Monday, September 28, 2015

end of summer, beginning of new blog: state of the gardens

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Summer is at an end (definitely on the calendar, though not quite in the temperature yet) and while I’m a bit sad about that, I do like fall (though not what comes after).  Most of the plants in my gardens are no longer at their peak and my flower beds are looking rather bedraggled, but I wanted to journal this for my own benefit so I can look back and see what I need to change next spring and summer to make them look better! 

First off, the vegetable garden.  Some successes this year (cucumbers, broccoli/cabbage/brussels sprouts) and some failures (green beans, tomatoes, lettuce).  I changed the layout of the garden this year and I wasn’t a fan—I’ll be switching back to last year’s kitchen garden layout (with a main path right down the center) again next year. 

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One of the biggest challenges this year (and the reason I had virtually no lettuce) was because our rabbit population has exploded and they have figured out how to get into the garden.  I have a short fence around the garden (partly chicken wire, partly slightly larger-holed green garden fence) but the small rabbits are able to get through the green fencing and have decimated anything small and tasty.  Next year I’m fencing it only with small chicken wire as I don’t see how they could get through that.  Interestingly enough, I had no trouble with deer even though the fence was relatively short. 

Tomato blight wiped out all of my tomatoes, though I did get some before the vines went downhill.  I even mulched the whole tomato area with straw this year in the hopes that it would prevent rain from splashing on the bare soil and sending pathogens onto the tomato leaves.  Next year I’ll be trying some more blight-resistant varieties as this is the 2nd year I’ve had this trouble here. 

Cucumbers vined beautifully through the fencing arch this year (along with morning glories).  I had more difficulty getting them to climb last year but the variety I planted this year was more “grabby” and scrambled right up!  We are still enjoying them now at the end of September which is unusual. 

Flower beds had highs and lows.  The spring bulbs I planted last fall made spring really pretty this year—at least in the flower bed to the front of the house.  Right now they all look worse for wear, but the success for right now has got to be the tropical garden which is only a little past its peak.  This is a new garden area for me—this spring the whole area was scraggly brush (and small buckthorn trees, yikes!) and a sea of poison ivy. 

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I got many elephant ear bulbs last fall for a steal when I stopped at a garden center and noticed they were going to throw them out.  They did amazingly…most of the leaves you see above are 2-3 feet long and almost as much wide.  Some of them are taller than me.  I started many canna lilies from seed this year and those did really well too.

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The castor beans did amazingly as well (except for the ones I planted in a little too much shade).  Most of them are taller than me (some by a LOT!) with big beautiful dark maroon leaves and spiky seed pods.  I will definitely be planting these again next year!  They are SO dramatic with the elephant ear. 

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Another plant that did really well in the tropical garden was the many dahlias I started from seed this spring.  They were dark-leaved varieties and they really took off!  I hope they have formed tubers beneath so I can dig them up and store for next year.  Otherwise I’ll start them from seed again as they did much better than those I had saved from previous years.   They are blooming like crazy!

Well, plants aren’t the only ones who are in the tropical garden.  Our two-legged friends have discovered it as well.  I don’t think they are doing the garden any favors (maybe fertilizer???) but they do enjoy it so. 

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Oh, and they also use it as a water source…

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There is MUCH to be improved with that garden (poison ivy is still popping up here and there, ugh!) but this was a good start!  I’m hoping to get some more tropical looking shrubs/trees in there next year. 

The yard as a whole is looking rather tired at this time of the year, but it is still warm enough to enjoy it so that is a huge plus!  The kids are out there every day running around. 

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Though many gardening plans didn’t go quite as I had hoped, our family did enjoy being outdoors this summer!  I need to get out there and do some fall planting (including spring bulbs!) soon!