Sunday, September 23, 2018

Happy Fall Equinox! (or was that yesterday?)

Depending on which browser you use, the Autumnal Equinox, 2018 version, was either yesterday, September 22 (according to Google and it's little Google Doodle), or today, September 23 (Bing).  It's not as simple as that though, what really matters is what UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) says!

What's UTC?  I didn't know until this morning, trying to find out just exactly when the Equinox takes/took place.  "UTC is the time standard commonly used across the world. The world's timing centers have agreed to keep their time scales closely synchronized - or coordinated - therefore the name Coordinated Universal Time."  My UTC zone is 7.

It started WAY before any browsers (1884!), so I'll go with them, which still makes the Equinox a past event (1:54am UTC, this morning), but still, that makes it today!  Okay, to be totally honest, that would have been 6:54 last night my time...  But, still, it's that "day" still, since it hasn't been 24 hours yet!  Yeah!  I win!  What do I win? 

Just the Battle of the Browsers.  My son uses Chrome, which is Google.  I use Firefox, but my main page and search engine is Bing (Microsoft).  He teases me no end, so if I can win a little thing I've won a big one!  Bing was right, Google was wrong... sort of.  Good enough for me to score a point though!

So, Happy Autumnal Equinox!

The garden sure is showing signs of fall (what we "West Coasterners" call autumn!).  There are color changes, slowing growth, and even accelerated growth as plants switch into panic mode, trying to get those last few blooms and seeds out there before they die.  Rather sad.

Virginia creeper
Frost peach
There are so many fall garden chores.  In zone 8 our winters are pretty mild, but we do have some hard frosts, and for the past few years quite a bit of snow that sticks!  Climate change people.  It isn't all about "global warming," it's changes to our climates, warm or cold!

I finished the front yard iris division.  I need to get nice compost to amend the soil before replanting them.  The spot looks so naked without the iris!  The second bag of rhizomes went as fast as the first. I am now wondering if I kept enough for my own replanting!  Well, if not, they'll fill in...


This is an example of what I kept.  The perfect iris rhizome!  Nice roots and lovely new growth, which will eventually become rhizomes, needing to be divided. 

Below the rhizome is a part of American Revolution daylily.  I didn't divide the daylilies yet, just stuck a shovel in to see how hard it would be.  Not hard.  So, once I find an area for the extras (I want these, no Craigslist freebies!) I'll get it done, within the month.  Maybe along the outer side of the blocks forming the Butterfly Garden path?  More compost needed.

Besides dividing iris and daylilies, I've found quite a few other plants to propagate.  By accident I pulled a rooted chunk of Moonshine yarrow out while snapping off spent flowers (note to self - use pruners, don't yank!).   We'll see if it survives.

Moonshine yarrow
The penstemon in the front yard Rock Garden suffered the same fate, my heavy-handed yanking gained me some rooted pieces!  Once one came up rooted, I purposely yanked two more. 

penstemon "chunks"
They join the other Mason jars on the shaded picnic table, and small containers in a hanging planter.

left: orange mint   right: Blue Boy rosemary, chocolate mint and various thymes
woolly apple min in the forefront (I certainly don't need more!), various mints, gaura and coreopsis

Ditto the Up Tick™ coreopsis, which came up with quite a few roots, so I  planted it in the temporary overflow-plants-needing-transplanting bed. The piece from earlier in the year looks good, at least it's still green.  

Still loads of seeds to collect from the four o'clocks and morning glories.   I doubt I get one in 20 seeds before they fall into the bed though.  The plants are producing seeds faster than I can gather them!   I started saving some from the lance-leaf coreopsis too.  

newest harvest of four o'clock seeds
Then the bachelor buttons.  I found if the seed pods look dry and ready on the bachelor buttons, it's too late, the seeds are gone, and all that is left is fluff!

bachelor button seed pods
The ones dry on top, but still green and purple seem to be the best.  Just squeeze and the seeds just come right out.   I'm keeping them in an open paper origami packet to make sure they dry thoroughly.  I'll also buy some seeds in case my ideas here were all wrong!

bachelor button seeds
 I usually prune back lavenders when the flowers die back.  But, in the Butterfly Garden, the Ellagance Snow has been non-stop since it began its second bloom.  The pollinators are always thick on it, so I left it alone.  The bees have become few enough I could get close, and noticed totally dry wands.  Interesting, with little holes where seeds came out, or to come out.  So, I picked them and shook them over my hand.  Such tiny seeds! 

lavender seed pods
lavender seeds
I continue to buy (cheap) bulbs to plant in October!  More crocus from Winco, and Anemone Blanda from Walmart.  I've never grown anemone before, but it sounds easy, and they are supposed to self-seed like mad. 

The praying mantis is still in the coreopsis.  I saw him yesterday and this morning.  I didn't like leaving him hanging upside down, but it would be obvious I'd rotated the photo, what with the dew drops!

Not as many pollinators, but they are still buzzing around the black-eyed Susans, lavender, and mostly the bachelor buttons.  The black-eyed Susan ones are quite small.  I haven't taken the time to find out what kinds of bees and flies I have, but I don't think the ones on the lavender are honey bees.  They look a lot like it, but something about their "buzz" is off! 

I think the bachelor buttons self-seeded; lots of small seedlings are growing underneath them.

California golden poppies are sprouting up too, both in the Butterfly Garden where they self-seeded, and wherever I tossed them, like this iris bed near the Butterfly Garden.  The poppies will be fine over wintering, I'm not sure about the bachelor buttons.  

I am very impressed with the Russell lupine planted in the Butterfly Garden.  It was nearly destroyed in the Great Earwig Invasion, but has made up for lost time this summer.

Ultra Violet autumn salvia is finally starting to flower after it was moved to the Butterfly Garden bed from a container.  I hope it does as well as Radio Red.  I should have moved them both at the same time.  

Ultra Violet salvia
Ultra Violet in mixed bed
Radio Red autumn salvia with bachelor buttons
I've ordered some more seeds to sow next month.  There are quite a few hardy annuals and perennials that can be seeded in fall.  I think the new bed, that as yet has no soil, will have to be another space for pollinator plants!  The perennials are doing so nicely here that there isn't much room for annual color.  I will not, will not, overdo the seeds like I did this past year!  Only grow what I know I have room for, and know ahead of time where the adult plant will go! 

It's been a glorious weekend in the garden! 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Frightened by a Praying Mantis!

This little fella scared me today!

I was pruning back more of the Up Tick coreopsis, when I noticed something gray and leafy moving on my arm.  
I starting screaming (not too loudly!), "GET OFF... GET OFF... GET OFF!" and flinging and flailing my arms around!  At first I thought it was a grasshopper, and I hate grasshoppers. 

 No, it was one of the GGGs, "Good Guys in the Garden," a praying mantis.  I felt silly, but he was a really big one!

I urged him onto a stick and put him back on the coreopsis.  Hopefully he'll gorge on earwigs.  No, make that, hopefully he's a she and will lay eggs to hatch out to eat earwigs, that would even be better!

For all their benefits, they sure are creepy looking creatures!  I'll probably be startled by the next one too.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Two Chores and a Pretty

I only got two things done in the garden today, but they were dirty, sweaty, pokey things. 

1 - I pruned back the climbing roses.  The bottom parts looked terrible, and a lot of the branches were dropping down off the overhang.  Those thorns can poke right through my leather gloves, and it's hard to twist those green garden twisty things in gloves anyway!  Boo kept putting his ball in the middle of the clippings, and I kept yelling at him to stop "before you get a thorn in your foot, because you are not going to the vet again!"  

So, now there's a big bare patch in the middle.  I didn't get it all done, I have to wait for the asparagus to die back to get to the rest of the roses.  They didn't bloom as nicely this year as before, so hopefully cutting out the straggly branches and huge suckers will help. 

2 - I divided the container planted Shasta daisy.  I found a label in the container, it's an Angel Shasta daisy, Leucanthemum x superbum 'Angel.'  (I get a kick out of the second part of its name, superbum!  Hee hee!)  Now I know why it's so much smaller, both plant and flower, than the Shasta daisies in the Butterfly Garden, it's an "Angel," which are compact at only 8" high.  I read today it can live up to five years, and while I only planted mine in 2017, it wasn't a baby then.  Plus, the container was jam-packed with it.  Or... them.  Shasta daisies need dividing and, boy, did I found out just how much!  Some people say to divide them in fall, others when they first show new growth in spring.  Well, I needed to get it done, regardless of the season!

Mine was always drooping, so I knew it must be root bound.  (I will continue to speak of it in singular tense until I get to the many plant part!) 

So, I just tipped the container out (over the newly made, but as yet empty bed) in one piece, disturbing a family of ants!  There was barely any soil, just roots and ants.  I always feel guilty when I break up an ant colony, they scurry about trying to rescue their eggs. 

Once I chipped the soil away I was left with a solid mass of greenery!  The roots were tangled worse than the iris.  Some of the roots were a foot long!  I swear, other roots were like rhizomes!  Actually, there is a type of daisy, ox-eye, that does have rhizomes, but the Shasta doesn't... so they say.

Those lumpy parts look like more than just roots to me!

This is half of what was growing as one plant! 

 Here's part of what I kept. 

More temporary residents in the vegetable garden bed!

How about these autumn crocus (remember, not crocus, lily family! Colchicum autumnale )?  Every day more open, and there are more buds popping up through the mulch too.

It's lovely weather for gardening, so here's to getting more fall chores done! 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Weekend Work and Other Garden Stuff - Mid August 2018

Well, the free iris rhizomes I offered on Craigslist were gone within hours, just as I thought they'd be.  I have jumped on those offers myself, that's why I have three beds of iris!   I think the rhizomes went to two different parties, and someone left me a surprise!

A bag of large rosemary cuttings!  They look like they are off a much larger type of rosemary than the ones I have.  After they spent the night in Boo's Pool™, I stripped off their lower leaves and stuck the pieces in the watering can until I locate a large canning jar (I like to use jars so I can see roots develop).  Rosemary roots well in water, so even if just a few of these grow, eventually I'll have some nice big rosemary plants!  I'll even try planting them directly in the ground in the far back yard.  Plant people sure are nice and sharing!

My own divided iris rhizomes had to go somewhere until I'm ready to replant them, so I pulled out the corn stalks and stuck them temporarily into a vegetable bed, sharing space with the squash and warty French pumpkins.

The beds look bare without the corn.  I cleaned up the squash and pumpkin vines while I was at it, pruning back a lot of the new growth (no time to produce) and ratty ends.  There were quite a few struggling calendula plants under there!  The corn stalks should make nice harvest-time decor in the front yard, if it comes to that.

There are five strawberry plants I also temporarily planted in a veggie bed, previously filled with the beans (later non-productive corn).  The plant in the lower left is a broken chunk of lance-leaf coreopsis that had a few roots, so here's hoping it grows.  I think the yellow fruit there is an ornamental gourd.  I have a bunch of them.  Nothing special and not very ornamental.  None of the ornamental gourds are, no warts or bent stem-necks in the bunch.  No fancy colors and stripes either.  In other words, or one word, duds.

I've begun to gather bulbs to plant next month.  These are just from Winco (a grocery store), and are very inexpensive (so I don't notice the addition to my food budget!) at $2.98 a box.  These boxes of crocus do very well, as do the grape hyacinths.  The larger bulbs not so much.  They are imported from Holland.  

The tomato harvest yesterday included five different varieties!  At 12:00 there are the not-yellow Brandywine.  4:00 are blue chocolate cherries, then at the bottom are Sungold and Golden Jubilee, followed at 7:00 with Hoskins-Barger. 

The blue chocolate cherry is darker on the inside than it's skin would have you think.  This one tastes the most like a traditional fresh-picked tomato than any of the others. 

As I mentioned before, it's a volunteer from last year's garden, when it didn't do well at all!  It's doing great now!  

I tore out one Hoskins-Barger, and the other will be done with after just a couple more tomatoes.
Likewise for the Golden Jubilee.  The not-yellow Brandywine still is producing its pretty mottled fruit, and the plant itself is a support for the pole beans.

The volunteer Sungold is just starting to take off now!  It's rather hampered by the pole beans, it has to fight its way to sunlight!  Some of its vines are actually supported by beans vines!  Sungold is the only tomato variety my daughter would grow (or, have me grow!), she likes it that much!  It's one I always do grow.  Very, very productive and delicious. 

What's in my refrigerator today!  Notice the Sungolds are gone? 

It really is NOT too soon to think of what kind of tomatoes I want for next season!  If I grow them from seed they have to be started in January, and really, with all the holiday hoopla coming up, January will be here before you know it!  Egads...  holiday hoopla. 

I think we ate the last lemon cucumber yesterday.  So sad over that.  Their season is too short by far.  

The pumpkins/squash/gourds are still ripening and blossoming and setting more fruit.  Not as many as their square footage could produce.  I really have to look into amending the soil to up the production.  My beds should be giving me a lot more.  

The one sunflower that survived the Great Earwig Invasion has died back.  I cut the head off, then the stem at ground level, only to reinsert the stem into the soil when I discovered it was a bean pole!  I love sunflower seed patterns!

On a non-garden related note, I won a tote bag in the library's Summer Reading Program!  "Libraries Rock" was the 2018 theme for participating libraries around the country.  The library is my favorite place in town, any town...  yes, even better than a garden center!