Yellow Show

May 7, 2014

It is 80 degrees fahrenheit today!  My tomato and pepper plants arrived in the mail and I put them in the ground.  There seems to be a number of yellow things in the garden that I thought I might group together.

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Mammoth yellow quill chrysanthemum.  I got three of these plants in the mail this spring and they are starting to bloom.  I wonder if they will bloom again in the fall.

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Dandelion.  I hate to admit that it was not hard to find one to photograph!

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There are a lot of strawberry blossoms now.  You can see the green strawberry starting to form in the center of the flower.

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American plum blossom.  This is not really yellow, but I had to point out that there is only one blossom on my two trees.  Last year there were about 10 blossoms.  I wonder why.

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We still have a number of yellow and white daffodils around the yard.  I think this one only gets partial sun, so it opened later.

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I put together a container over the weekend.  The big plant in the middle is a cornflower.  It was taking over the flower bed, so I took it out and stuck it in this planter.  I also put in some marigolds, purple petunias, and a little goldenrod. In the back left the wonderful agastache is starting to come back.

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Goldfinch.  I think this is a male goldfinch.  The picture is not so great, but he was singing his heart out when I zoomed in for this shot.

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Speaking of birds, we have a number of cow birds in the area.  Here is the male.  The female is harder to get a good picture of.  They lay their eggs in songbirds’ nest and the songbird ends up feeding the baby bird for them, often to the harm of her own chicks.

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I noticed the yellow on this bird’s throat, but I don’t know what kind of bird it is.  Can anyone identify this bird? Dan was shooting bird pictures from the kitchen.


The Frost Cometh

October 27, 2013

Monday, October 21st, the forecast said frost, so it was time to take out the plastic for my low hoop.  This is the first time I am trying this, so I was not sure how it would go.

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This was taken this morning, Sunday, after my vegetables survived for almost a week in the low hoop.

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This first evening I only had three bricks, so I scrounged around in the garage for heavy things, and in the garden for rocks.  The main issue was the next morning when I had to go out and lift the side flaps at 6:45 am while the temperatures were still freezing.  I did not know if my lettuce would survive, but it did, and I ate leaf lettuce from under the hoop in my salad all week.

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Inside the low hoop, which is about 35 inches off the ground.  The reason I lift the sides or take the plastic off during the day is to keep the plants from burning.  I worried during the day at work that the plants would dry out or burn up, and it may have gotten a bit warm in there, but so far so good.  Yesterday evening when we came to close the hoop there was a sparrow inside flapping around trying to find the way out.

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I also used milk cartons with the bottom cut out as cloches to cover my beets.  I am not sure how well they work, but I have been gradually eating my beets and they are still fine.  The idea is to take off the blue cap during the day to let the warm air out and put it back on at night.

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On Monday night I brought in all the green tomatoes and peppers, before the plants froze.  The large tomato in the middle is pretty red today and I am hoping the others will be red before long.

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Items harvested last Sunday.  I threw the turnip in my kale and potato soup.

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Burpee golden beet.  This beet was pretty small, but I threw it in the oven with the brussel sprouts I was roasting.

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These coral mums are on the north side of the house and get no sun, so they really stretch away from the base of the plant.

My reaction to my first week with the low hoop:  It’s like having a pet.  You have to really watch the weather and check on the hoop morning and evening.  It would be much easier if I worked from home or had a shorter work day.  It’s kind of fun and an adventure, too.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

To learn more about winter gardening see my reblog “Season Extensions” on 3/23/13.

Fall Rainbow Colors

October 16, 2013

I just wanted to share some of the colors that are still blooming in the garden these days.

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Pink chrysanthemums.  These flowers get no sun this time of year as they are on the north side of the house.  They are just starting to open up and should be in full bloom in a week or so.

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Pineapple sage – a popular plant for hummingbirds.

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Intricate nasturtium blossom.  The yellow and orange nasturtiums are multiplying with the recent rains.

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Scabiosa – blue pincushion flower – and swiss chard.

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The ‘hens and chicks’ outside the front door seems to be very healthy these days.  I have brought this indoors several winters.

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Fall colors on lindera benzoin – spicebush.

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The colors are more subtle in the shrubs and grasses.  Vernal witch hazel shrub and miscanthus ‘morning light’ grass.

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Bumblebee rests on gaillardia ‘blanket flower’ in the evening.  The bees are still looking for nectar this time of year, but slow down in the cool mornings and evenings.

Bugs:  I have disturbed a few praying mantises, who are moving more slowly this time of year.  I have not seen my usual grasshoppers in the garden, but maybe they are just hiding well.  I saw a few beautiful earth worms when I was pulling up the alyssum plants…

Acorns and Asters

September 29, 2013

Not everyone likes acorns.  They can be a hassle on the lawn.  When we picked out our chinquapin oak we heard that the squirrels really liked the acorns and we would not see many on the ground, and this appears to be the case, so far.

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Acorn of chinquapin oak – quercus muehlenbergii.  This is the first year we have acorns.  I would guess that the tree is about six years old.

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You can also see empty acorn shells throughout the tree.  It looks like the squirrel either ate it on the tree or it fell out and left the shell.  In any case there is not much on the ground yet.

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Purple aster and goldenrod.  We have one purple aster hiding behind the viburnum bush.  I like the combination with the goldenrod.  Asters usually do not look good on the bottom half of the plant, so it is a good thing that this plant is hidden, but still provides something for the insects to pollinate now.

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The little yellow cushion mum I bought in the spring survived and is blooming now.

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Chrysanthemum ‘Overture’ after the rain.

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After the rain and with warm weather coming up, I am hoping for more juicy heirloom tomatoes to ripen soon.

Green Outburst

April 28, 2013

To compare this spring with other years in my garden you can scroll down to the archives and compare these pictures to the ones from my blogs at the end of April in 2010, 2011 and 2012.  The crabapple has finally leafed out with red leaves, but does not have blossoms yet.  This week the American plum, which we planted last year, leafed out and I am looking forward to the blossoms.

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American Plum Trees – still quite small

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Last year I planted the middle regents serviceberry on the west side of the house and since then I have been pondering what else to plant.  I decided to get two more of the same and planted one on either side.  The blossoms are just getting ready to open. This was one of those projects where Dan came out and gave me a hand!

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I must have planted a lot of different kinds of daffodils last fall.  They just keep coming and I have been enjoying how well they go with the vibrant green grass.  This orange middle stands out.

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I could not resist buying this tiny mum this week.  Maybe they were selling them for containers or something, but I am hoping it will settle in and come back next year.

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I bought a nine-pack of collards and planted them in the garden.  I have never planted collards before, but we have been buying them to eat recently.  I also got some tomato and pepper transplants in the mail and had to get them in the ground. You can see one of the tomatoes on the other side of the fence.

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I just dug holes in the lasagna mulch and planted in the peppers with some good soil.  This pepper is called bull nose and is an heirloom.  My catalog says that Thomas Jefferson grew this variety of pepper at Monticello.  It should be a sweet red pepper.

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Here are the beautiful leaves of the potato I am growing in a pot, one week later.  Soon I will start piling up soil so the potatoes will have more room to grow.

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The promise of lilacs coming soon.  Charles Joly Lilac.

Chores:  It is that time of year when some attention must be given to the lawn.  Since we are organic we tend to have dandelions in the lawn.  I don’t worry too much in the back yard, but today Dan dug out the dandelions in the front lawn and we filled the holes with soil and grass seed.  We will see how that works…..

Fabulous Compost

October 21, 2012

I learned that we are supposed to strive to have 5% of our soil be compost.  In order to do that we can spread about a half-inch of compost over 10 inches deep of soil and that comes pretty close.  My compost has been ready to spread for a while, but I was finally motivated to do it now before starting to make new compost with all the fall leaves.  I needed Dan’s help, too!

First Dan removed the recently collected mulched leaves and organic material from the pile and put it on the sidewalk.  Then he dug out about a foot of rich dark compost and spread it around the garden, after we had cleared it of most of this year’s vegetable plants.  Then we sowed winter rye into the soil to see if we could get a cover crop to germinate this late in the season.  This is the first time I am trying a cover crop.

We wanted to expand our vegetable garden a few feet, so I put down wet newspapers and then we spread mulched leaves over the top to make lasagna mulch.  We took the hose and sprayed water on the leaves and on the winter rye seeds.  I also planted some lettuce and spinach seeds a while ago, but only a few of those have sprouted.

The grasshopper was still alive and watching the action from the kale.  We still have a lot of kale in the garden.  We have an artichoke plant that is still alive along with the rhubarb, herbs, onions and shallots.

pink chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemum ‘fantasy’ is the last mum to bloom in my garden.  The wood is weak and last week I saw branches had broken off the plant, so I brought them inside and they opened up in the warmth.  These mums are starting to bloom outside, too.

I put pineapple sage in a planter this year.  The hummingbirds like these flowers, though they bloomed quite late, so I have not seen hummingbirds on them this year.

Asters with russian sage in the background.  The russian sage and the goldenrod are pretty tired colorwise, but they still have structure and height.

On my birthday I harvested these strawberries, tomato and beans.  I have had a few more strawberries since then.  I brought green tomatoes in a few weeks ago and I had given up on them ripening, but today I see that they are turning yellow.

October Blooms

October 14, 2012

Just when you think there is not much left to take pictures of something else blooms.

Pink Chrysanthemum.  First the red mums bloomed, then these, and finally the purple ones should start opening any day.  These mums will be great for all the pollinators that are still active.  I hope they will attract butterflies, as they did last year.

Purple dome asters and goldenrod ‘fireworks.’

I thought I planted purple dome asters here, as well, but these asters look very pink.  I might move them or replace them with something else next year.

Geranium ‘rozanne’ and columbine foliage.

A few cornflowers are still blooming.

Pink turtlehead flowers.  We had an inch of rain in the last 24 hours, but that is just a start to repair the damage of the drought this past summer.  Still, I am glad these flowers are blooming a little, though not looking their best.  I was afraid they would completely die this summer.

It is always hard to capture a picture of our Chinquapin Oak, but wanted to post one for the record.  We planted this and it was about 6 or 7 feet in April 2009.  Three and a half years later it is looking healthy and growing well.  In the background you can see our silver maple on the south side of our house.

Can’t help throwing in a picture of the first and only praying mantis egg sac I have seen this year.  It is hidden inside a clump of ‘morning light’ miscanthus.

The curly kale is still beautiful and productive and we consume it every day in our chocolate smoothies.  I picked a few green pole beans today and might go out and pull up the two beet plants to see if they are edible.  I also planted lettuce and spinach and am watching to see if they sprout at all.  If so, I might set up a cold frame and see if I can grow salad for another month of two.

Can you call this Indian Summer?  Last I checked it was 66 degrees.  Butterflies and bees everywhere.

Chrysanthemum ‘fantasy.’  I like the flowers, but the plant is somewhat brittle and I am not sure how it will work long term.

Chrysanthemums before the rain and wind this week. This plant has its drawbacks but the pollinators don’t seem to notice those.

Orange Sulphur Butterfly

Little Bluestem.  The stalks turn red in the autumn.  This is my very small prairie meadow.

Red seed heads of Miscanthus ‘Morning Light.’

A few weeks ago I bought a tiny ornamental bird house/feeder at a garage sale to hang in the crab apple tree.

Fall preparation of a new bed for spring planting.  I am half way through in this picture.  Here is the recipe:  Take off sod and set aside.  Cover ground with compost and dig in if you have time.  Cover the ground with two feet of mulched leaves.  Throw in kitchen scraps like banana peels and apple cores.  Turn the sod upside down and put it back on top of the leaves with the dirt side up.  Hose it down with water.  Next spring I should be able to plant right into it.  I might add more leaves or green stuff if I get something that will break down well.  In this picture Dan put grass clippings on the pile.

Yesterday Dan dug up the rest of the sod, but we did not have enough leaves to put on the ground because they blew down the street, so I went across the street to the house that has been foreclosed.  Some people were cleaning it up for the bank and I asked if I could have some of their leaves.  I brought back four or five garbage cans full of leaves, spread them on the lawn and Dan mulched them up with the mower.  I still need a lot of leaves for the back compost pile, but the leaves on our maple tree are still green, so they will come down eventually.  If we don’t have enough I may have to ask more neighbors for leaves!

Cooking:  I roasted up about 12 peppers yesterday.  I am not sure what to do with them yet, though we had a great recipe from Tunisia we might try.


October 23, 2011

There are a lot of pollinators in the garden.  This time of year the butterflies are seeking the sun.

Common Buckeye.  All the butterflies were enjoying the zinnias yesterday.

I think this is a painted lady, though it could be an American lady.

The monarchs always seem to enjoy the larger zinnias also.  They seem to prefer the flowers that are a bit older.  I love the white spots on black.

Red Admiral.  I went out this morning and the butterflies were still in the sunny side of the yard, which this morning was the mums.

Another common buckeye, this time in the mums.

Can you find and identify the three butterflies in this picture?

Intricate Designs

October 16, 2011

The garden is almost as colorful now as it has been most of the summer.  The mums are just starting to open up.  I don’t have pictures of large splashes of mums yet, but here are some close ups.

I have a lot of these mums in the garden and they are starting to open in masses of blooms.

I ordered three mum plants online last winter and now they are starting to bloom.  I was expecting a more purpley color, but I like the intricate design.  The center is like the other mums.  Next to the orange zinnias along the fence all the colors really pop out.

Coreopsis Tickseed.  I thought these were done for the year, but with deadheading I just got two more blooms.

Flowering kale, bought at a road side stand on the way home from Olivet last week.  We also have non-flowering kale, which we sauteed and ate for lunch today.

The hummingbirds are attracted to the pineapple sage this time of year.

The asters almost died off during the hot dry spell this summer.  This is the total of the flowers produced this year.  I might try moving them to a new location next year.

Each year I seem to have more produce later in the year.  Right now I am eating a lot of peppers and the zucchini just keeps coming.  Still eating cherry tomatoes, green pole beans and leafy greens of various types.

Seen in the garden: squirrel busy planting nuts; a mouse in the little toad house.

Eating:  Last cantaloupe.  We also visited Whole Foods Market for the first time today and bought organic apples and potatoes.

Thinking:  I wondered if it was possible to grow wheat.  I might try it, but at the scale I grow it I don’t think it would make much food.  If you are interested in seeing someone who grew wheat in their backyard, watch this video.