuing to produce.  Trays of tomatoes and tomatillos seem to be coming out the oven each day, with beans and squash to be eaten or frozen, too.

But a weekend mushroom foray with our neighbor, who's a mushroom expert, found a variety of interesting mushrooms.

The highlight were these lobster mushrooms. 
lobster mushroom
 We had quite a large haul of them. 
we had two baskets full
They were tasty!  Most went to a local chef who runs cooking classes and who was along as a chief forager.  (I must say I like shitakes and button mushrooms about as well, but it was fun to collect them out in nature, as long as you're totally confident that they're safe to eat!)

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Yard-long beans, greasy-cut beans, Italian Romano beans, and French filet pole beans have been on the menu for weeks, but the supply finally overwhelmed our ability to eat them in a timely fashion.

So, it was time to start blanching them to freeze, and this nice assortment has ended up as freezer packages ( hmm, but more beans are coming).

Bean harvest
I roasted some red 'Pizza' peppers, too, and froze them. This has been a year for early ripening of abundant peppers as well as an unusual number of tomatillos so far, with more to come. They're often a no-show harvest for me. I've already harvested a gallon-size bag of them (now roasted and frozen).

The tomatoes are slowing down, except for the small plum tomatoes and the cherries.

And I sowed some early beets, kale, arugula, spinach, and cilantro this afternoon. It's always a bit of a juggle between warm season and cool season veggies. In this case, I pulled out a lavender that was in decline due to the warm wet summer, along with some accompanying thymes, so had some 'new' space to plant. But I've also pulled out some spent tomatoes in the lower bed, so it'll be ready for greens, too, as are the beds back in the Piedmont.

It's amazing how productive these small beds in the mountains are, although admittedly I've expanded the original raised beds to include a number of border beds between us and our neighboring apartment. (These have been flourishing with beans and squash.)


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Monday, August 6, 2012

Front meadow

I really wish I had a decent camera at the moment - the iPad 2 is pretty minimal (awful, actually). I miss my trusty Nikon D100 left at home in the Piedmont through forgetfulness and a hurried exit!

But I enjoyed the front meadow this evening, and even these sub-par photos reflect the scene. (As an addendum, I used the PhotoGene app on the iPad to "improve" these marginal photos.) It seems to be a useful app, and well worth $2.99.

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Tromboncino squash

The tromboncino squash are starting to come on strongly - just as the older leaves are starting to decline, first yellowing and then looking ratty, and finally dying. Most unattractive for a front garden trellis. So I've been spending some time 'grooming' the vines. Hmm. At least the scarlet runner beans are looking great!

Tomatoes ripening on counter
The kitchen counter continues to fill each day with tomatoes, beans, and peppers, too. It's definitely been a good summer season for vegetables so far!

I wish I hadn't forgotten my regular camera - my photography choices are currently the iPad (these photos, for example, pretty lame) - or using the small Panasonic - great photos, but I'd have to remind myself about its settings...oh, well.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Back home in the Piedmont for a couple of days, I devoted time to tidying the main vegetable garden and satellite garden for fall planting.  "Tidying" is a wimpy word for the weeding involved, but happily, enough recent rain has left the soil pliant enough for easy pulling of even the Italian dandelion volunteers (from an original plant that I had deliberately cultivated years ago).

What was I thinking?  The leaves were just as bitter as 'regular' dandelions... Ick.

But I managed to clear out most of the weeds, so I'm feeling good about it.

There's no sign of woodchucks (hooray), perhaps because of the rainy summer (so good forage beyond the vegetable garden).  So I'll be sowing fall cole crops and lettuce in mid-August, when we're back for fall semester.

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