Monday, August 31, 2015

A transitional vegetable garden

The darn green beans keep producing, but it's heartening to see seedlings of spinach, arugula, mustard- spinach, lettuce, and creasy-greens come along nicely. Transplanted leeks, lettuce, and rapini are looking good, too.

And I'm hopeful for quite a few more tomatillos and ancho peppers in the next month or so, as well as the thick-walled pizza peppers coming along in pots.

The poblano/ancho peppers are a great variety called "Magnifico" and they're truly tasty. I bought a transplant at the WNC Herb Festival this spring, but tracked down a source of seeds today - Territorial Seeds - and ordered some for next season. They have a sweetness that anchos don't normally have and are a bit thicker-walled than most. Excellent!

I'm just about ready to pull out the final squash vines, but until they look truly dreadful, we'll enjoy them. Garlic (on the way) will replace them in the lower bed, along with the resurgent perennial leeks!

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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Lotus fruits and lovely gardens

One of the benefits of living in Asheville is being able to visit the Biltmore Estate. As a passholder, I happily can go anytime, for early morning walks along the French Broad River, or excursions with my gardening companion and Woody through the gardens and a loop around Bass Lake.

I don't give a hoot about the house, but the landscape and gardens (and the preserved views of the mountains and pastoral andscapes) are truly a treasure.  The walk along the French Broad River is wonderful. And the wave of sunflowers that's continued all summer -- lovely!

In recent years, the horticultural aspects of the walled garden and the conservatories has really become excellent, with displays and change-outs great fun to see, however gaudy and Victorian-inspired they might be (this year has been that, certainly!)

This year's late summer walled garden displays
The Italian Garden looks wonderful this year -- there must be a new gardener in charge, as it's always been pretty ho-hum before.

In late summer, it's full of all sorts of interesting aquatics, and wonderful lotus fruits in the side pools.

Italian Garden (at Biltmore)
Lotus fruits and fading leaves

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Friday, August 28, 2015

A glut of green beans

My message in vegetable gardening programs is to plant what you like to eat, just enough for what you want to eat and preserve (whether freezing, canning, etc.) and not anything more.

Small vegetable gardening spaces have kept me honest in this regard; even when I had more space, various critters and soil pests combined to make things manageable.

But this year, for some reason, my pole beans on trellises have been pest-free, and have kept producing for weeks and weeks... how many green beans can the two of us eat? 

I've frozen them plain, cooked them with garlic and onions, frozen those, too, made a delicious green bean, mint, and peanut salad (thanks to Yotam Ottolenghi's wonderful recipe), cooked more beans with mushrooms (and frozen those), etc. etc.  Needless to say, eating out this evening, neither of us picked green beens as our side!

And the beans that I've grown are quite delicious (Romano, Emerite, Kentucky Wonder, and a couple of others), so I'm thankful for the abundance, really, as I cooked up yet another batch this evening, after dinner out....
Green beans in late July...hmm, they still look like that, even after the squash succumbed to powdery mildew!

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Yet another pocket meadow view

I just keep enjoying the view out the front door.  With a smaller garden, I do see this view all the time, but it keeps the late afternoon light, it was lovely.

The Vernonia, Eupatorium, Sedum, Phlox, etc. just keep flowering.  We're having a cool late August, so maybe flowering is extended.  I'm not complaining! The flower visitors are totally happy.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Warm-season veggies to cool-season veggies

The change-outs began a couple of weeks ago, as fading tomatoes were replaced by newly sown greens, etc.

Squash vines have given way to beets and cilantro, and starts of leeks, kale, and parsley have been tucked in here and there.

The beans are still going strong (hmm) -- I'm getting a bit tired of green beans, actually, and have frozen about as many containers that I think we'll want to eat (there will be winter greens, after all!)

squash to peas, bare spots to greens....

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Tiger Swallowtail on Vernonia

Not a particularly good photograph, but it's always nice to see Tiger Swallowtails.  They're common butterflies, to be sure, but totally beautiful.

This one was visiting the Vernonia lettermannii, a favorite now for flower visitors of all sorts.

Tiger swallowtail on Vernonia lettermannii

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

An unexpected bumblebee hawkmoth

I was outside looking at the myriad flower visitors on the Vernonia, Eutrochium, etc. in the pocket meadow yesterday, and happily saw this bumblebee hawkmoth.

I had (by accident) my big camera along so managed a bit more decent photo than from my iPhone.


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Saturday, August 22, 2015

A changing front garden

One of the nice things about keeping account of garden changes is that it encourages appreciation, at least when progress has been made!

I've been reminded of this again and again, as I enjoy the front garden, with its pocket meadow, sedum bed, raised bed vegetable garden, and various other perennial plantings.

I've especially been enjoying the pocket meadow in the last couple of weeks, and have realized that I keep taking photos from various angles and reflecting on it.  I see it many, many times a day -- out the front door, coming back from a walk, while gardening in the raised beds, departing to or pulling in from an excursion in my car, etc.

This perennial bed (which I now call the pocket meadow) was first planted in the fall of 2009.

It adjoins the raised bed vegetable and herb garden, another perennial border, and the sedum bed, along with various other plantings.
Sept. 2009
Our first gardening project in the new house (a second home at the time) had actually been a small pitcher plant bog, which was  replaced by the sedum bed the following spring, about the time the raised beds were planted for the first time.   

Here was a early musing about how much they added to the landscape.

But to begin, we started with an expanse of mulch, covering the gravel driveway with a layer of shredded hardwood, similar to what was in the rest of the front yard.

Here were the bed outlines for the raised beds -- "sketched" in mulch lines.
It looks SO different today.
sedum bed and vegetable beds, April 2010
 In the first spring season, things had improved already.

I've just pulled out the last of the tomato plants and most of the squash plants in the vegetable garden beds, and sown seeds of fall greens, sugar snap peas where the trellised squash was (crossing my fingers for a very late fall frost), and transplanted some lettuce starts from the local hardware store.

I'm doing a program on fall vegetable gardening and season extension next week, so it's been fun to review the progression of some of these swaps, and reflect on how successful these raised beds have been.  They're attractive as well as productive, even though that requires a bit more "editing" and "grooming" than some vegetable gardens, but as they're up front, it's a priority.  And it's easy to harvest as well as monitor how things are growing, etc.

pocket meadow today
A welcoming front garden, indeed!

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Friday, August 21, 2015

A welcoming garden

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Emerite and Romano pole beans

Pole beans have been my preference in my (now many) years of vegetable gardening. 

Why crouch down to pick gobs of beans being produced so prolifically that we can't possible eat them all, nor do I want to freeze or can them, beyond just a few packages?

So delicious pole beans have been my go-to standby, especially a French filet pole bean, Emerite (introduced by a French seed company, Vilmorim, some years ago), but available in this country through specialty vegetable seed suppliers interested in flavor (Renee's Garden Seeds is where I've bought mine over the years).  Renee has sought out the best-tasting vegetables for her seed offerings over the years, and I've found her selections to be great. 

Emerite is a winner.

Emerite and Romano beans sorted out (for cooking and freezing, according to size)
I'm also fond of Romano pole beans, and have bought good varieties from different sources over the years.  The key is looking for descriptions talking about tenderness at all sizes!  Romano beans have a delicious rich flavor which I love -- and if they're not stringy or tough, magic...

The photo shows the harvest from trellises of about 10 feet total ( in two separate beds) over 3 days.  More than we can eat (we just finished a delicious bean dish and have squash to eat, too); so, some went into the freezer, and some were made into the same delicious cilantro-ginger-lime-peanut bean dish, thanks to Yottam Ottolenghi's recipe in a recent Bon Appetit.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Night skies, stars, and light

A good friend of mine mentioned this morning that she missed seeing the stars at night (here in our mountain city).  She and her husband had lived in a much smaller town in the higher mountains for many years until recently.

I hadn't really thought about this.

In the Southern U.S., the humidity in the summer obscures the night skies to a great extent, so I only really expect to see stars clearly in winter.

But, now, living close to downtown (as does my friend), light pollution plays a role, too.

I led night hikes for many years in the Piedmont, at the university botanical garden where I used to work.  On clear nights, we would see stars, as our small college town wasn't unreasonably lit up (maybe) -- but the almost 300 acres of the Garden, with the university golf course adjoining us, and campus on the other side, buffered the effect of street lights, especially at the "end" of the Garden near the Visitor Center.

Thinking about this now reminds me that I do see the moon here in the mountains, but I'll have to watch for the stars, too.

Here's an image from a November full moon from 2010 (in the Piedmont of SC).
November, 2010, Clemson, SC
There are a lot of full moon posts from the past!

November, 2014 (Frost Moon)

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

More pollinators

I was reminded yesterday of how the myriad bees and other flower visitors like common bone set (Eupatorium perfoliatum), while poking around in previous posts.

It's a winner in the front pocket meadow.

This was an image from last year about this same time.

bee on bone set

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