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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Compost by the sea

Beach after storms tossed seaweed onto the shore
I watched as the old man picked up seaweed along the beach. He moved gingerly, picking up the seaweed with long tongs, the kind generally used to pick up trash. As he put the seaweed in one of his two five-gallon buckets, I looked up and down the shoreline.

Surely he wasn't trying to clear the beach of all the seaweed?  I was curious and so I politely asked him what he was going to do with the seaweed.

"It's for my compost pile."

Of course.  Compost.  I immediately contemplated picking up some seaweed for my own compost pile, eight hundred miles away.

Then I realized I had nothing to put the seaweed in.

And it might start to smell on the drive home.

And when I stopped at a rest stop along the highway, I might have some explaining to do about the smell coming from my car.

Of course, we all agree compost piles shouldn't really smell bad if created properly.  We would also agree that a plastic trash bag filled with seaweed, thrown inside the trunk of a car,  and carted hundreds of miles away is not the proper way to create compost.

The proper way is to mix it up with locally sourced plant debris - some brown plant debris, some green plant debris, but no disease or insect infested plant debris. And no seed laden weeds. Also, no meat products of any kind or pet poo in your compost pile. That's just asking for trouble.

Turn the piles if you have the opportunity and the inclination to do so, or leave them be and wait.  Eventually,  all kinds of little critters, ranging from microscopic organisms to big, fat earthworms, will feast on that organic matter, turning it into compost.  Beautiful, rich, earthy smelling compost. I call it black gold.

My three compost bins are pretty full these days. I had a busy fall last year and didn't get to harvest the black gold that is waiting for me under this year's contributions. By now, the compost is probably reaching a platinum level.

I look forward to digging in to those bins when the days get a little cooler, harvesting the compost and spreading it about the garden. Then I'll promptly fill the bins back up with the gleanings of the garden after a good hard frost. The garden is lush, so my compost bins will be full in no time at all, even without the seaweed I briefly contemplated bringing home as a souvenir of my vacation.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

You never know who you will meet...

You never know who you will meet along the way...

But do stop and have a chat with them.

Then later, you can write about it.

Perhaps on a typewriter with green keys.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Legend of the Toad Lily

Tricyrtis 'Imperial Banner'
Once upon a time, there were several garden fairies out enjoying a cool late summer's evening.   They were having a marvelous time, drinking dew drop tea and eating bits of acorn muffins, when one of them spied a little white lily shaped flower.

All the garden fairies thought the little white lily looked rather plain and decided right then to give it a new look so it would stand out more in the garden.

They debated on what the new look should be. Some of the garden fairies thought the flower should have stripes. Other garden fairies argued it would be prettier if it were one solid color.

Back and forth they discussed, debated, and argued.  Stripes. Solids. Stripes. Solids.

Nearby a little toad named Toadalina was listening in.  After a while she got tired of hearing the garden fairies go on and on and decided she would paint the white lily herself and it wouldn't be stripes or a solid color.

Toadalina chose spots for the lily because after all, she had spots on her skin and she thought she was quite the prettiest toad she'd ever seen.  She wasted no time after deciding, on the spot, to put spots on the lily.

She picked up a brush made out of the finest bird feathers and gathered up some paint made out of the petals of the brightest asters and proceeded to paint spots all over the flower.

When Toadalina was finished, she hopped back, admired her handiwork, and left for the evening.

The garden fairies, so intent on their discussion about stripes and solids, never noticed the little toad.  Just as they were about to call a recess to their discussion, because the dawn was fast approaching, one of the fairies saw the now spotted lily and exclaimed, "How pretty! It's spotted like a toad.  We shall call it a toad lily."

Then off they went back to their own homes, happy to no longer have to debate "stripes or solids".

Because clearly the answer was spots.

The End.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - September 2014

Bees on nameless aster
Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for September 2014.

Here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6a garden in central Indiana, I don't need to look back at past bloom day posts to know this is one of the best growing seasons we've had in some time.

I know it, the flowers know it, the lawn knows it and the bees and butterflies know it.  We've been blessed with rain throughout the summer and the fall garden has never looked so fresh.

When it comes to September blooms, I learned along the way that we must choose late blooming plants on purpose if we are to have new blooms this time of year.

Otherwise we have to make do with floral flotsam left over from summer.

Here in my garden, the first of the asters, Symphyotrichum novae-angliae, are beginning to bloom.  (Let's call them asters even though the botanists changed their name. Okay?)

The aster above is a nameless passalong just beginning to bloom. Behind it, are even more passalong asters which won't really reach peak bloom until the end of the month, around the feast day of St. Michael the Archangel.

Michaelmas daisies are just beginning to bloom

Their bloom time is one of the reasons some gardeners call them Michaelmas daisies. Once their flowers open, bees and butterflies will flock to the blooms grabbing all the pollen they can before the first frost.

On the other side of the garden, another aster, 'Alma Potschke' is in full bloom.
Aster 'Alma Potschke'
Those flowers really are that bright.  The bees have no trouble finding it, or the nearby goldenrod, Solidago shortii 'Solar Cascade' and another aster, 'Purple Dome'.

Aster 'Purple Dome with Solidago shortii 'Solar Cascade'
 The bees are also flocking to the tall sedums, Sedum telphinum 'Autumn Joy'.
Sedum 'Autumn Joy'
If being around so many bees makes you nervous, then let's go sit quietly in the garden in an area where bees are less likely to congregate.

Seating in the garden
Or maybe not.  With the butterfly bush, Buddleia sp. blooming there, along with some lavender between the two chairs, we are likely to encounter bees here, too, along with some butterflies.

Instead, let's go up to the patio and look across the garden and admire all the green.

Green as green gets in September
There are other blooms to see, like Colchicums and toad lilies, but I think we'll look at those some other day.

What's blooming in your garden on this lovely day in mid-September?   Join us for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day and share with us what's blooming in your garden.

It's easy to participate. Post on your blog about your blooms on the 15th of the month, then leave a comment below to tell us about your blooms and add a link on the Mr. Linky widget so we can find you. If you have any problems with the links or commenting, shoot me an email, and I'll help however I can.

As Elizabeth Lawrence once wrote, "We can have flowers nearly every month of the year."

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Garden fairies keep this blog going

Garden fairies here.

We are garden fairies and we have decided to post on this blog because we think Carol is not posting enough these days. She claims to be "busy" whatever that means.

We are garden fairies and we don't understand this busy business as an excuse. We are busy all the time.  There is no rest for us, between the responsibilities, big responsibilities, we have to make flowers bloom and to keep track of all the goings on here in the garden, there is never a minute to rest.

But we have evidence, lots of evidence, that Carol isn't as busy as she claims. Oh yes, we do.

But before we go into all that and tell all that is really going on around here, we wanted to make note that certain garden fairies, who shall not be named but they know who they are Wisteria Windingvine, have taken it upon themselves to wind the wisteria vine around the hose out by the veg garden.

Land sakes, it isn't as though Carol has needed this hose this year.  Goodness gracious and butter the bread, we have been getting all kinds of rain this season.  It really sometimes is getting in the way of our garden fairy duties and responsibilities, but we will not complain. Not after what we went through a few years back when it was so dry we couldn't squeeze a drop of water out of anything around here.

No, we are garden fairies, we are grateful and we are done now with keeping this blog going. It is up to Carol or one of those other lazy people  she claims to know to post next.

Posted by
Violet Greenpea Maydreams, the busiest garden fairy you know.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Dear Friend and Gardener: Late Veg Garden Update

Aster 'Alma Potschke', which has nothing to do with the veg garden
Dear Dee and Mary Ann,

I have been quite lax in providing updates for the Dear Friend and Gardening virtual garden club.

Let me catch you up on the vegetable garden.

I spent the better part of yesterday morning cleaning up weeds in the garden.  I pulled out nutsedge and foxtail and grubbed out prostrate spurge and purslane.

I made quite a mess of myself doing it. My arms were filthy with dirt and I had a smudge or two of mud across my forehead by the time I finished.  The weeding had to be done, though, and I was for the most part happy to have a cool, sunny morning to be out in the garden.

I'm not quite ready to pull out the vegetable crops, though some have stopped producing. The sweet corn stalks are dry and tan. I leave them so I can hear the rustle of the wind through the leaves.

The cucumber vines were snaking out beyond their bed, but I wrangled them all back into one bed. I am a bit embarrassed when I see the number of overgrown cucumbers I never got around to picking.  I really should just pull it all out before the squash bugs show up and declare my garden a wonderful place to mate, have little baby squash bugs and stay for the winter. No one wants that.

There are still some peppers to pick and some tomatoes, too.  Forget about the green beans. They look old and tough. I might, however, try to shell them out, dry them, and use them later this winter for soup.  We'll see. I make no promises.

I was out in the veg garden this evening looking around, admiring the results of my weeding yesterday, and got the big idea to remove the giant viburnums on the two corners of the garden.  The one viburnum, Viburnum lantana, hasn't looked all that good since the big drought a few years ago. It needs a lot of trimming back.  The other viburnum, Viburnum opulus 'Sterile', is a big old sentimental favorite, but earlier this summer it showed signs of fire blight. I cut back the diseased branches and am watching it closely.

Both shrubs do provide great cover for little birds. I've more than once walked out to the garden and startled dozens of them. They all fly out at once, making a lot of noise on their way, in spite of my assurances that I'll never harm them. I'm sure more than one rabbit has hidden under those shrubs as well.

If I got rid of those two shrubs, I would replace them with a pair of PawPaw trees, Asimina triloba. I've wanted to grow PawPaws for years. Maybe now is the time. Those big shrubs have been there for over 15 years and can't go on forever, right?

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Write when you can and let me know how your vegetable gardens have done this season.


Thursday, September 04, 2014

Glass Gem Corn

... And every evening after she had finished her chores,

 if she had been good all day,

meaning no whining or fussing,

no being mean or unkind to others,

no temper tantrums.

If she ate all her vegetables without complaining,

did enough steps to keep her FitBit happy,

and didn't forget to change out of her regular clothes into her gardening clothes before heading out to the garden...

Then she rewarded herself with a walk out to the patch of Glass Gem corn where she got to pick an ear of corn.

She walked all around her patch, looking at all the ears, trying to decide which one to pick as her reward.  Of course she had been good.  There was no question of that.  She wanted another ear of Glass Gem corn.

She savored the moment as she reached out to pick her prize for being good.

Then she sat down in the garden and slowly shucked her reward.  As she gently pulled away each sheath of corn husk, she imagined what colors her corn would be that night.

Every ear of her Glass Gem corn was different.

Some ears were purple and pink. Some ears had blue and yellow kernels, others had bits of red and brown in them.

She loved them all.

Then after she had marveled at her beautiful her corn was, she went back inside and read again about the story of Glass Gem corn. She was always grateful all over again that there were people who saved the seeds for such a beautiful corn and helped make them available to others.

She marveled at how easy the Glass Gem corn was to grow. She had just waited until the threat of frost was passed, then scratched up a little 4' x 8' section of her garden and sowed three short rows of corn, planting the seeds in little clusters of two or three seeds, about eight inches apart. Then she watered her little corn patch and waited.

She waited all summer.

When she saw how beautiful her Glass Gem corn was she realized the wait was worth it, as was the space she used in the garden and the pittance she had paid for the seed.

She got lots of rewards from her little patch of Glass Gem corn...

And decided she would plant this corn every year.

The End.

P.S. What will she do with all her Glass Gem corn? Some she'll keep as seed for next year for herself and others. Some she'll just admire for awhile. And some she'll pop for popcorn in the wintertime as another reward for being good.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Where does Motivation go?

Did you ever wonder where the motivation to garden goes in the summertime?

We all start out the gardening season full of ideas and energy and Motivation.

On the first warm day of spring, we grab our little friend Motivation, roll up our sleeves and dig in once again.  We hold hands with Motivation and walk around the garden,  together marveling how the soil is so soft and crumbly and smells just as we remembered it smelling.

We take Motivation with us to the garden centers and buy plants by the flats and load up our trunks and trucks with mulch and top soil. We can hardly wait to take it all home and transform our garden, with Motivation's help, once again.

We are just so productive with Motivation by our side.  We can hardly stand it to turn dark at the end of the day and force us back inside until another dawn and another day of gardening.

Then one day, it happens.  Motivation disappears.  It's hot. There are mosquitoes. Motivation doesn't like hot and mosquitoes.  Motivation gets discouraged, too, because not everything turns out as we thought it would.

We think occasionally we ought to go look for Motivation in the summertime and see if we can get it to help us do a little weeding, but then we go for a few weeks without rain.  We know that even if we find it, Motivation will whine and try to convince us to wait until it rains before we weed and may even suggest the bigger weeds will be easier to see and pull out.

Motivation can be tricky that way.

Then we sort of get used to not having Motivation around very much in the dog days of summer.

Sure, we get a few glimpses of our ol' spring friend, Motivation, when the first green beans are ready to be picked.  And Motivation is always there eager to taste the first ripe tomatoes, the first ears of sweet corn, really the first of any crop.

Then Motivation realizes again that it's hot and there are mosquitoes and goes into hiding again.  Where does our friend Motivation hide?  Motivation likes to hide in the cucumber patch and looks a lot like over-ripened cucumbers.  It disguises itself as "something green" in the back of the flower border, which on closer inspection, is nothing more than our old nemesis, Thistle.  

Good ol' Motivation.  It likes to leave us with just enough time to mow the lawn but not enough time to trim it because Motivation is like that.

Fortunately, at least in my garden, Motivation usually shows up again around Labor Day.  It's ready now to weed those paths, trim the lawn, clear out the overgrown cucumbers. Truthfully, I think Motivation is just a little bit embarrassed by how it let the weeds grow and didn't provide a proper support for the wisteria, again.  It is ready to make amends. By-gones, says Motivation. Every day is a new day in the garden, a fresh start,  no matter what happened all summer, no matter where Motivation hid.

Of course, I'm happy when Motivation comes back in early fall. It's always welcome in my garden and in fact is key to my garden's success. Without Motivation, what would my garden look like? What would any garden look like?

I'm afraid I know what my garden looks like without Motivation and it isn't a pretty sight.

Welcome back, Motivation. Let's get started with some weeding, okay?