The Good and Bad of Autumn

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I suspect that if you live anywhere where autumn leaves are changing, this is as common a sight for you as it is for me. I can scarcely go anywhere without seeing masses of mums, either for sale or in some display somewhere.

If you have followed me for awhile, you know that I absolutely hate mums. There are just 2 things that I reserve the word “hate” for: winter and mums.

It’s pretty obvious why I hate winter–I won’t waste time on that now. But oddly, even I can’t decide why I hate mums. It may go back to my time in retail gardening (although if that were the case, I should hate violas and pelargonium too and I don’t). So I really am stumped.

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And it’s not a question of hating all things autumn. I am fine with pumpkins and squash. I love these funky pumpkins. I don’t decorate with them. It’s a Spoiler thing. He doesn’t want to have to blow leaves around them.

And I am amazed by gourds and squash. This acorn squash, with its fluted shape, is almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

Does anyone else have an irrational hatred of something that they can’t figure out?

This Means War–Sort of

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This is my vegetable, herb and pollinator garden. I last showed it in my Memorial Day post at the end of May.

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It had been growing nicely until about 2 weeks ago. Then something decided that it was tasty.I’m not sure what that “something” is since we do host wild kingdom in our backyard. Most likely it’s rabbits or deer.

It’s sort of interesting what they will eat and won’t eat–they’re eating parsley and dill for example but not tarragon, which I thought would be mild enough to be gobbled up (I should just count my blessings!)

And my pole beans never get a chance to be climbers. As soon as they sprout leaves–chomp! That’s the end of that. That’s why I am not sure if it’s rabbits or deer. Everything is being nibbled so low that it really could be either.

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But I have my secret weapon. This should work for either deer or rabbits (in fact, according to the package, it will even work for elk, should they happen to wander in from the West, heaven forbid! Talk about a grazing problem!)

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I haven’t had to use this since 2013. Apparently other things in my yard have been tastier. This worked beautifully when I put it up in mid-July, 2013. I put it up, as you’ll see, at 2 heights, for “heavy browse,” because there’s no point in taking chances.

The instructions says to refresh it with Messina Wildlife spray after a month. I never needed to in 2013. We’ll see what happens this year.

And what does it smell like? The tape smells like herbal tea. It’s wonderful to work with and very easy to put up, and fairly unobtrusive.

The spray, however, is less wonderful to smell, so I hope I don’t need to use it. It smells like rotten eggs! But again, if it works, that’s all that matters!

Memorial Day is for Planting

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This is my “vegetable” garden, the garden that I traditionally plant on Memorial Day. The only problem, which I simply never foresaw 10 years ago when I sited this bed, is that the magnolia nearby would grow so enormous! So now it only gets about a half day’s worth of sun. It’s still fine for most things–green beans, some herbs and annuals–but I can’t really get a good crop of tomatoes out of it. So I do those in pots.

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This was the cover crop–pine needles from my abundant pine trees. Since nature doesn’t like uncovered soil, I leave the pine needles there over the winter and then compost them when I am ready to plant in the spring.

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And here’s the garden, mostly planted with herbs (parsley and dill for the pollinators along with the existing lemon balm, sage, chives, thyme, and tarragon), dianthus, marigolds and celosia (which have proven to be surprising bee magnets in the past!) and that large open area is for the pole bean tower yet to come!

I’m all ready for summer to begin!

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!

Spring Garden Planning

The Connecticut Flower and Garden Show a little over a week ago was a great reminder that thankfully, yes, spring will soon be coming to my frozen climate whether I personally believe it or not. And even though spring does come slowly to Connecticut–and sometimes not at all (something I often talk about when I show photos of my tree peonies. I can guarantee far above normal temperatures on the day that my tree peonies open so that they flame out spectacularly and only last for a single day. They are an over-rated waste of space in my garden–or perhaps it’s my climate), it is still something that has to be planned for in the garden unless you want to be like everyone else and just go rushing off, willy-nilly in the spring to buy the first thing you see at the garden centers.

While there’s something to be said for exuberance at garden centers (I know that I am all too guilty of that one!), at least do it with some sort of thought or plan in mind. What is your overall idea for the garden this year?

Will you be adding more natives?

Are you planting for pollinators?

Maybe you want to grow your own vegetables? Or add a few berry bushes? Or even start more simply with a few herbs (I was describing most of the Mediterranean herbs last weeks as “basically weeds that can grow in rocks.”) They’re not quite that easy–but almost!

Or maybe this is the year you start your own tomatoes/lettuce/peppers/fill in the blank from seed because you just can’t find what you like any other way.

Whatever it is, do go out and start shopping, by all means, but do it with some sense of what you hope to accomplish. You’ll be happier, you’ll have better results in the garden, and maybe you’ll even help some wildlife or pollinators as well. It’s all up to you–that’s what’s great about gardening.

When Things DON’T Work Out as Planned

After the great poisoning incident last year, I’ve been gardening in fabric containers. For the most part, it’s working out extremely well.

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This photo shows just one of my tomatoes and my green beans.

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And here’s my first bean harvest, taken the same night the photo was taken. It may not look like much, but rarely, even when my beans are in the ground, do I get enough to make a meal (well, a side dish) for myself like this. So I was quite pleased.

What hasn’t worked out?

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After hearing everyone and his brother rave about cucamelons, or mouse melons, these are the pathetic plants that I have. Clearly nothing will come of them. And I had good seed and they are in the same spot as the tomatoes and beans so it’s not as if they’re in a bad spot (I know they like warmth!)

I didn’t start them too early–I know the dangers of starting plants too early only to have them languish in cold wet soil. I waited until I started my beans. And yet, you see the results.

Oh well, live and learn.