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Friday, August 18, 2017

Summer Gardening -- July 2017

Honey bee on a hardy geranium.
Summer Harvest

July flew past.  It's now mid August, and my harvest is starting to come in.  I am getting cucumbers,  zucchini, ground cherries, tomatoes, beans, onions, basil, peppers and have finished the peas.

The "Aunt Molly's" ground cherries are impressive. I had never grown them before, but really enjoy them.  They taste like a mix of peach and pineapple (if pineapple was not tangy.)  I found that they are better raw than cooked.  When I tried baking them into a cake, they seemed to lose their fruit flavor. They then just tasted like gooey sugar balls.  I think they would work well in a fruit salad or as a garnish to a desert.  But really, I've been enjoying them just raw by the handful.

I have to admit, my tomato & pepper harvest isn't the greatest this year.  Either the birds, rabbits or rodents have been taking bites out of some of my tomatoes, and branches are missing here and there.  Blight wasn't bad, but "someone" other than myself is definitely feasting. I may need to hoop or fence them in the future -- If I have the time and energy.

One of the tomato varieties that I grew was disappointing: "orange roussolini".  While this tomato did produce early, it wasn't very prolific.  The size was slightly larger than a cherry tomato, but not by much.  The texture was like a plum tomato, and the taste wasn't any sweeter than with a cherry tomato. Basically, it was as if I had grown a cherry tomato, but with much lower output.  This may have been because the seed got crossed by the grower somehow. I am not sure.  But I don't think I'll use space on it again next year.

The "amish paste" tomatoes are doing very well.  The "great white" tomatoes are doing ok.  "Early girl" was so-so.  I am waiting on production for some of the others, as they are not early producers.

 Even so, I have gotten enough to make several large batches of salsa.

The zucchini were a mixed bag. The ones that I grew in my back yard produced very little and then died.  I think they may have been infested with a borer insect.  The zucchini that I planted in my row at the Brighton Victory Garden did amazingly well, though.  I actually have way too much zucchini.  I was able to bake and freeze 16 loaves of zucchini bread.  I have made zucchini fritters, stuffed zucchini and casserole.  I also froze bout 10 lbs of zucchini.  Unfortunately, my husband HATES zucchini. so I am the only one in my house that eats it.  Because of this, it is useless to "put up" any more zucchini. So I will be donating the remainder of the crop to Gleaners Food Bank.

My onions were sad. Very sad and small.  I mean... I was still able to chop and freeze them for use, but they were so tiny!  I think that my  main problem with them is the wind.  The breeze off the lake knocks the stems over prematurely, so they stop growing.  Next year, I plan to trim the stems so they don't flop as much, and to devise some kind of low-sitting onion trellis to prop them up a bit.  Hopefully they will develop larger bulbs that way.

I am still waiting on squash and watermelon.  I am growing some smaller varieties such as "sugar baby" watermelon and "honey baby" squash.  These seem to be doing well and should be ready to harvest soon.  The advantage to these varieties is that they grow faster than other varieties of squash, so are good for a short season.  They are also smaller in size when mature. 

Honey baby squash
I experimentally lowered the amount of applied nitrogen that I use this year.  I wanted to see how the vegetables would do and lower the risk of run-off into the lake.   I think this was a mistake because the tomato plants are much smaller than usual, the growth of the brassicas is slower, my garlic and onions were small.  I did compost well with regular garden compost, but used about half the amount of nitrogen fertilizer recommended on the package.  In previous years, I brought in a good 1 inch layer of well-rotted horse manure in the autumn, and then added the full amount of nitrogen (corn gluten meal or chicken manure) recommended on the package.  I think that I will return to adding the manure in the fall and will add the full amount of nitrogen recommended, but spread out over 2-3 applications every-other week.  I think that this may help provide the veg with enough nitrogen, without risking run-off into the lake.  Hopefully my crop output will improve.

Perennial Gardening:

Pear crescent butterfly on rudbeckia.

The perennial garden generally looks good.  The daisies and rudbeckia are out in full glory now.  The shade garden that I put in is doing well.

I have one rose that is frustrating the heck out of me though.  I am not sure what variety it is, because the previous owner planted it.   But, the flowers are a beautiful mix of pink, peach, and yellow.  I think it might be the variety of rose called "Peace," but I am not certain.  Anyway... it is constantly under attack by something.  In spring tiny little holes appeared in the leaves, with no sign of what insect was chowing on them. Now, black spot has appeared along with Japanese beetles.  In non-organic chemical on it.  I admit, it does seem to be helping a bit. Also, this chemical is not
My problem rose.
harmful to bees, which is a plus.  Previously, I had tried neem and in desperation pyrethrin.  I was careful to put the pyrethrin only on the leaves, because that chemical, although organic, does harm bees.  But neither of these helped much.  So. I think that I will continue to use the Bayer product for the time being... only on this one plant. She is a beautiful rose, and worth saving.
winter, I protect the plant with insulating leaves and a barrier of burlap, but there is always some die back.  I finally gave in and used a

 I need to "clean up" the herb garden.   It just needs to be neatened up.  There are 2 roses in that bed that are just toast.  Again, the previous owner planted them.   I think that these have died back to the root stock though. They are nothing special.  They are plagued with die back in their northerly position, and pest attack.  They are stubby and I'll be taking them out.  I'll be replacing it with something else.  I am not sure what though.   I had a good discussion with folks on the Garden Professors Facebook page about what might work though.  That discussion can be seen here: discussion.  I plan to clean the bed up in the early autumn, once most of the summer heat has past. 

Species Spotted Update:

Eastern forktail
This list is continued from my last blog post As previously stated, I am not a trained naturalist.  I have been using Audubon Society books, google searches, and the app to identify these creatures.

I have a concern about my mini ecosystem this year.  Although I can hear frogs "chirping" in the swamp across the street from me, I haven't seen any amphibians or reptiles in my yard this year.  In past years, I have seen salamanders, tree frogs, toads and the odd garter snake.  So far this year, I haven't seen any at all.  I am hoping that this is just my bad luck, and that I will spot some later.  But I admit, I am somewhat worried -- wondering where they are hiding and if they are doing ok.

Carpenter ant

86. Skunk (Mephitis)


87. Fireflies (Photinus)
88. Beetle (Osmoderma)
89. Japanese trap door snail (Bellamya)
90. Dragon fly (Erythemis simplicoicollis)
91. Least skipper (Ancloxypha numitor)
92. Brown stinkbug (Pentatomidae)
93. Northern paper wasp (Polistes fuscatus)
94. Autumn meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum)
95. Honey bee (Apis mellifera)
96. Crane fly (Tipulomorpha)
97. Carpenter ant (Camponotus pennsylvanicus)
98. Eastern forktail (Ischnura verticalis)
99. Assassin bug (Zelus luridus)
Northern paper wasp
100. Eremnophila aureonotata (A wasp-like
101. Sweat bee (Halictidae)
102. Pearl crescent butterfly (Phyciodes tharos)
103. Hummingbird moth (Hemaris)


104. Osprey (Pandion haliatus)
105. American gold finch (Spinus tristis)

Garden Bloopers

Everyone has some things that go wrong in their gardens from time to time.  Here are some pics of my garden disasters for this year:
Japanese beetles have been chewing my roses!

The edible chrysanthemums grew extremely poorly.

Cabbage white caterpillars and slugs chewed up my turnips & rutabagas.

Down mildew attacked my bee balm & some of my phlox.

I love my new puppy, but having 2 dogs is hell on the lawn.

Damage to my rose before I used the Bayer rose treatment chemical.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

A Busy Spring in the Garden! May-June 2017




        Happy 4th of July! 





Snickers & Tate, my garden helpers.
May and June were very busy for me.  I have been working my day job (nurse), went on a family vacation, adopted a 2nd puppy (Tate), and gardening like a mad woman. This is my excuse for missing a month of blogging this year.  Please forgive me.

Here are my gardening updates:

The Vegetable Garden:

The vegetable garden is growing in nicely.  I have already harvested several types of greens including: kale, chard, Chinese cabbage, nasturtium blooms, chives and basil.  I have been munching on snap peas steadily. These are "cut and come again" types of vegetable, so I will continue to harvest them throughout the summer.

The tomatoes, peppers, ground cherries and zucchini are starting to form fruit, but these are still small and green. I hope to have ripe fruit by the end of the month.    

The root vegetables, autumn squash, eggplant, and watermelon are growing well... but I don't expect much production from them until autumn.

I was able to collect seed from a seven top turnip and Chinese cabbage that were left in the ground since last autumn.  They made wonderfully tall and bright sulfur-yellow flowers, and then seed pods.  The seed pods dried out nicely in the breeze.  It was simple to shake these into a bucket, and crush them with my hands so that the seeds fell out. I then tossed out the chaff and kept the seed for next year.  I even had enough to share with friends!

Something New:

I ordered and assembled an elevated garden bed for my deck. I painted it white to match my home.  It is filled with potting mix so that it will drain well, hold nutrients and remain relatively light weight (compared to topsoil.)  This summer, I am planting it with quick-growing lettuce, arugula, 'short 'n' sweet' carrots, and bok choy.

Next year, I plan to use it as an extension of my vegetable garden.  I will plant it with vegetables that do well in containers.  This will help to free up space in the regular garden bed so that I have room for vegetables that take up more space, such as tomatoes and squash. 

Garden Marker Test:

If you recall from my previous post, I am comparing the marking longevity of the markers shown in
the photograph below.  I marked wooden, plastic and metal plant labels with each type of ink, as well as pencil.  These have been sitting out in the sun and weather for about 5 months now.

So far, the regular sharpie ink has faded the most, especially on the plastic and metal labels.  The Inkzall ink is also fading away.  Meanwhile, the Artline Garden Marker ink, Sharpie Pro ink and
pencil appear to be legible on all types of plant labels.  The Artline Garden Marker ink appears to be the darkest, clearest and sharpest so far.
Note the fading ink of the Sharpie (S) and Inkzall (I) ink.
I will continue the comparison test through a full calendar year to see if any of the types of ink can hold up to the weather that long, so please look for an update in future posts.


Last autumn, I built 3 raised beds of size about 4ft x 4ft.  I lined the bottoms with chicken wire so that the chipmunks couldn't dig under them.  This spring, I protected them from above with some chicken wire covers that I pegged into place with garden staples. So FINALLY, after 2 years of trying, I got a crop of strawberries!  I just had to erect a fortress to protect them from vermin and voila! Enough berries for pies and crumble!  And let me tell you... there is NOTHING better than a strawberry-rhubarb crumble made with berries straight from the garden. I recommend James Beard's recipe if you
are in need of one.

Shade garden in April - Early May 2017
 The Dry Shade Garden:

Shade Garden late May - June 2017
I planted a dry shade garden this last April as described in my previous blog post.  At the time I planted it, there was not much color to it.  Perhaps just more green than there had been, with some light yellows, pinks and peach colors.

Through May and June the flowers began to bloom.  The color scheme warmed up to include brighter yellows, pinks and hotter oranges with a background of green and blue.

Now,  with the full heat of summer, the colors are at a lower simmer of darker mauve, pink,
Shade Garden late June - early July 2017
purple/blues... and as a bonus: the gooseberries and blueberries are starting to ripen!

I love how the color scheme remains generally warm, but changes with the weather. I anticipate that it will cool down in autumn with the weather to cooler pinks, whites and blues. 

  Species Spotted: 
Now for my favorite report for you all:  The continuation of the list of species that I have seen in our small garden/yard (continued from my previous blog post).  This includes species seen flying above the yard and swimming within 10 feet of the lake shore.  It is amazing how many species can be found in so small of an area! 

Insects & Spiders:
Orchard Orbweaver
Continued from previous post....
48. Pipevine swallowtail butterfly (Battus philinor)
49. Climber dragonfly (Tetragoneuria spp.)
50. Black carpenter ant (Camponotus pennsylvanicus)
51. Little black ant (Monomorium minimum)
52. Termite (Rhinotermitidae flavipes)
53. Stilt bugs (Jalysus spp.)
54. Mosquitoes (Culcidae)
55. Mayflies (order Ephemeroptera)
56. Crane flies (Tipula spp.)
57. Deer fly (chrysops spp.)
58. Jumping spider (Family Salticidae)
Four-lined plant bug
59. Orchard orbweaver (leucauge venusta)
60. Four lined plant bug (peocilocapsus lineatus)
61. Red admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta)
62. Black swallowtail (Paplio polyxenes)
63. Green bottle fly (Phaenicia)
64. Hoverfly (Toxomerus)
65. Eastern forktail damselfly (Ischnura verticalis)
66. Flesh fly (exact type unknown)
67.  Bluets (Enallagma)
68. Eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glucus) 
69. Monarch butterfly (Denaus plexippus)
70. Daddy longlegs (Opilones) 
71. Margined calligrapher (Toxomerus marginatus)
72. Japanese beetle (Papilla japonica) 
73. European paper wasp (Polistes dominula) 
74. Fourteen-spotted ladybug (Propylea quatuordecimpunctata) 
75. Narrow-winged damselfly (coenagrionidae)
76. Hover fly (Periphyllus)
77. Sweat bee (Halictus ligatus)
Left: Japanese Beetle.  Right: Bumble Bee
78. Great black wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus) 

79. Ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilocus colubris)
80. Cooper's hawk (Accipeter cooperii)
81. Turkey vulture (Cathartes aura)

82. Raccoon (Procyon lotor)
83. Bats (species type unknown - only seen flying at a distance)

Ruby-Throated Humming Bird (female)
Fish (within 10 feet of shore in Clifford Lake) :
84. Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)
85. Smallmouth bass (Micropteris dolomieui)

 Please forgive me for any incorrect and/or incomplete creature identifications; especially with regard to the insects.  I am neither an entomologist nor a trained natural scientist. I have identified these animals with the help of National Audobon Society field guides and internet google searches.   My list may not be perfect, but I have learned a lot from searching out and reading up on these creatures.  If you scroll to the very bottom of this blog page, there is a link to  I keep an ongoing list of the creatures that I am able to photograph there.  If someone is able to correct an identification that I have made, you will be able to see it there.

I hope to write another blog post near the end of this month.  Happy Independence Day and happy gardening everyone! 

Ruby-Throated Humming Bird (male)

European Paper Wasp

Fourteen-Spotted Lady Bug