Laura Bruno – Late Season Garden Recap – 4 September 2013

laura-of-the-rocksAll the gardening books I read keep mentioning “the importance of keeping a garden journal.” On and on, enough already! Part of me just will not start another journal. Then, I realized, I’ve been record keeping all year on this blog, sharing my discoveries, goofs and adventures with fellow and vicarious gardeners. Close enough. :)

As the seasons begin to turn, the air gets cooler and dews wetter. Sunflowers have drooped, and mums have arrived on the scene:

Sunnies and MumsI’m leaving the flowers and seeds for birds and bees who continue to enjoy the remnants, but the artist in me demanded color and fresh life into the Autumn. I found fushia mums on sale at Whole Foods, and my friend, Kimber, gave me a start of “Obedient Plant,” which for now I’ve just placed in pot in a bare patch among the bee friendly flowers and zinnias. On order: Autumn Crocuses — a special Pennsylvania Dutch variety that will bloom into December and provide saffron! I’ve also ordered some ornamental alliums that will look ever so Suessian, though probably not until early Spring.

I will be mulching out a huge swath of front lawn once I get my next load of free wood mulch, so this bed remains temporary until I add loads of compost and extra protective mulch. This front bed turned into the highest maintenance of any garden spot due to the very thin amount of unmulched soil over landscape cloth that formed the bed. I’m sure the sunnies busted through with their taproot, but the rest of the bed (including the sunflowers) required almost daily watering, as well as multiple applications of compost, coffee, watered down pee (oh, yes! Plants love that stuff), and even some organic flower fertilizer. The soil up front is poor right now, and there’s not much of it until I seriously lasagna garden later this Fall. This sunflower/wildflower bed was really just a placeholder this year, so I didn’t get depressed looking at a non-landscaped yard with a hodgepodge of half finished backyard projects visible up front.

Next year will be much cooler! I am now 100% a fan of the wood mulch method of developing and softening soil. I planted a tree this weekend. Meet Priscilla Persimmon, an American Persimmon who was completely pot bound and dying to get into some ground:

Priscilla PersimmonI had a nice spot all picked out for her, watered the soil to soften it, and broke out the shovel. The ground just laughed at me! Seriously, that shovel, even with my full weight on it, didn’t even make a 1/4 inch dent in the soil. I whacked it for ten minutes and still nothing to show for my effort but profuse amounts of sweat. I finally looked for a different spot where maybe the wood mulch had softened the soil for me all season. I brushed back the mulch, yanked out a garbage bag from underneath, and watched earthworms slip away into soft, black dirt. My first go with the shovel went in a full four inches! It still required a lot of digging and uprooting of some very persistent dandelions and wild violet roots, but I got that tree in with less sweat than the laughing unmulched ground experience.

This changed my Autumn plans, as there’s no reason for me to order the trees and shrubs I’d planned if I can’t get them in the ground. Six months of rotting compost and wood mulch will not only kill weeds, but will make it possible to plant what David calls the “English Major plants” I want: quince trees, black currents, the other American persimmon, elder trees, and a variety of roses. “Well, I am an English Major! And who needs apples and peaches when you can get them everywhere? Quince and elder are magickal plants, almost like herbs, and roses. Of course, we need roses. You know, for the hips. Vitamin C, of course, and winter color. Plus, the faeries like roses. You can’t have a garden without roses! And the persimmons, they’re a winter crop. It’s all about the winter. This street in Goshen is ugly in the winter. I need some pretty things to look at and eat.” David’s most accommodating to “the Big Faery.” ;)

Anyway, that’s the front yard, which next year, while all these new plants are just teeny, tiny little $4-7 starts, I will be growing Scarlet Runner Bean teepees with their gorgeous edible red flowers and beans — one of the most dramatic edible ornamentals I’ve ever seen. In addition to providing high interest and beauty, plus some privacy along with the sunflowers, their nitrogen fixing aspects will improve the soil for other plants. Win, win, win, win! On the front facing trellis by the soon to be lasagna gardened herb area, will grow an edible ornamental sweet potato whose blossoms look strikingly similar to its relative, the morning glory. And then, the Fairy Tale Pumpkins. Oh, my! I am most excited about these for next year. Fifteen pounds of edible ornamental loveliness and whimsy each, supposedly the best tasting pumpkin raw or cooked, and a top pumpkin pie variety. Equally important for my purposes, the Fairy Tale variety is practically immune to the squash beetles that destroyed my squash in crates this year. Next year, squash will go directly into the ground and up the trellis!

Speaking of ground, the Amish Paste tomatoes I’ve practically ignored since planting, are currently my happiest tomato plants. They climb the trellis and thrive among the grass and weeds, and they’ve shown zero signs of blight, unlike five of my other plants, that nevertheless continue to produce. We’ve not tasted a ripe Amish Paste tomato yet, but there are a bunch of green ones ripening as I type. Next year’s tomatoes are going in the ground, too. We have more trellises made of “combo [cattle and hog panel] wire” that can support 40 pound pumpkins, according to our friend Jay.

Amish PasteSpeaking of Amish, I’ll soon be planting the Trumpet Vine start our Amish friends gave me two weeks ago. It’s currently rooting in some sand and rooting hormone, but I’ll need to plant it at just the right time, since the other three starts died before taking root:

Trumpet Vine startIt will eventually give us some backyard privacy on the shady side of the backyard and remind us some of the lovely hummingbird attraction we had in Madison:

Trumpet Vine MadisonAnd now for the backyard. Here’s where we began this Spring:

The Start in 2013

And here’s where we are now:

Fall Winter BedThe “Guarden” bed — the white one that will look like a Conestoga wagon this Winter — has been mostly planted, and the Spring and Summer raised beds are flourishing! A few nights ago, I soaked seeds during the Waning Moon in order to give my root crops a better chance of starting:

Soaking seedsWith any good gardening fortune, we will have Scarlet Nantes carrots, Early Harris parsnips, Rutabaga (Swedes), golden and Chiogga beets, purple top and gold ball turnips, and Chinese Rose radishes to go along with the many greens I planted on the last Full Moon:

Greens

Winter Greens two

I will transplant those in another week or so, during the Waning Moon. I hate to say it, but that Moon stuff works! I bought Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook 2013 as my appointment calendar, because it conveniently lists good planting and harvest days, as well as Moon signs and other astrological events. Very handy, indeed!

Straw bales and the new bedDid you notice the straw on that “Guarden” bed? Well, we now have two straw bales, in preparation for winter veggie mulching, as well as some hard core lasagna gardening (aka “sheet mulching”):

The above is a partially completed project for next year’s medicinal herb garden (as opposed to the culinary herb garden out front and interspersed with our veggies and fruits). I’m still debating what goes on the back trellis there, but the one to the right, which faces our front yard, is the one on which I intend to grow the ornamental sweet potatoes. The soil in this particular patch is incredibly poor, as attested by the unhappy tomatillo plant and the many happy thistles. Fortunately, most medicinal herbs thrive in poor soil, actually preferring it to rich, dark loam. Waste not, want not! ;)

I still need to plant spinach and mache in the Guarden, but that will wait until the proper Moon phase, LOL!! But seriously. Last but not least, I’ve got leftovers from store bought celery and bok choy taking root in the kitchen window, just waiting for transplanting outside:

celery and bok choyOh, pardon me, Mr. Recycling Grasshopper! I see that you are last but not least:

Grasshopper Recycles

That’s right. Stay on the compost bin, away from my kale, but thank you for posing so nicely. :)

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