Monday, September 18, 2017

Late Summer (or early autumn) Herbs - 2017

We are only four days away from the first day of Autumn here in the Northern Hemisphere.  The fall weather arrived this week, with much cooler temperatures and rain.  While Thursday is forecast to be only in the 50s, next week may heat up into the 80s again.  Really, who knows with early autumn? 

The point is, the herbs love late summer/early autumn.  After having been severely cut back (to the ground in many cases) they have come back with lots of new growth, perfect for harvesting for winter use.

Lovely oregano (two types here, Greek Mountain, and an unknown received in trade) have really done well since the July pruning.  This oregano patch really needs to be divided, but that's a chore for much later!   

September, 2017

July, 2017

The oregano is even healthy where it volunteered in the pathway...

The neighbor to the oregano, woolly apple mint, is taking off again.  There is no stopping most mints, unless they are the ones I like best, then they poke along.  It's not that I dislike woolly apple mint, it's just that I wish my strawberry mint grew this lush. 

Not an herb, but in the herb garden, is "Orange Flame" wallflower, a ground cover, creeping type.  It springs back once the weather is cooler than mid-summer, as its name suggests, creeping out of the bed into the barked area surrounding the herb garden.  More of it's outside the bed than inside now! 

Several of my new herbs are blooming. 

Mini Blue lavender:

"Angel's Wing" catnip:
I just changed pots for this one today.  I didn't think the shallow plastic pot was draining well enough for this plant, even though I drilled plenty of holes and added sand and sharp gravel to the soil.  I bought a terra cotta azalea pot, which are shallower than the traditional ones.  I'm a bit worried I'll lose it, since it looks very much like the variegated horehound did before it died, and they are related.  In fact, I wouldn't know one from the other if they were side by side!  

 "Walker's Low" catmint:
It's grown a lot since I planted it. 

The French tarragon and germander are doing well after my savage butchering job!  I thought I'd done the germander permanent damage.

French tarragon


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Garden Odds and Ends... the Emphasis on "Odd"

What could be "odd" in the garden?

How about a tomato giving birth?  

Okay, so that's the only oddity, so far!

The pineapple sage, which grew to enormous proportions without flowering, has decided now, at the end of the season, to send forth blossoms!  Maybe that is a bit "odd."  I've already cut off at least 3/4 of the plant over the summer trying to keep it within bounds.  I need to find the middle ground (no pun intended), larger container, not rich soil, for next year. 

The annuals in the butterfly garden are dying back, so I've removed a lot of them, including the California poppies, which were a tangled mess, and the pink dwarf godetia.  The poppies probably left seeds behind.  Under the poppies were several coreopsis, which didn't get a chance to amount to much this season.  I'll move them inward from the edges when they die back. 

The onions were harvested, such as they were!  It was my first go at onions, and my last.  Not the failure of potatoes, but not worth bothering with.  I don't use a lot of onions, I like the taste they give foods, but hate the texture raw or cooked.  They need to dry for a few weeks, the tops and necks will be dry and the first layers of skin will be dry and crinkly. 

A neighbor left an ugly ol' cabinet out for the taking.  I took.  It should make a fine potting bench.  I sprayed the particleboard sides and back with whatever spray paint I had leftover, so it's white, brown, and metallic!  It won't last many years, but ever one or two will be fine for the free (and leftover paint) price!

I've had some success rooting cuttings lately.  All were started in water. 

Golden oregano and Tuscan Blue rosemary. 

Thyme, perhaps Foxley.

A cute little succulent from the front yard rock garden.  The other containers near it are small gauras, which readily root in water.  I'll have to write more on propagation from cuttings!  Free plants! 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

My Birthday Herbs!

What with the smoky weather I put off ordering my birthday herbs from Mountain Valley Growers until today.  I didn't want to get them and be unable to plant them. 

I am so excited for them to get here! 

I ordered six, the minimum due to the size of the shipping box.  It's their Fall Extravaganza Sale, so I got more for my money (or in this case, my gift certificate)!  Here's what is coming:

  • banana mint - another specimen for my mint collection!  
  • dwarf garden sage -my garden sage died a while back, so I'm trying this variety as a replacement.
  • Dittany of Crete oregano - this is an ornamental oregano that came to the US in the 1940s, with unusual flowers and furry leaves.
  • juniper thyme -  also called "moonlight thyme" this is perfect for container planting.
  • Blue Boy rosemary - a tiny rosemary that can grow in a small pot!
  • white Grosso lavender - growing 2' - 3' tall,  this will be perfect for the bare spot in my front yard where the rock rose used to be.  It will join the Tuscan Blue rosemary, golden oregano, and Munstead lavender.  Golden oregano doesn't bloom, so I thought white could balance all that purple from the rosemary and lavender. 
It was hard to limit myself to six, but I can save my other choices for another time.  Maybe Christmas?  

Too Smoky to Garden

The past few weeks have found my valley filled with wildfire smoke.  Most of the days were "very unhealthy," according to the EPA Air Quality Index, while a few were actually "hazardous."  I did little outside, just setting sprinkles when it couldn't be put off, and other than work, nearly staying housebound with windows shut and the air conditioner on.  

Thank goodness for a change in the weather, and wind and a bit of rain!  It might seem odd to celebrate a "unhealthy for sensitive group" index of 126, but the sky is blue and I can see the mountains!

What's been happening while I was away? 

Autumn has sneaked into the garden!

Sungold tomatoes dying back...

Sunflowers wilting...

Fall planted bulbs for sale...

Autumn crocus blooming...! 

I started some fall garden clean-up yesterday.  I tore out the cosmos, which I never liked.  The bees had moved on to the anise hyssop and black-eyed Susans, so I didn't feel guilty pulling them out.  The cosmos were a dwarf variety; I'd hate to see the full version! 

In its place I planted the "Gay Butterflies" butterfly weed (Asclepias).  It will form a mound about 2' tall and wide. 

The weeds around the butterfly garden have been sprayed with weedkiller, as shown in the above photo.  I'm still figuring out how to build a path around the circles.  Hopefully I can get that done before winter.  I am so behind in my gardening chores (necessities), and my gardening wish list (just that, wishes!). 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Pollinators Buzzing in the Butterfly Garden!

Literally buzzing!

Just some pretty photos of bees, wasps, butterflies... and... the common housefly pollinating in the butterfly garden.  The common housefly?  Yes!  They eat pollen too!  That was news to me until I shot some photos and there it was, instead of a bee.  Okay, at least two of the photos are not really what I'd call "pretty," but the insects are fulfilling an important role. 

bee with pollen sacks on anise hyssop

unknown on a black-eyed Susan

coreopsis and some sort of bee

housefly on coreopsis - it didn't just happen to land, it was eating pollen

anise hyssop and an unknown, but fat abdomened, bee!

honey bee on cosmos

skipper butterfly on dwarf godetia
honey bee on anise hyssop

Thursday, August 31, 2017

My New "Babies" are Planted!

I managed to get all seven of my new "babies" planted this past "my weekend."  (I do not get Saturdays and Sundays off work, so to avoid confusion in my family, "my weekend" is whatever days I have off.)

Again this summer the valley is full of smoke.  Air quality earlier was "moderate," so I got things done outside, including planting and bathing Edward the Goldendoodle.  Good thing I took the time, air quality is now "unhealthy."  I figure if I can't see the mountains it's probably not a good idea to breathe the air! 

So...  here's what I did with my "babies." 

*firecracker penstemon - rock garden in the front yard, near where the dying creeping phlox was pulled out. 

*woolly sunflower (or Oregon Sunshine, isn't that a lovely name?) - in the newer part of the rock garden.

I then sprayed a lot of cat repellent on the newly dug soil!

*"Mini Blue" lavender - in a ceramic pot on the deck that held the dwarf eggplant.  It's next to the germander with a summer trim.  I used that big blue pot behind them to transplant the flowering plum tree given to me by a co-worker a few months back. 

*"Hi Ho Silver" thyme - a pretty cobalt blue ceramic pot that has a poor history growing anything.  I think I over water whatever is in it. I think the glass float is from a garage sale.  My family and I used to find real Japanese fishing floats ripped off their nets on the beaches near San Francisco in the 60s. 

*coyote mint - a large plastic planter which I placed near the herb garden proper.  Coyote mint likes sun, but not temperatures over 90.  Since the temperatures coming in the next few days will be in the 100s, a container is best so I can move it to a shaded area.  This is my favorite of the seven new "babies." 

It is forming flowers since I bought it!

*"Angel's Wing" catnip - in the low plastic planter I got 75% off.  It didn't have drainage holes, so I drilled some into the bottom.  Online this "Nepeta" is called a catmint, not catnip, but my nursery has it labeled as a catnip.  No biggie, they are much the same to me!  It's a very fragile plant, just gentle transplanting broke off several stems. 

*"Walker's Low" catmint -  the rose I didn't like wasn't looking very healthy so I pulled it out and replaced it with this catmint.  Really, the rose wasn't doing well! Honestly, it had barely any roots to it and the leaves were yellowing.  I didn't like it, so didn't try to save it.  Remember, it wasn't the variety it was labeled and wasn't what I wanted. 

For all, in the ground as well as in the containers, I mixed potting soil in with sand and sharp gravel to give better drainage.  Next time before I water I'll sprinkle some Dr. Earth's Tomato, Vegetable and Herb Fertilizer around their bases. 

"Angel's Wings" and "Walker's Low"


Potato Harvest!

I've been waiting for this day!  The plants never blossomed, and I didn't wait until the foliage died back like I was supposed to, but growth had stopped, and some plants were disappearing.

It was easy to just push over the wire cage, cardboard liner, and straw.  Other than the two wire pieces, it's all compostable.

So, where were the potatoes?  All the potatoes I'd been led to believe would be all up and down throughout the straw mulch?  The pounds and pounds of potatoes others bragged about growing in small containers and towers?

Well, here they are.  The entire crop of German Butterball potatoes started back in May.

Now, that one there in my hand is a good lookin' Butterball, perfectly shaped.  But, I'd need dozens to make a meal, and I got four.  FOUR!  Oh, I left behind a few the size of pencil erasers.  Half used pencil erasers.

What I did find in the straw, larger than potatoes, were these...

These are the creatures "who shall not be named" around my house.  My daughter has an extreme disgust reaction to slugs (snails too, but slugs are worse).  She isn't afraid of them, it isn't a phobia, but a deep-seated disgust.  I wouldn't dare suggest cooking the tiny taters, I added them to my fabulous compost keeper (Christmas present 2016!).  They associated with slugs!  While I find snails and slugs fascinating (if only because they are hermaphrodites), they are indeed "disgusting."   I was surprised to find them in the straw mulch, I don't have a problem with snails or slugs, and rarely see any in the garden.

Will I plant potatoes again?  No.  No chance.  I bought these for just $1.00, and threw the cage together with materials I had on hand.  I bought the bale of straw to mulch, but I usually keep a bale around anyway, so it wasn't just a potato specific expense.  So, my potato growing experiment cost all of $1.00, and was a resounding failure not to be repeated.  Sacks of potatoes cost so little here it's not worth the effort.