Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Dealing with invaders

I have discovered that in the garden, as well as in life, where there is something beautiful or useful, there will be enemies who want to tear it down. I haven't noticed too many animals eating the weeds if there is anything more tasty around. And in both life and the garden I have to deal with the invaders.

In the picture you will see some yellow flowers, calendula (or pot marigold). The deer love them and eat the blossoms whenever they are hungry and the flowers are blooming. They seem to have no interest in the leaves. The plant in the foreground with the small purple flowers is hyssop. Around the plants you will see wire mesh that's supposed to go in the yet unbuilt raised beds, at the bottom, to keep gophers out. I'm using them here to keep the deer from stomping on my newly planted seeds and seedlings, on their way to munch the flowers.

To solve the hornworm problem on my tomatoes, I finally got some BT and sprayed the plants at dusk. And none too soon. Tonight I saw signs that yet another plant was infested, but I couldn't find the worms. So I hope I got enough BT on the leaves. I guess I'll have to spray every couple of days to keep them away. Tomorrow is busy with things outside the home, so I'll barely just have time to water. I wish more of the tomatoes would get ripe. So far I've only been able to pick from three out of six varieties. The heirlooms are getting huge, but not red. And I believe they are supposed to get red.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Invaders in the Tomatoes

Yesterday I discovered to my horror that there must be an army of hornworms in my tomatoes. I managed to pick off and kill about four, but could see signs that there were many more. So I decided to offer the two neighbor children a job -- a quarter for each tomato hornworm they could pick off, put in a jar, and bring to me. I did caution them to be careful how they handled the plants. They brought me a total of 14 worms, and I did away with them after paying the children. But when I went out to water this morning and cut off the parts of the plants the worms had stripped, I discovered that children can also do damage in their zeal to increase their funds. The vines had slid down from where they had been staked, spread out so they they covered adjacent plants (borage, peppers), and some were broken off, so I lost another four green heirloom tomatoes that way. However, I'm imagining I'm still better off, since I have a pretty good idea how much those worms would have eaten by this morning had they not been caught. And I did find two more this morning. As soon as I have a car again I will have to get some BT. I dare not turn the kids loose again without supervision.

I also have a mystery plant I'd like to grow on the slope next year. It must be native, since it grew on its own in two different parts of the property that are pretty far from each other. It is extremely drought resistant and requires no care that I can see. And it would provide a nice contrast to the purple and yellow colors already on the slope. I've been checking both the books on weeds and the books on wildflowers, but I can't find it. Does anyone have a clue? It's about 18 inches high and forms seed pods. I took pictures today. I have put them here. I show the whole plant, with close-ups of the flowers and pods forming. (Since posting this the first time, I've discovered this is milkweed, and after watching it for a season I have decided it's not very pretty after it forms its seed pods.)

Monday, August 21, 2006

It's beginnng to be harvest time.

And it is the harvest that makes it all worth while in the end. The tomatoes are starting to get ripe. The cucumbers have been abundant. I've cut my lettuce off and it's starting to grow more leaves. I also cut some chard off at the ground after reading it will also grow back new tender leaves.

The broccoli I planted couple of weeks ago is just beginning to sprout in the ground where I planted it. But the lettuce I planted the same day still hasn't begun to come up and it's going to be very hot again tomorrow.

In the bed outside the kitchen window the gopher has finally finished pulling the huge borage completely under. I'm glad it's kept him so busy this past week he hasn't had time or inclination to attack something new. The other seeds I planted a couple of weeks ago are coming up, but not the cosmos yet. Looks like I'll have a couple of zinnias, more borage, and more blanket flowers for the deer to enjoy. I was delighted to see that the yarrow I thought the gopher had destroyed is growing back. And the calendulas I replanted after her attack are beginning to get strong again, and the ones I had almost given up on are beginning to grow some green leaves.

In the bed by the pump house, the amaryllis have stretched out their pink necks toward the sun, as if they had simultaneously turned their heads to see someone. See top above. I like the contrast between the Dusty Miller and the petunias in the foreground. The picture is too small to really see the flat-leaf parsley, gazanias, and the thyme

The slope has not changed much, but the irises appear to be settling in and thriving. It will be time to collect some seed from the flax soon. The lavender side of the slope is what's in the picture above as of early in the month. The lavender is really about all that shows up in the bottom picture because I was trying to take in half the part of the slope I'm redeeming from the wild. The gazanias at the bottom don't really show much here, but they are there. My small tricolor sage just barely shows at the back. I ran out of pictures on the disk before I could I could get the other half of the hill. Maybe I'll have time to get that and the amaryllis by the pump house wall later in the week.

Right now I don't have to do much but water, sometimes feed (as I did today), and pick what's ripe. In another month it will be time to start transplanting , sow seeds for the winter garden, and divide the sage and lavender. But now it's time to enjoy.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Gopher Continues to Strike

Since saving what was left of the Lamb's Ears, I've lost one borage plant, two nasturtiums, and one sorrel. I have one beautiful borage left which I expect to go any day now, and some blanket flowers, what's left of the marjoram and cat mint, my newly planted and now blooming camomille, and one other mint-like herb I can't identify at the moment.

Since I don't expect much to be left standing that I can see from the kitchen window, I planted a lot more borage seeds there today, some coreopsis, and some more blanket flowers. And I planted some old zinnia seeds that probably won't spout, but might as well put them in the ground as through them in the trash.

In a corner of the raised beds I planted some more lettuce. I also prepared some ground for planting a fall garden of greens, and transplated some chard into some empty pots. I should have more than enough chard for fall, since I also have two or three plants near the artichoke plants by the kitchen. Although they are all in the ground in that bed, so far the gophers have left them alone. The picture above shows one raised bed as it was a few days ago. That lettuce on the bottom appears to be in a corner, but it isn't. Those are newpapers around it which I'm using as mulch. I removed them today when I planted more lettuce. I also removed lots of purslane which you can see between the lettuce and the chive plant behind it. The bright orange spots on the left are nasturtium blossoms, which show up regularly in our salads. The lighter orange blossoms on the right are marigolds. The green in between is more purslane, which also acts as a mulch. We throw some of that in the salads, too. The yellow just outside the bed in front is wild mustard. I'm leaving it for the added color. The large green plants behind the flowers are tomatoes. Just out of sight in the front right corner is a very large dill plant. I'm following some book's advice about having a dill plant, a marigold and some basil near each tomato. But most of the basil is with the tomotoes in the other raised bed -- the one with the peppers, basil, one chard, and a nasturtium. No dill there.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Saving the Lamb's Ears

Yesterday I found out what was causing the Lamb's Ears plant to wilt so much. As I gently pulled, I saw that one part was loose, so it was the gopher helping herself again. This time I decided to fight while I could. I dug up the root divisions that were left and potted them, watered them good, and put them in the shade to revive. Today they were looking almost normal. Unfortunately, the gophers got their revenge by eating the roots of my two remaining nasturtiums. I must have caught them early, since they were still fresh. So I considered them a harvest, put them in the frig, and had part of the young leaves in our salad at noon. That way losing the plants wasn't a total waste. I stomped down on the ground to cave in the gopher hole to get my revenge, but I imagine something else will be gone tomorrow. I guess when I replant in the fall I'd better put the perennials in cages. Perhaps I'll plant daffodils, since they are supposed to be poisonous to gophers.

The cucumbers are doing very well. I seem to find another one ready every day. The zucchini is slower, but it's in containers instead of the ground -- to protect it from gophers. My container cucumber isn't near as healthy and is starting to yellow. I'm not sure if it's getting too much or too little water. It was also planted a couple of weeks after the others in the ground, so that could also explain why it's not producing more than blossoms yet. I hope the gophers leave my beautiful cucumbers in the ground alone.

I'm getting a few ripe tomatoes now, and I'm hoping the raccoons don't discover them before I get my share. They are planted where the gophers shouldn't be able to get at them. The days are cooler now -- in the high eighties, so garden work is more pleasant that it was last week when it was so hot. The plants are also enjoying the cooler temperatures.