Gardening–or Not–Again This Year

On Monday I had some photos of a few annuals and herbs, and a couple of tomato plants that I hope to get planted in the next few weeks. When (or maybe if) it warms up, I will get a couple more warm weather herbs and plant green beans as well. Ideally, the weather will cooperate on one of the days of Memorial Day weekend to allow me to do this.

It’s been a crazy spring. It’s been raining just about every weekend–the professional weather folks just announced that we had our 6th rainy weekend in a row.

To top that off, a colleague–my only co-worker–abruptly left our office so I am getting by currently with a part time volunteer. When my colleague announced that she was leaving, I went home and announced to the Spoiler, “well, there goes the summer.”

The next week, my right arm was biopsied and at the end of June I have to go back for another “excision.” It’s not more melanoma so it’s all good but it will put a dent in the gardening, of course. I just need to find a way to get my pond cleaned between now and then.

So whatever gardening gets done, gets done. And that’s really the least thing I have to stress about. Because when gardening becomes a stressor, that’s a problem!

Almost Ready to Plant

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Although the oak leaves are the size of little mouse’s ears, we are still going to get some very cool weather this week. Our average high this time of year should be 70 degrees. Today it won’t reach 60 and tomorrow it might not reach 45.

It’s a bit easier to understand why I joke about “winter and July” being the 2 seasons in Connecticut. Or, as Mark Twain used to say, the coldest winter he ever spent was his summer in Connecticut.

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These lovely looking tomatoes are now indoors on my glassed in sun porch. No point in setting them back who knows how long by keeping them out in 40 degrees!

Memorial Day is usually warm enough to plant around here–although the way things are going this year, I may have to wait until July 4th!

A Time For Everything

Gardening is regional and local. I was reminded of this on my trip a couple of weeks ago. I flew into Dallas and could see the spring trees flowering as we came in to land (that was all that I saw of Texas, but it was a lovely sight!)

When I flew into Oklahoma, nothing was flowering–not even the spring bulbs. You wouldn’t think a distance of a couple hundred miles would be so dramatic, but there it was.

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And of course here in the frozen north, even now, all I have are the earliest of the spring bulbs–not even daffodils or tulips (although I have seen some very sorry looking tulips that folks have purchased somewhere and then put out in planters. We can still have snow yet–if tulips aren’t up in your yards, why might you think they’re okay in planters? I mean, I know we’re starved for color, but….)

The amazing thing is that out in California, they are pulling out their cool season annuals and planting warm season ones. A recent post by a great blogger a follow talked about this and it nearly blew my socks off. You can read that post here.

No matter what Tony is posting about, it’s always interesting.

I’m just looking forward to the time–say 6-8 weeks from now–when I can plant my own annuals!

What’s Eating My Sweet Potato Vine?

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Unless you are very fast or very lucky, you’re not going to see the beetle that’s making the holes in this plant and others like it (morning glory, moonflower and that pest, field bindweed. It’s a shame we can’t train it just to eat that!).

This is a very interesting beetle. I’ve actually only seen it a few times back in my retail gardening days when we had so many of these plants that the beetles came in droves.

They looked like small golden ladybugs. They were beautiful–but of course very destructive. And, of course, that’s only part of the story because this is a very interesting beetle.

This beetle changes color under stress–for example, when we touch it. And of course, when it dies. So what I saw in my retail gardening days as a beautiful golden beetle becomes a red beetle.

Here’s a little bit more information–with some photos–about this interesting beetle from HGTV.

If you do a search for “what’s eating my sweet potato vine,” you’re likely to come upon all sorts of things out there. Take a good look at the photo in the my post. This is damage from the golden tortoise beetle. If your damage doesn’t look like that, it’s possible something else is eating your plant. After all, there are all sorts of insects and critters in our gardens, and we don’t all garden in the same place.

Deadheading Versus Self-Cleaning Annuals

Every week or two, as I am deadheading the spent blooms on my lantana, I think about this distinction. What am I talking about?

Think about annuals, for a moment. A true annual’s function is to set seed and die. Not all plants that we grow as “summer flowers” are annuals, of course. Many of the “annuals” that we grow up here in the frozen north, as I like to call my climate, would be perennials if I lived somewhere further south or west.

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So an annual, like a marigold, for example, or my lantana (which is technically a perennial in warmer climates), or impatiens or begonias or lots of the flowers we grow in the summer, either need to be deadheaded (have the spent blooms removed), or they are “self-cleaning,” a handy little feature which means that the flowers fall off themselves.

Now, in the case of something like impatiens, depending on species, sometimes they still form a seed head. That gives rise to one of their common names “Touch Me Not,” because if you’ve ever touched a ripe impatiens seed head, you know that it can explode with surprising force and send those seeds flying!

Perhaps the best example is something like basil. You’ve always heard that you don’t want your basil to flower. Why is that? Well, basil is a true annual and once it flowers it begins to decline.

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The same is true for cilantro, another annual. You don’t want that flowering (unless you’re growing it for the coriander seed it makes–or as a pollinator plant!)

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As for my lantana, every week–or two, if I am lazy–I just cut off the spent flower heads–and perish the thought, any seeds that they’re forming. I want all the energy to go back into the plant to produce as many flowers for bees and butterflies as possible!