Review of 2013

The gardening season started with a total re-do of the brick. Thanks to some friendly donations of newspaper, the walkways turned out great with hardly any weedage seeping through the cracks! At the end of the season, the height and spacing appear to have made it through quite nicely. Here’s a pic just following the major leaf clean-up just before Thanksgiving:

Garden “bones” exposed

And so it is the happiest moment when the beds are put to sleep. Richly productive manure wraps each bed in a protective, nutritious layer. Thanks to Jerry and Gail at North Shore Equestrian Center for the black gold!

In reviewing goals I had set out in early June,

Goal 1: creating a stronger visual barrier between the quad and the fence on the south side of the quadrant.

Before view of the south perimeter.

Before view of the south perimeter.

(look past the lovely Crocosmia and red tomato cages, dear Reader!) Work here was tough. Both KP and I were stung by nettles that had sprouted there! Ouch, ouch baby. Not only was it treacherous, but it was also major ugly. It resulted in uninspired photography. Here is one distant capture of the area with joe pye weed and hypericum.

Southern Border (under development)

Southern Border (under development)

With the close of the season, though, KP got a yen to clean out some vines and pesky locusts. Look forward to next season when I can fill in even more desired plantings that aren’t too tall. We want to preserve the view across the channel in hopes of having a viewing platform. Or, since it’s all fantastical at this point, a hot tub.

Goal 2: creating sequential and continual interest throughout the summer.

caldium

HD caladium

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Dahlia success!

This year was better than previous. I believe the antidote was cutting some stuff back after blooming and filling in with later blooming annuals. Of particular note, loved the Catharanthus roseus (aka Vinca) so I must be sure to look for it next season. The two versions of Caladium were absolutely awesome and 100% worth the few bucks HD charged. Here’s one version (left). These dahlia (right) I picked up from the local nursery, also from a bag, were awesome. No idea (unfortunately) as to the varietal name. The photo on the package also indicated this was more of an orange-ish red, but grew to be a brilliant brick red.

Goal 3: I wanted to do less maintenance along the perimeter and front of house; move detail work to quad so that more of my time and attention is focused on plant maintenance in the quad. The outcome? I did less in those peripheral areas, simply because I didn’t have the time or energy. Essentially, I just ignored them. But with guilt. Some unseasonable weather had given me two sunny days in the 50s so I was able to rake and tidy the nautilus and the south border bed.

What didn’t do so well ?

  • The anemone didn’t do so well, but that may be because it is year 1. The purple “Mr. Fokker” came up white. Hope springs eternal for better blooms next season!
  • One practice I don’t want to repeat for next season is salvia in the quandrant. I edged the southern end of the quadrant with this tall beauty. You may recall the tiny babies (left) that grew huge and attracted many bees. It was a bit intimidating to walk through the gauntlet of nectar-collecting bees! No one was stung, but the size and magnitude of the salvia probably contributed to the tomato delay. Since the picture on the right, I’ve cut them back and mulched them. If any of the plants overwinter, I’ll move them to the perimeter.
Salvia "indigo spires"

Salvia “indigo spires” Memorial Day weekend

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Salvia “indigo spires” -late September

  • In mid May, I sowed directly two varieties of carrots and beans around a configured repurposed trellis. The beans were failures. Only one trailer ever reached the top of the trellis and bloomed. The carrots didn’t need the shaded, protected area I created by the lean-to’s. They too (like the tomatoes) didn’t produce fruit until late September. The Atomic red’s were somewhat disappointing but the Amarillo yellow’s were quite profuse. As directed on the seed packet, I planted a smattering late in the summer. I’ll check to see if they’ve matured and been fruitful when we’re back in Southampton.
Amarillo carrots

Amarillo carrots

Tomatoes, September 22

Tomatoes, September 22

      • The tomatoes suffered from their late start. Almost exactly around mid-September, I noticed that the tomatoes were all of a sudden growing differently. I believe that because the sun was lowering, the tomato plants were missing the early morning sun, and then had to compete with the salvia for the afternoon sun. I didn’t see green fruit until late August, and no ripe fruit until late September. By that time, it was getting too late in the season for any profusion. While I neglected taking photos of the ripe fruit (drats!), the tomatoes were beautiful and very, very tasty. Here’s some shots of their evolution:

P.S… The tomato cages from Gardener.com lived up to their advertising. I didn’t have to tie any plants to the cages, and they cleaned up so nicely at the end of the season. Easy squeezy.

Tomato plants in August

Tomato plants in August

      • The celery seeds and the celery seedling plants I bought were a disappointment. The seedlings I started didn’t survive, and the seedlings seemed a bit deformed. Out of a full flat, only 4-5 survived the early fall. I’m now wondering if their proximity to the hellebores caused that (given the density of anti-freeze the hellebores produces, maybe?)
Sad celery

Sad celery

Perhaps the annual and perennial lessons gardening teaches is to look to future seasons for future successes. It is with those hopes in mind that I first offer thanks to all friends and neighbors who contribute to my happy gardening experience. With love and peace to all,
Nancy

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Supporting Actors

KP and I bought these trellis’ last year at Home Depot to support my badly-placed tomato plants that went hog wild and yielded about 5 cherry tomatoes. Then Superstorm Sandy hit and two of these went down. I moved them, just in time for the graduation party and decided they should go to the garden out east. Inspired by this picture on my Pinterest board, I had the idea to recycle the storm damaged HD trellis and create lean-to’s like it.

leantotrellis Inspired by this picture, I had the idea to recycle the storm damaged HD trellis and create lean-to’s like it.

I read somewhere that carrot plants, like lettuces, like the filtered shade. With the red and yellow carrot seeds I ordered, it seemed like a good plan.

Tomato cages from Gardeners.com are on their way to me. I looked high and low for advic

panel

e. I

was persuaded to purchase the tomato cages by reading that one of long-time employees of Garderners.com swore by the tomato cages. We’ll find out here in August – October how they fare.

First, I sawed off the legs to shorten the panels. I bought some hardwood stakes at my local garden store and some jute. The panels look more solid than they really are; they’re made of some flimsy wood, but I love the framed look and would like to get a few more years out of them. Two of the sawed-off legs were in pretty good condition, so I hammered in 3 nails. I plan to wrap the jute around the nail and the top of the stake. This will give me some play in the angle of how the frame attaches to the panel.

After attaching the frame to the stakes with jute, I then attached the frame to the panel. It was an awkward process wrapping the jute, but the day was beautiful and sunny, and I convinced myself to chillax. Here are the panels attached to the leaning stakes with a bit of composted cow mixed into the soil.  Well, it ain’t pretty, but it should hold. The jute will also fade to a simile of natural jute. Don’t ask me why I just didn’t buy natural colored jute.

frame

I used the jute to attach the frame to the panels, drove the stakes into the earth and gave them a couple of good pounds with KP’s mallet. Here are the panels in situ:

panelsinsitu

I put the bean seeds just under the panels so they can climb up, a divider of brick to keep the seeds separate, and then some short rows of carrot seeds. I’ll add mulch to line the front of the panel and around the side.

Towards the western edge of this extension, I added the last of the celery seeds, lime basil and regular basil. Here’s a view of the cleaned bed, with vegetable seeds in seed starter (so I can see the rows (!), and awaiting the tomato cages:

extension

While it’s only a 40′ extension, digging always takes a lot of energy. I had to clear the pseudo-lawn out of the way. It’s been so dry in the NE, the grass and weeds peeled away like cheap carpeting. Because this is a new extension to the quadrant, I’ve been saving my kitchen scraps (fruit and veggie peelings only with egg shells) and taking them to the garden. This extension resides on a down-slope so every little bit of extra earthiness helps to built it up. After planting the two bean varieties, carrot seeds, and the remaining celery, lime basil and regular basil, I felt pretty proud. The tomato cages can go in the middle, between the two seeded areas.

But the next morning, I saw that raccoon varmints had gotten into the stinky kitchen scraps and complete obliterated my nice neat rows. At least it wasn’t deer! Note to self: Place a pile of compost that isn’t sited in the garden. This could turn out to be a happy accident with the two basils and celery growing haphazardly.

extension2 What a mess! Oh well. We’ll see what shakes out…

Happy Mother’s Day

Being a mom is a lot like starting seeds. The progeny require much more time and nurturance than you can ever imagine. These babies took twice as long as I anticipated and what coaxed them out of their own little wombs was a lot of rain and sun. So many mornings I sat outside, peering into the little pods, anxious to see any stirrings of maturity. Ever so gently, I watered every day, but nothing. Finally ready to let go and let them mature or not, we had four rainy days with a sunny one in the middle. Life has its own timing. We have to continue nurturing, loving and trusting until It – our babies, our pets, our friends, our endeavors – arrive when ready.

Image tomatoes big time. Always have and probably always will. Tried about 6 plants last year I had bought from Home Depot. Unfortunately, I put them in a spot that didn’t have enough sun and by August, they became unwieldy, beastly vines that beared little fruit. This year, with the garden getting more sun, I decided to try again.

So I ordered some seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds on 4/1. I ordered these varieties:

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and started them in decomposable seed pods in organic seed starter on 4/8. In the NE this year, it’s been a cold, but sunny spring with very little rain. These guys were sucking up water like mad, requiring a good soaking every morning. Most nights were cool (between 45-50˚) so every night for weeks, the trays would come in and then back out in the morning. Weeks and weeks went by, but nothing! Uncle Mark Bagby was the first to finally show signs of life around 4/29, followed closely behind by the Celery Tendercrisp.

Now, it’s mother’s day, 5/12 – for crying out loud – and I’m just finally seeing signs of arrival! I think what has brought these babies to fruition is the last four rain-soaked days punctuated by a full day of hot sunshine.

Here are some snaps:

First, the Uncle Mark Bagby:

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Here’s the Paul Robeson at 5 weeks. (Sorry for the blurry pic. Still snapping with the phone.)

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These little darlins are baby celery plants. If you don’t grow celery, and can, you DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU ARE MISSING! Throughout the summer, I hack off bits here and there for salad, pasta, pretty much everything. It’s fresh and tangy, and I use it like I would parsley. But being able to snip what I need without destroying the entire plant and without the waste created by not using an entire bunch bought from the grocery is a blessing and convenience. And better yet, it grows through October and will even give you some love early the next spring!

The nursery, in situ:Image

Here are the other seeds I purchased. Most probably, I’ll sow these directly when I can get back to the garden next weekend. Hopefully.

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Keep watch for future posts on these blessed seedlings. Please remind me if I forget.  Next year, I want to try this Snow Starter idea:

snowstarter

Recycled plastic jugs as seed starters in January