20 November 2016

Midget Marigold Mystery Solved

I often grow the dwarf French marigolds as infill border plants never growing more than 8 inches tall (20 cm). One of my favorites is "Tiger Eyes" with the red bottom petals and orange-yellow pom poms. But near the end of each growing season, the red color and the orange tint goes away. The blooms become uniformly yellow.

I thought it might be the cooler weather affecting the coloring as it does some plants. Or, it might be the shorter day length that was causing the change, much like a poinsettia depends on longer nights for its red blooms. I discovered the reason my marigold change color this year by accident.

It is neither the day length nor the temperature that causes the loss of red. The plant simply gets tired. This marigold seed blooms true to its parent. As summer progresses I deadhead the spent blooms, leaving them around the ground near the plant. Some of the seed heads sprouted and grew new plants. Since we had a long growing season this year, getting our first killing frost only last week, these volunteer spouts had enough time to bloom.

The blooms were as colorful as a day in spring, despite the cooler fall temperatures and the shorter days. While the older plants nearby were haggard and blooming uniformly yellow, the new plants were red, robust, and orange-yellow as they were planted in spring. This tells me that as the plant gets old, its bloom colors simply change, like we do.

There is nothing I can do other than to sow successive plantings throughout the summer, something that is not going to happen. We will accept the change as a natural pattern.

15 November 2016

Springing From The Compost

In mid summer, a few vines emerged at the base of the side garden tomato plants. The new plants looked like late sprouts of the zucchini seeds I planted but lost track of when they did not germinate. The seedlings were no problem since one can never have too much zucchini with the evil squash vine borer lurking.

I let these grow, and about a month later realized that they were not zucchini. The two looked more like watermelon or cantaloupe vines. As the season turned to fall, a few fuzzy green balls appeared, about the size of baseballs. The wrinkled netting on the surface identified them as cantaloupe. Strangely, the netting surface covered only one half of the small fruit.

Last month near Halloween, the tops began to show signs of rot, so the fruit was picked and cut open. Each looked like a cantaloupe inside with a saturated orange flesh. It tasted like one too, but unfortunately not as sweet as the store bought.

Some seeds from the compost that I used around the tomato plants sprouted, and the compost did have cantaloupe. I have had tomato seeds sprout from compost, but never cantaloupe. The plants were most likely some parent of a hybrid bred for the stores.

22 October 2016

Into The Pot

Today was cold and windy -- more normal for autumn than the summer weather we enjoyed during the week. This was a perfect day for staying indoors and cooking, and minestrone soup was on the menu. Out of the freezer and into the pot went a bag of green string beans from my summer garden.

Beans
After harvesting green beans, they were washed and sent whole into the freezer. It was an experiment to determine if they could be successfully frozen and later used as an ingredient in soups. For today's minestrone, a bag of beans was steamed to thaw it but beans were not cooked. They kept their shape after being cut, and best of all, they were tasty -- great as a soup ingredient.

Carrots
The carrots for the soup were pulled from the garden a few minutes before going into the pot. Carrots never grew well in my clay soil despite testing several types. Sand added to the soil didn't seem to help. Organic material eventually did (along with the previously added sand) and as long as carrots are planted in that same hospitable spot each year, they do well. I think the carrot shape represents the growing season like rings in a tree -- wet and pleasant at the spring, dry, wet and normal, hot, then recently unusually warm. Remaining carrots stay in the ground until they are used.

Zucchini
As noted in the previous post, they were diced, blanched in boiling water for up to two minutes, cooled in ice water, then frozen. They appear to have lost their firmness going into the freezer, but they may be fine as a soup ingredient.

10 October 2016

Baseball Bats for the Playoffs

Baseball season starts as our Washington Nationals try to avoid being eliminated in the first round for a third time. This year, I offer late baseball bats in the form of zucchini, or vice versa, at the same time the series begin.

To avoid the dreaded squash vine borer this year, seeds were planted around the Fourth of July, believing there was a good chance to miss the egg-laying time of the pests. Most of the plants turned out good, but one got bit. I cut the plant off from the infected stem and planted it by mounding soil and keeping it moist. Happily, it worked, and the plant set roots and continued to grow.

The zucchini was late however. As usual, the fruit would set on a Monday, and by picking time on Friday, I had zucchini-sauras. For that minestrone soup-making in cold winters, I read that freezing zucchini is possible. To keep it from from turning into a mush in my freezer, I need to first cut into its final sizes and shapes, and blanch before freezing.

For The Record:
  • Average moist soil
  • Full sun
  • Small amount of fertilizer
  • Squash vine borer summer, and powdery mildew in fall


Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: mexican zinnia, zinnia, marigold, acidantra
  • Harvested: 2 zucchini, 1 pepper, 2 cukes

30 September 2016

Google Deleted My Favorite Blogs

Apologies to anyone who was used to seeing their blog on my sidebar to the right. Google (who else?) deleted them sometime in the last two weeks. I don't know if it was an accident or if Google updated something and they disappeared in the update. Some of the sidebar lists remain, but the first four lists of the blogs I read are now gone. Maybe it is now time to switch to Wordpress?

9 October 2016
The lists magically came back this week. I am glad I do not need to rebuild them.

11 September 2016

Red Eyes This Year

I am finding it more difficult to write for my blog. There is a backlog of photos sitting on my computer waiting to be posted once the stories are written. Another online gardening project is taking my time - our Master Gardener web site. I am webmaster for this new project (we see as a new service to the community) that launched last May 2015. It is updated every month, and in addition to producing the layout, graphics, etc. I occasionally dabble with a little writing.

But this post is about the red eyes. Last year, I wrote about the rudbeckia Irish Eyes [posted 2015.06.01] with the green centers that did not stay green as time went on. I also wrote that the eyes did not glow red, but that statement was made too soon.

The Irish Eyes reseeded themselves and this spring, I expected to be singing 'Oh Danny Boy' in a field of Irish babies. Instead I got Rosemary's Babies. A few of the blooms did have green eyes, but most of the eyes were curiously red. These were not a fiery chili pepper red, but more like a Carol Burnett red.

Apparently Irish Eyes, a cultivar like many of the green-eyed rudbeckia, had this unusual red-centered rudbeckia as a parent. The centers are more of a round iridescent red globe that gradually goes black as the bloom matures and the center opens.

A few of the new plants sported some darker rings on the petals near the centers, and thinner petals. I still like the variety produced, and hope they come back in future years as these have done - with red, green, and black eyes.

For The Record:
  • Average soil with organic amendments over time
  • Full sun
  • Little fertilizer
  • Decent drainage
  • A few mites in the spring, otherwise pest free


Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: mexican zinnia, cosmos, rudbeckia, marigold, zinnia, datura
  • Harvested: 1 pepper, 2 zucchini, 3 tomatoes (it been a bad year for them), numerous peperoncinis

15 August 2016

August 2016 Bloom Day

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
What's blooming in the garden on the 15th of the month


Not missing in action, but just missing these past few months. I will write more about that in future weeks. After 101 degrees (38 degrees C) yesterday and not much rain, the garden is not looking as tended as it should.

The chocolate flower (Berlandiera lyrata) is blooming the first year I planted it from seed. Note to self: do not plant sweet basil around the chocolate flower again. Chocolate and basil do not mix.

For good scents, two moonflowers (datura) were planted along the front walk from the driveway. That makes four with the two that volunteered from last year's plant. They make a nice low hedge after they get growing. Just stay in bounds, please.

On the topic of hedges, let the cosmos form a hedge every year from last year's fallen seed. The red color and thick green foliage is hedge-like, but at this time of year my cosomos hedge begins its decline.

Speaking of reseeding, I let a few self-sowing cleome seedlings sprout in the spring, and rip out the rest as weeds. These were the fortunate ones. Oriole zinnias in the foreground, and green nicotiana in the back.

Daylilies are done for the year, but wait! Sandy of Sandy's Plants nursery was giving out free plants when she spoke to our Master Gardener group early spring. This unknown hemerocallis bloomed in June and (I thought) was done for the season like the others. It is popping out again in the heat of August. What a trooper.

Dwarf sunflowers one one of my specialties. This knee-high cultivar is one of the leftover seeds from last year.

As an experiment this year, I saved seed from the the dwarfs that bloomed last year. This variety is supposedly not hybridized. Well, the blooms look the same, but they are about 12-24 inches higher (30-60 cm) than last year's. Can't take a sunflower photo withour a bee getting in.

For other garden bloggers bloom day photos, check out our host at blog May Dreams Gardens

09 July 2016

A Tale of Two Poppies

Pink Bombast Rose double-flowered peony poppies are very prolific. Every year these annual opium poppies come back, with some seeds sprouting in new locations: across the garden, across the sidewalk (across the universe?) This is important later in the story.

They do not like the 'instant hot' of our Virginia spring weather. Saving these seeds is a must for all the gardening friends that crave something different, beautiful, and easy. Seeds originally came from Johnson City, NY, growing in our back yard when our family moved while I was in the second grade. They survive zone 5 winters there and heartily return each year.

Lavender Lauren's Grape poppy seeds were picked up about four years ago at the annual local seed exchange i attend. I had seen them growing here and there, and thought they would be a great companion to the Bombast Rose. Lauren's Grape looks like a normal poppy with its single flower, central seed pod ringed by stamens, and dark band. They look like the perennial red poppies that I easily kill.

I noticed that both poppies are named papaver somniferum. The somniferum part is Latin for "sleep-inducing," named no doubt due to the opium. The pinks are kept in the front garden north, and the grapes were first sown in the side yard. The grapes did not do well on the north side of a fence and in soil that was (is) still-improving. Saved seeds were sown in the front garden south the following year.

The grapes bloom before the pinks, but there is a some overlap in bloom time. So, then along came this tiny little bee -- I had never seen bees on the poppies until then. Across the sidewalk from the pink bed, a magenta poppy appeared last spring; neither lavender nor pink, neither double-flowered nor single. Could this be the result of the matchmaker cupid bee? For 25 years here, the pink poppies have remained faithful, but now?

This year, a magenta, half-double-flowered poppy reappeared in the same place -- where I do not plant poppies. I saved the star-crossed, illegitimate seeds for next year.

For The Record:
  • Rich soil with good drainage
  • Full sun
  • Little or no fertilizer
  • No serious pests/disease
  • Poor showing in hot weather


Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: cosmos, rudbeckia, echinacea, datura, marigold, zinnia, late daylily, daisy, cleome
  • Harvested: several onions, green beans