Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Breakfast at Epiphany's

You may want to grab a favorite beverage and settle in.  This may take some time.

This morning, while having breakfast on the deck, I had a couple of epiphanies.

First, a confession.  In my last post I might have come off like I know what I'm doing.  And sometimes I do.  But only about 15%.  The rest is mostly luck.  Oh I take full credit for bed layout and hardscape stuff like fences, hedges, trees, etc.  The stuff I referred to in the post:  Wax on, Wax off  - the table setting.

But the stuff that makes the gardens ultimately a feast for the eye (the dinner on the table, if you will) is usually unplanned, happenstance, not-what-I-meant-but-hey-I'll-take-the-credit, and luck.  And timing.  And more luck.

Like the crabapple bed:  Luck AND time.  It took the past polar winter to kill off much in that bed and 5 years for the trees to grow taller and dense.  I was ecstatic when, in May,  I  realized I could create the shade bed I originally planned!   Until then the bed was never 'right' and I had to make do.

Lots of things bit the dust over the polar winter: lavenders, agastache, the rest of the mums,  little 'fill in' stuff.  I had a lot of angst at first, then I realized what I also had a lot of new canvas to work with.

Fortunately, I didn't jump right in with a can of paint!  I resisted the urge to repopulate.  Instead I worked on hardscape to keep me from shooting myself in the foot. (See, I DO learn from my mistakes!)   I had the privacy fence extension to deal with.  The swing bed expansion project.  Family matters to contend with. Things that couldn't be done in one swell foop, but had to be worked on gradually.

In the meantime, I'd sit and think.  And this morning, between the 1st cup of tea and the 2nd, I had an epiphany.  You know it's a really good one when you freeze in mid-motion and catch your breath.  Yes.  I thought.  Oh my gosh, YES!  Why didn't I realize this before?

(Background.  In Wax on, Wax off I had decided to move all the plants out of the Arbor garden and turn the whole thing into a fenced-in vegetable bed.  That thought has steered me all summer.  I let the bed go.  I didn't care.  The crabapple trees blocked that garden view from the deck anyway so I didn't see the mess. I was going to dig it all up in Fall and go from there.  However, I did want to dig up and share the Dutch iris, the daffodils, the peonies with others before Fall.  Never did.  Wanted to.  Just didn't.)

And this morning my persistent non-involvement with that garden crystallized.  It wasn't one thing that held me back, it was my subconscious making a list that I couldn't see.  This list:

1.   I liked looking at the Arbor garden from the improved (and improving) swing garden.  With less deer damage this year, there actually were blooms to enjoy.  And the tall hibiscus blocked the neighbor's picture window. (I idly thought cuke vines would also do that.)

2.  Crabapples are prone to red cedar rust, causing them to loose leaves during the summer.  By early August the Arbor bed started showing through the crabapple trees and could be seen more and more from the deck.  And there were those blooms still going. (Looking way better than tired, end-of-season veg plants.  And there are maybe 2 more months to see the Arbor.)

The arbor bed seen through the thinning crabapple leaves this morning.
3.  I'd finally realized why I hadn't been digging stuff out of the Arbor bed over summer.  That bed is HOT.  No shade.  Blazing sun 10 hours a day.  A sunny flower bed with infrequent maintenance is one thing, but a vegetable bed needs attention every day!  I don't do sun well anymore.  I avoid that bed.  (And I wanted to fill it with vegetables???)

4.  I now have another 40' of privacy fence, a couple of panels which get lots of sunshine.  The current veg in front of the original fence did well, especially with the addition of a handy water barrel.  The fence is close to the house.  The Arbor bed is further away.  The walk to the fence is over even blacktop and a bit of lawn - easy access to electric and hose water.   The Arbor bed is downslope and uneven lawn.  Uneasy access.

Lots of plant potential along the fence!

Okay.  All this zipped through my head in a couple of seconds, but I felt like I'd relived most of the summer.  I was pooped. Ya get a bit disoriented after a brainstorm.  Wow.

And I know this is all true because it feels so right.  Turning the Arbor bed from a lovely flower bed to a work-a-day veg bed was just not right.  It seemed LOGICAL, sure.  It seemed the best way to thwart the deer.  I actually didn't see any other way to have flowers in front of the fence and veg protected from the deer. But logic turned out wrong. (It only involved the garden, not the gardener!  Spock would not do well in landscaping...)

But I CAN have the best of both worlds.  And it's SIMPLE.  Simple is always best.  I can have a French garden along the fence - flowers AND veg.  I can repopulate the Arbor garden with deer resistant stuff.  And next year, screw all that netting that drives me nuts.  I'm putting up electric tape around both beds.  And turned way up.  Ah, I love the smell of singed fur in the morning!  Woohaha.

Ooops, still running on adrenaline.  Best to sign off, calm down, and go wash the dishes.

And enjoy the window view with new perspective.  :-D

Monday, August 25, 2014

Swing time

The swing garden is coming along.

All I did was weed, remove landscape fabric, add rubber pavers, remove/fill in the old firepit and add a 'temporary' privacy screen to the project.  (Riiiight - no sweat at all! *oof*) And I keep adding grass clippings to smother the sod under the backside expansion.

Because the deer have been less plentiful this year some plants survived the brutal winter and have filled in: the grown-from-seed hostas, the 3-out-of-6 anemones (still under netting - I"m no fool!), a volunteer butterfly bush (common), a lone lavender, a solitary Veronica, a dwarf lilac (unknown rescue) and a clump of Shasta daisies.

The pots sport all the left-over dwarf French marigolds I started from seed in Spring.

Placement is all wrong for most of the plants and will be moved. 

But, honestly, it's a treat to sit back there, enjoy the shady breezes and watch bees and butterflies on the blooms.  I love how the butterfly bush hugs the frame on the one side and the hostas on the other.  Just wait until I install a climbing honeysuckle next year.

Man, if this transitional mode is any indication, this swing garden has real potential.

I love watching things evolve.....

I just try to stay away from mirrors.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Kitchen window view - Aug 2014

Yep, can't complain about having to wash dishes when you've created a kitchen window view like this!

Notice the (now 16' long) cuke vines - stretching over the pergola and still producing in spite of cucumber mosaic, bless 'em.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

It was a dark and stormy night.....

They'd threatened us with rain since Saturday, but never delivered.  Finally, all that forecast rolled in last night around 10:30 p.m.

It started to storm - and it didn't let up until 7:00 a.m. this morning (followed by another hour of just plain rain).  There was no real sleep last night.  Even when I did doze off there were storms in my dreams. 

All told this morning - 2" in the rain gauge.  

Won't have to water today, that's for sure.  The barrels are full to the brim, but certainly aren't needed at this point, I think.

As for the rest of the week - 80s and thunderstorms forecasted through to the weekend. Luckily I have a lot of 'indoor' stuff to do this week: brakes need fixed on the car, eye exam, beans to blanch/freeze.  And then there's housework (but only as a last resort!).

With the non-stop lightning/thunder, we probably got hundreds of tons of fresh nitrogen in the air. *heh*  Oh goody.  *sigh*  The grass has never gone dormant this year.  Thank goodness I got all the lawns mowed yesterday.  :-D

And the glut of cukes continue - 2" of rain swelled up 7 more cukes (8#).  What a year!

Hope you are all getting your fair share of all this wet.  Would be impolite for us to hog all the goodies.  Too bad I can't steer some your way if you need it.

And, lest you think I've been lazy, I've been pretty busy outside and have been posting on the sidebar blogs.  That's where the action is right now. ;-D

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Yesterday it started raining around 10:00 a.m.

It rained all day and by 9:00 p.m. there was about 1.5" in the rain gauge.

It kept raining on and off and then around 10:00 p.m. the real storms rolled in and we got about 2" in a VERY short time - with all the drama: wind, lightning, explosive thunder.  It was not fun.

3.6" in the gauge this morning.

I checked the basement - no probs this time.

I gazed out into the gardens and saw that a lot of things were beaten down by the relentless downpour.

Then I glanced at the veg garden.

Hmmm.  I noticed the Mtg Lifter was short about 2.5'.  Must've broken in the storm.

*sip*  The mass of San Marzanos also looked pretty beaten down.

*sip*  I thought, bet the cukes loved the rain.  Yep, lookit all those big ones.  Waaait.  I can't ever see the cukes from the sunroom.  There are tons of LEAVES in front of the fruit.

But not this morning.


I ran out for a closeup look.  Holy crap!

The cukes leaves had been EATEN OFF.
The Mtg Lifter had been BROKEN OFF.
The paste tomatoes had been MUNCHED.
The beans were GRAZED.

Now how in the hell had this happened?

The heavy netting was still firmly in place.  None of the clamps were missing.  There was no gaps in the netting.

It just COULDN'T have been a deer!?

So I thought ground hog.  It could easily have come in from any direction.  That made sense, but was very little comfort.

Then I looked at the damage again.

NO vegetables were gnawed or eaten.  Only LEAVES.  Ground hog would have eaten the BEANS, not just the leaves.  Eaten the CUKES not the leaves.  Eaten the ripe TOMATOES and not the tender vine ends.

Logic point to -- a DEER somehow breached the netting, did the damage (during all those storms and deluge), and got OUT of the enclosed area WITHOUT pulling down any netting.

I don't know.  I just don't know.  Unfortunately, I'd only just laid down a thick mulch of chopped leaves 2 days before this, so there aren't any footprints.  Though the evidence points to deer, how the *&#$ did it get in?  and OUT?

Gonna put up more netting today as soon as things dry out a bit.

I hate gardening.

======== Amended ========

I LOVE gardening.  I HATE deer!    More proof that it was deer.  The neighboring border beds have had the geranium buds browsed off.  Yep.  I HATE DEER.

Spent time harvesting and beefing up defenses. (I'll post on the veg page.) Just looked at the radar - lots of colorful crap heading our way again. This is AUGUST! It's supposed to be DRY! Sure am glad I'm not trying to harvest corn or hay....

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Summer swap

You may remember that I started an avocado tree from an Hass pit last summer.  I overwintered the plant inside and then put the tree back outside for the summer.   It kept growing - taller and taller and I knew it couldn't come back inside with me this winter.  What to do with it?  I could compost it, sure, sure.  But then I had a thought.

I called the owner of my now-favorite organic nursery and asked if she wanted it.  She was tickled!  So off went Avo to her new warm greenhouse for winter.

The deck bench didn't remain empty, though.  I was gifted with 3 Black & Blue salvias to join the one I already had, an annual that will bloom and attract bees and hummingbirds until frost.

What a great swap.  Happy happy all around.

As for what else I've been up to lately, check out the sidebar blog entries. :-D

Monday update:  3.6" of rain in 16 hours.  Thankfully, even though over half of it came down within an hour, there where no harrowing results like the previous deluge we had in June.  ==================

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bright. Colorful. COLD!

As I type this, it's only 60F - today's high.  Same high as yesterday.  Sunday wasn't much better.  The front moved through Saturday night giving us another .8" of rain.  Since then it's been cold. And damp.  And cloudy.  I'm wearing a hooded sweatshirt.  INSIDE!  Oh well, I'll take this over the usual July 90s!

Meanwhile, here's a different perspective on the driveway border beds.  As you can see by the overhanging branches, the Snowdrift crabapple (like the Prairie Fire and the side-of-the-house Robinson Crabapple) is really short on leaves this year.  Thankfully the condition doesn't seem to have impacted fruit production.

The Zahara zinnias have finally gotten to the point were I might like them.  It's taken them 2 months to really fill in.  What I don't like them is that just as they get a nice flush of flowers on them, they are submerged by the next/taller buds.  So while the plants may be full of bloom, they aren't easy to see all the time.  One tick in their favor - the colors are much more saturated and bright than the Cut-n-come-agains.

And the size is nice.  For the first time in years I can see to the beds behind the borders.  But another con - there is very little, if any, bee/butterfly traffic.  Still, it could be that the long polar winter wiped out a lot of the pollinators.

So I'm not sure if I'll do them again.

Speaking of bright saturated colors, the State Fair zins I planted back in the bins along 'sunny lane' are really big blooms with super deep colors.  Unfortunately, unlike the Cut-n-come-agains, they are tall narrow plants.  Even planted a mere 16-18" apart, they have never filled in. *sigh*  I guess they still haven't invented the 'perfect' zinnia yet. LOL  The only thing along the lane that is filled in are the purple potatoes (under netting) in the closest bed.

It'll probably go down to high 40s -- again.  May & June were (worldwide!) the warmest 2 months in recorded history, so I'm not really complaining about the frequent polar cools downs we've had in July.  One thing for sure, not only can you do a lot outside (check sidebar blogs) when the days are cool, but the nights make for some really fine sleeping weather!

For a final pic - here's the view from the deck this evening.  I love looking through so many gardens: birdbath bed, border bed, crab bed, arbor bed, then the ring bed and beyond.  At last, the place is really getting some character.  Interest.  Depth.