Pre-Solstice Garden Updates

Dianthus Awaits the Butterflies, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

The June solstice is just around the corner, and my garden is ready:

Sunflowers and corn have each been transplanted out of the cold frame and into their respective beds.

Sunflower at Sunset, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

The heliotropes (flowers which turn with the sun, including sunflowers) stand healthy on three-foot-tall stems lining a new flowerbed located along the northern fence line of my yard.  These sunflowers are the progency of my Pennsylvania garden including both the giant and the shorter, red sunflowers.

Flower Bed Beginnings, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

What was once a barren stretch of grass is now home to flowers selected from all around my yard including daisies, dianthus, bee balm, columbine, carrots, daffodils, and many others.  I’ve packed a lot of plants into this small space, which is also the new home to 10 trees (originally received from The Arbor Day Foundation some eight years ago) including dogwoods, hawthorns, and crab apples.

North Corn Bed, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

The corn (which, if you didn’t know, is a really big grass) now lines the western fence line in two long beds of approximately 40 plants each.

Corn Sprouts: Fairy's-Eye-View, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Once the corn was put in place, the beds were sown with beans, pumpkins, zucchini, and melons, with a few sunflowers and nasturtium seeds to artfully anchor the ends of each.  I am pleased to say that the corn is well ahead of the requisite “knee-high by the Fourth of July” benchmark.  This is my first real attempt at growing corn; after three years of living around Pennsylvania farmland for inspiration, I am eager to see my results!  Beyond the fenced yard is a healthy wildflower patch containing foxglove, fireweed, daisies, and brambles, which I have carefully encouraged for some 10 years.  I hope that these flowers will help to attract the wild pollinators that I need for the vegetables.

South Corn Bed, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Why are the growing beds all fenced in, you may ask?

Blackfoot Troublemaker, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Tomatoes, peppers, basil, and marigolds which once in habited all free window spaces inside the house are now safely settled in the vegetable garden.  Although the tomatoes were looking a little scraggly indoors, they positively exploded outside.  I’m sure that flowers are only a week or two away.  The basil hardly seems to have noticed the move, and the peppers are slowly catching up thanks to the warm weather we’ve enjoyed.

Happy Tomato Starts, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Meanwhile, back in the cold frames the arugula, lettuce, assorted salad greens, and cilantro have all made a great showing, and are ready to bolt like nobody’s business.

Late Spring Cold Frame Harvest, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

I plan to dig them out in chunks and pop them in the flower beds so they can flower and seed to their hearts’ content.  Personally, I think arugula, radish, and cilantro flowers are lovely.  So too for the furry purple flowers of the chives plants which welcome me to the vegetable patch each morning.

Welcoming Garden Chive Flowers, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

The peas also need to come out of the coldframe and into the garden – they’ve grown big enough to create a trellis out of each other for support!

Renegade Pea Plants, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

And of course, summer wouldn’t be complete without the sweet, ripe strawberries swelling like so many rubies in the vegetable garden:

Summer's Ripening Strawberries, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

What’s next?  Believe it or not: autumn.  The efforts needed for summer vegetables were all completed in winter and spring.  Now that those tasks are behind me, there’s little else to do but water and weed and watch and harvest.  What’s important now is to plan, prepare, and plant for the coming cool seasons.

For me this means moving things out of the cold frames so I can begin successions of lettuce, greens, onions, carrots, and other small veggies.  I want to get these started now and continue sowing seeds at roughly two-week intervals from now through October.  These will provide the food supply for autumn, and ensure that I have plants at several stages of maturity (rather than one, big, massive patch of lettuce that’s ready all at once).

In addition to the food plantings I am also focused on developing the flowers which grow throughout the gardens.  I have healthy seedlings of calendula, borage, and marigolds, and recently added mature bergamot (also called bee balm or monarda), lavender, and rosemary to compliment my existing collections of mints, thyme, parsley, chamomile, and other flowers and kitchen herbs.  Thanks to my mother and eldest sister I was able to stock up on seeds via Seeds of Change, so my personal seed bank includes hollyhocks, dahlias, bergamots, sages, and many others.

Ahead at AppleJade I’ll be sharing ideas for creative ways to reuse packaging for seed starting, earth-friendly ways to reduce your slug and pest populations, and plenty of ideas for recipes to make use of your garden bounty!

Quiet Bird Retreat, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

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Fruit Blogging

Summer Apple, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

The Festival of the Trees is a monthly blog carnival featuring posts about trees and forests.  The upcoming festival #21 is a special-edition festival featuring fruit trees and orchards.

Our hostess Peg at Orchards Forever has invited us to contribute our blog posts:

“I’d like to try and adhere to a theme of fruit trees and orchards… but virtually anything that is even loosely connected to that theme is welcome! Gardening and growing, horticulture, heirloom fruits, food and recipes, environmental and conservation issues, folklore and mythology, travel, what have you!”

If you like to blog about cooking, gardening, health, nutrition, the earth, or your own backyard, then this month you have a great excuse to share your posts about fruits and fruit trees!  Publish your blog posts and then send your links to Peg at amberapple [at] gmail [dot] com, or visit the Festival of the Trees coordinating blog for more details.

Through sleet and snow the plants still grow

Onions in Sleet, (c) 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

 

Philadelphia had a cold weekend, and here in Chester County we saw bits of sleet, snow, and freezing rain.  Our temperatures remained around 30 degrees (Fahrenheit) on Sunday, but our plants stayed cozy in the cold frame.

We have a small patch of onions in the main garden which I transferred from the coldframe in early Autumn.  Unfortunately, I never had a chance to build them a little row cover.  This year they are part of my experiment to see what will happen to the onions as we see months of cold, dry weather, and occasional snowfall.  My guess is, they may get a little mad and droopy, but they’ll survive just fine.

Cold Frame in Sleet, (c) Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Meanwhile… in the coldframe the greens are cozy and happy, protected from wind and extreme cold.  I didn’t open the cold frame at all over the weekend, so as not to release the bit of warmth trapped inside.  The picture above shows the mizuna mustard greens pressed up against the cold frame, protected from the bitter cold. (Remember you can click on pictures to enlarge them).

We’ve had a lot of questions about how to build and use a cold frame.  In addition to our health discussions this December at AppleJade, I will be drafting up some simple steps for you to construct and use your own cold frame (although that may not be posted until January).

And don’t worry – even if it’s too cold for you to sow your seeds now, you can still make use of your cold frame in the coming spring (and next autumn/winter, of course).  A small amount of planning can dramatically improve the results of your gardening efforts – big or small!

PS – If you’re looking for a little inspiration today, hop over to my Brainripples blog.  Each week I offer the Monday Morning Muse featuring photography to help spark the creative!  Also, the Festival of the Trees 18 – November Arborea is now online at Riverside Rambles, composed by Larry Ayers.  The Festival of the Trees is a monthly blog carnival featuring posts about trees and forests from around the blogosphere – talk about inspiration!