Mid-July State of the Garden

The cat wanders through my vegetable garden

Greetings from an early morning stroll through my garden!

The last two months have brought unusually cool weather ranging from the mid sixties to low seventies, and plant growth is lagging behind what it should be for this time of year. We did receive intermittent rain over the past two weeks, though, so everything is starting to fill out nicely in the combined veggie garden/dahlia patch.

So far I’ve spotted a handful of unripe cherry tomatoes, some snap peas, a couple paste tomatoes, an itty-bitty tromboncino squash, and a plethora of small yellow squash growing. Not a lot is happening yet; it’s just finally starting to warm up after weeks of cool weather. The below picture was taken last week, but everything seems to have doubled in size since then, so unfortunately this isn’t a true representation of the current state of the garden. Somehow I keep taking pictures of the cat instead…

Early morning in the vegetable garden and dahlia patch

The dinnerplate dahlias are averaging 3.5 feet tall, and the dahlia patch is starting to look a little jungly (just the way I like it). One dahlia that I purchased as a rooted cutting is already so top heavy with buds that it was lying on the ground, and I had to secure it to a bamboo stake — it felt pretty silly sinking 6-foot stakes into the ground when I planted the dahlias out months ago, but they’re already coming in handy. I didn’t expect much from the rooted cuttings this year while they develop tubers, so I’m quite happy about it.

Out of 40+ dahlias in my garden, only two have bloomed so far: Sonic Bloom and Fuzzy Wuzzy (which was mislabeled as Center Court — I’m curious what will bloom in the spot I thought I planted Fuzzy Wuzzy in).

Sonic Bloom dahlia flowerFuzzy Wuzzy dahlia flower

I’m glad I planted so many roses this spring because the anticipation of waiting for the rest of the dahlias is  k i l l i n g  me. It was so nice to have some roses to enjoy in the meantime. And the cosmos and sweet peas are just starting to flower here and there, so that’s also tiding me over now that the roses have just about finished for the season.

Double-click bicolor violet cosmo flower

I find myself not doing much in the garden these days other than wandering and observing and doing the occasional staking and watering — the wood chip mulch has been excellent for retaining moisture in the soil, and I really only need to water once a week now, and less than that if it rains.

I would like to mention the one downside I’ve discovered about the wood chip mulch, and that is that it’s created the perfect feeding ground for the moles, presumably because the soil is kept moist and attracts many worms and insects. I have to walk through the garden every morning and survey for any damage — i.e. fresh hills and pushed up plants. We’re trying to trap them but have been largely unsuccessful. They’re evasive fellows.

Other than doing battle with the moles, I’m trying to enjoy this downtime, because soon enough the canner will be at a rolling boil day in and day out as I rush to preserve the bounty of the garden. I’ve already spotted a whopping seven yellow summer squash growing on one plant. Yowza. I think I’ll have to look in my Pickled Pantry book and see what I can do with whatever excess we won’t eat fresh.

How grows your garden?

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June Garden Updates

Hi, everyone!

It seems I dropped off the radar for about a month — I’ve been so busy working in the yard/garden that I haven’t had time to sit down and write. I’d apologize, but I don’t think I really have anything to apologize for — sometimes its nice to have a bit of a break from the Internet.

Lots has been going on here at our little homestead. The dahlias have all been planted and most have come up (40+ varieties… what was I thinking?); 31 tomato plants, 20 pepper plants, and 30 bean plants are in the ground; and lots of cosmos have been scattered in between the veggies for good measure. (Honestly there are probably 20+ cosmos. I went a little overboard with the winter sowing. Good thing I love cosmos so much!)

bean starts in newspaper pots
An abundant tray of bean starts

My cousin recently told me, “I don’t think you have a garden… you have a farm!” Which was a little surprising but nice to hear! I often feel like “homestead” isn’t an accurate term to use regarding our land since we don’t raise any animals (yet), but I’ve been rethinking that sentiment now that I’ve seen the scope of my growing capabilities.

But, while I’ve packed loads of plants into the garden, everything is still fairly puny. We’ve had wildly fluctuating temperatures over the past couple weeks, ranging from 95-degree days to cloudy, windy 70-degree days, which has not been great growing weather. The tomatoes were pretty stressed out, but I fed them with some fish emulsion (my new favorite thing!) and some actively aerated worm compost tea, and they’ve since perked up.

The weather doesn’t properly heat up here in southwest Washington until July, and I’m eagerly awaiting the burst of growth everything will shortly put on. It’s a bit maddening logging into Instagram and seeing other people already harvesting beans and cucumbers from their gardens — I keep reminding myself that I’m not behind schedule for our region! Not a bit! Even if it feels like it! Plus, we have a longer growing window here since we don’t typically get our first frost until November. It’s totally normal to not be harvesting anything yet.

This weekend I have a few sunflowers to plant out and all my squash to get in the ground, and I think that’s the last of it. Phew. A gardener’s work never ends, and my carpal tunnel is acting up. I’m ready for July to take the wheel.

What’s going on in your garden?

By Hand and Hoe

Weedy garden bed soon to be cottage garden

Off the side of our house is a garden bed that has been overgrown since we moved in two years ago. It is the bane of my existence.

The grass has crept in, the soil is poor, and it’s so close to the road that I don’t care to work in it — I don’t particularly like feeling watched by the neighbors or any cars driving by. The most we’ve done to the bed is to remove an overgrown and unsightly Japanese maple shrub and sporadically plant a few perennials — primroses, a couple peonies, a grape hyacinth, columbine, and tansy. Way back when we moved in, I had visions of turning it into a cottage garden. (Truth be told, I still do.) I weeded the whole thing once, but then it rained the weeds came right back.

The other thing that’s kept me from doing much to this garden is this cinderblock planter/raised bed it’s flanked by — it’s built against the side of our house, and we need to replace the skirting behind it soon. I’m apprehensive about planting anything that might get trampled in the process, you know? (I do know that those shrubs have got to go, though.)

But it’s gotten so weedy and out of control that I can’t take it anymore, and I’m going to make it my next project, now that our front yard reno is just about finished. Ideally, I’d lay down a thick layer of cardboard + mulch to kill the weeds and keep them from coming back, but I’m all out of cardboard just about out of wood chips! Who would have thought I’d use them up so fast?

I’d wait until the fall to do it, but I have some perennials I winter sowed that I’d like to plant there — hollyhocks, foxglove, bee balm, and such. So, I guess I’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way: by hand and hoe.

Fortunately, the forecast is predicting rain, rain, and even more rain, so the soil should be easy to work this week. And while I’m a tad disappointed to take a break from planting out tomatoes and dahlias (yes, still working on that momentous task…), it’s been nice to have a respite from the daily watering.

Archie the corgi helps weed the garden

But, you know me — I can’t stay still for a minute, so I’ve already made a small start on this project. This side of the bed, closest to our back door, is now mostly cleared of some sort of creeping vine that the previous owners planted here. I even discovered a concrete splash block under the mess! You can see more of the vine inside cinderblock raised bed and off to the right of the picture, where it has surrounded a large concrete pot.

Clearing a weedy garden bed and planting flowers.

After clearing the soil, I planted a bleeding heart, an orchid primrose (I thought next to the gutter downspout was a good spot, since we get so much rain and this plant grows in boggy areas), poppies, hollyhocks, and a few nasturtiums (not pictured). The peony I planted in this spot last year. Eventually this bed will get a new border of either large rocks or pavers, but for now the priority is clearing the weeds.

Wish me luck — I’m going to need it!

 

An Iris Infatuation Ensues

Smitten Kitten iris from Shcreiner's Iris Gardens

You probably already know, but I am a complete sucker for end-of-season plant sales. I love a good deal, and I don’t mind waiting nearly a year to reap the rewards of some late-season, seriously cheap plants.

So, without further ado, I present to you these iris rhizomes that I purchased last fall. I couldn’t resist. (Don’t worry, I promptly planted them.)

Iris rhizomes from Schreiner's Iris Gardens

I was extremely reluctant to add irises to my garden after helping my mom yank out irises from her perennial garden last summer; they’d gone near invasive, and they were purple — kind of a blah, common color for irises, in my opinion.

But then last fall I stumbled upon Schreiner’s Iris Gardens, and I discovered that irises are most definitely not “blah” flowers. In fact, they come in many more colors than just purple! I was wooed by the blush- and cream-colored blooms (I’ll chalk it up to last year’s obsession with the Cafe au Lait dahlia), and I decided I could probably whip up a raised bed to contain some irises so they don’t get too out of control.

I ended up ordering five rhizomes:

Unfortunately, it looks like Schreiner’s only sells Smitten Kitten and Padded Shoulders now, so you’ll have to hunt for the rest if any of those wooed you as they did me.

Freshly planted iris and sedum raised bed

I planted the rhizomes in a square bed with some sedum and various tulip and daffodil bulbs for company. It looked pretty sparse until March, when the irises really started to put on some growth and the bulbs started sending up foliage.

And, here we are today, with the first and long-anticipated iris bloom from Smitten Kitten! She’s the most beautiful champagne-blush color that was pretty difficult to photograph, and this picture truly doesn’t do her justice. But I tried!

Smitten Kitten iris flowersI am definitely obsessed. I’m looking forward to the other varieties blooming so I can make a few bouquets to grace our home.

I have my eye on just a few more irises to add to my garden once the end-of-season sale rolls around again — “Downtown Brown,” “Smoke and Thunder,” and “Man’s Best Friend,” all of which I intend to plant in the side garden off our house, which I’m hoping to turn into a cottage garden, of sorts. I’ll talk more about this at a later date!

I’ll be back in a few days with a mid-May garden update, but in the meantime, I hope your week is filled with sun and seedlings!

 

It’s Dahlia Day!

Last year's dahlia blooms
Remembering last year’s dahlias

The lilacs are blooming and Mother’s Day is right around the corner, which means the most anticipated day of the year is finally here — it’s time to plant the dahlias!

I’m hoping to get them done in one fell swoop tonight after work, since we’re going out of town on Saturday. And since there are so many to get in the ground this year, I made a list (organized by height) to guide me — I don’t want to accidentally shade out a 3-ft. variety by planting it next to a 5-ft. variety. I’m not too concerned about color combinations; I’d rather it be a riot of color and a bit of a surprise when everything finally blooms. It’s more exciting that way, wouldn’t you agree?

Since I’m doing wood chip mulching this year, my plan is to push the mulch aside with a hoe, creating wide furrows that I’ll plant the tubers in and then top with soil, rather than pushing the mulch back — Swan Island advises not to mulch your dahlias, so this will be a bit of an experiment in sort-of mulching but not really.

I’m pretty ambitious when it comes to planning tasks for myself after work, and I still have to clean the house tonight in preparation for the sitter, so it’s highly possible I won’t get all the dahlias planted tonight. But I can certainly try!

Archie the corgi in our new radio flyer wagon
Archie for scale

One thing I’m counting on helping with the extensive dahlia planting is my “new” garden wagon — it was a lucky Craigslist find! It will be perfect for transporting the potted-up tubers to the garden without tipping them over or making numerous trips back and forth. It’s got all-terrain wheels, too, so I don’t have to worry about  having a difficult time pulling it through the grass. It’s going to be a life safer!

Potted up dahlias in our new garden wagon

Some of the dahlias are already putting on quite a lot of growth — I can’t wait to see which one will bloom first! A few varieties that I’m particularly looking forward to are Castle Drive, Tengai, Big Brother, Labyrinth, Terracotta, Papageno, and Wyn’s Mauve Mist.

But, before blooms comes hard work — wish me luck getting all these tubers in the ground; I’m going to need it!

Winter Sown Update #10

Winter sowing beans

Well, here we are, folks — my last sowing session of the spring! As you clearly can see, our deck and picnic table are quite cluttered with seedlings, potted dahlias, and WS containers. I’m getting really excited to start planting out soon!

Since my last sowing update, the weather has continued to warm up, and more of the containers have been opened — I’ve even cut off the tops of about five or six milk jugs! I have to carefully monitor the unopened ones now to make sure the soil is moist and that they’re not too hot inside. This weekend the temperature is expected to climb to 90 degrees, so I expect to open nearly every single container.

As I mentioned in my last winter sowing post, this weekend was dedicated to sowing beans. I started two more varieties of bush beans (“Crockett” and “Tanya’s Pink Pod,” which I’m super excited about because, as the name implies, they’re pink beans!) and two varieties of pole beans (“Purple Pod” and “Rattlesnake“).

Sowing bush beansSowing pole beans

These salad containers worked really well for planting, and I was able to cram a lot of beans in them. It may seem like I’ve gone a little overboard, but I know they won’t all germinate, and I have big plans for canning massive amounts of dilly beans this summer.

Sowing pole beans

I actually planned on starting some “Transylvanian Giant” sunflowers  and “Chinese Red Noodle” beans too, but I ran out of potting soil. I’ll probably end up direct sowing them instead. I’m getting a little tired of buying soil.

I also have loads of sweet peas I germinated inside that I need to get planted out — only three germinated in my winter sown container, which isn’t terrible, but three seedlings won’t cover a trellis. I did a quick Google last weekend to find out if I could rapidly germinate sweet peas inside, and lo and behold, you can, and I did — in just under a week! I’ll talk a bit more about this later.

I hope your week is off to a sunny start!

Until next time,
Margo

 

The rose arbor is up!

Cattle panel climbing rose arbor

That’s right, phase three of our front yard renovation is now complete: The shrubs are gone and the rose arbor is up!

I’m so incredibly thankful I have a husband willing to spend all his free time last week ripping out eight well-established shrubs from our yard so I can have the rose hedge of my dreams. How’d I get so lucky?

Here’s a sneaky action shot I took of Jordan hard at work:

Jordan hard at work removing shrubs

The arbor is a 16-foot cattle panel held upright by four 6-foot fence t-posts and secured with UV-resistant zip ties. Overall, a pretty easy and inexpensive project that took just under 10 minutes to put together.The finished cattle panel arborI mixed some steer manure into the soil and got two of my David Austin roses planted in the evening when it was shadier in the area: “Jubilee Celebration” and “Lady of Shalott.” This weekend I plan on mulching the whole thing with wood chips. Eventually I’d like to put some bricks or pavers of some sort beneath the arbor to keep the grass from growing in.

It looks pretty bare right now, but despite the bareness I think it still looks much better than before. I have three more roses arriving toward the end of this month from Heirloom Roses that will also be planted here: “Ginger Syllabub” (which will climb over the arbor), “William Morris,” and “Abraham Darby.” I’m hoping to eventually plant four roses on each side of the arbor, but it might be a while before the rose hedge is completely finished because it appears I have expensive taste in plants… 🤷🏼‍♀️Jubilee Celebration and Lady of Shalott David Austin rosesIn the meantime, I picked up two clematis from Lowe’s for some instant color! I’ve been told that clematis is a good companion for climbing roses because it’s not invasive and won’t compete for space. The dark purple one, “The Vagabond,” will go on our flagpole trellis, and the lighter-colored one, “Pink Champagne,” will go on the arbor.The Vagabond clematisPink Champagne clematisIt’s been immensely satisfying watching our place transform into something that feels more “ours,” and it’s an even better feeling knowing that we’ve done the work ourselves. I’m excited to keep planting and watch it fill in!