Short Report: Seedless Marigolds

Marigold Zenith planted  You may recall way last winter when we discussed seed orders, that I was excited about trialing “Zenith” Triploid marigolds, which were touted as “Day-neutral, early flowering, 2-3″ flowers, do not produce seed, and therefore needing little deadheading, and exhibit great weather tolerance.”  The photo above shows them soon after they were planted at the edge of the Deck Garden amid some finishing tulip foliage.  They grew very well from seed with nearly 100% germination and produced blooms quickly and often.Marigold Zenith patch  Here’s the same patch.  They filled in nicely after the tulip foliage disappeared, and have bloomed steadily despite 100 degree heat, daily rains, and then a spell without rain.  This photo was taken last evening.

They are really fine as a marigold variety, although the flowers are not 2-3″ across.  BUT they DO produce seed (I picked a pod filled with seeds and set it aside to photograph, and now I can’t find it, but take my word for it, if not deadheaded they will produce seeds just as other marigolds do.)  Marigold, Zenith close ugly  My impression is that they are slightly more ugly when they fade than the “Durango” marigolds of similar color, but maybe I am slightly prejudiced.  I do love the “Durango” series, which DO have 2-3″ flowers.

So, my report is that the “Zenith” are okay, but for the extra price ($3.25 for 100 seeds wholesale versus “Durango” $5.20 for 1 million seeds) they are not that special.  They require deadheading just as frequently as all of the other marigold varieties that I grow.  Did you trial anything new and exciting this year?  Did it live up to expectations?  Curious gardeners want to know!

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Six on Saturday: July 13

Front Garden mid July  This is the time of year when the gardens really hit their stride in terms of color.  It would be easy to do a “Sixty on Saturday” if one were to simply admire individual plants.  The planting and mulching are finally basically finished.  The weather has smoothed a bit.  There’s been adequate but no over-the-top rains recently, so dragging hoses has taken a minimum of time.  It’s the time of year that after a day of work, strolling the gardens with a glass of wine is a true pleasure, rather than a still to-do job list-making venture.  So, here’s my Six for the middle of July:

  1. The Front Garden shown above is a riot of color, and all those annuals that began life in the basement are thrilled to be outdoors in Indiana in the summertime, rubbing elbows with the perennials that come in and out of bloom as the season progresses.  I always feel that the gardens are more calming once the perennial parade is over, and the annuals carry the show.  There’s not that “hurry out or you’ll miss it” feeling.  The annuals put on the same outstanding performance day after day after day!  And it’s an applause-winning experience each day.  Fairy Garden  2.  The Fairy Garden actually exists this year.  Last year, the houses never made it out of the basement!  I’m sure the fairies appreciate the extra effort.  Cutting Garden mid July  3.  The Cutting Garden is on its way now, producing double white feverfew, gomphrena, tall blue ageratum, and lots of rudbeckia.  Soon there will be zinnias and sunflowers.Lavender bloom 2019  4.  Locating the Lavender Slope on the west side of the potager means that as I work, the prevalent breezes waft the scent past me all day!  Not planned, but a happy consequence!Pot ext bor north mid-July  5.  The potager’s exterior border is bursting with color.  It makes me smile every day as I walk toward the potager to begin a day of playing with plants.  I need more of those tall yellow lilies and the dill that self-seeded there is another happy accident.Potager in transition  6.  The potager itself is in the midst of the transition from spring crops to summer and even autumn crops.  The garlic has been dug, creating lots of new space for planting pumpkins, autumn squash, more beans, carrots, beets, leeks, rutabagas, and lots more.  I hate the confirmation that the seasons are passing, but I love the opportunity to plant more crops!  That’s my “Six” and if you are interested in seeing other gardeners’ choices, visit The Propagator, who is the creator of this meme.
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Short report: Tomato hornworms

A sudden outburst of tomato hornworms has hit the potager.  I saw a bit of damage (stems minus their leaves!) and then little piles of worm poop.  It took a spell of stool sitting and staring before I spotted the first one.Tomato hornworm  And, then as my eyes adjusted to the task, I could see them everywhere!  Can you spot two worms on this poor plant?  Tomato hornworm two on one  I pulled 7 from one single plant, and found another dozen on various plants throughout the potager.  There’s no sign of damage on the peppers or potatoes, but I’ll keep a closer watch now and try to remove them before a lot of leaf-devouring occurs.  And definitely try to spot them before the eat the tomatoes proper, like this chubby fellow is doing.Tomato hornworm eating tomato  I don’t squash them, but toss them into the lawn.  If they make it outside the potager, fine.  I wish them luck as they fly over the fence.

However, my lovely friend, naturalist and brilliant author, Sharon Lovejoy urges me to learn to love them, and appreciate them for the lovely moths they become and all the pollinating they do.  So, now I’m thinking…should I create a small habitat away from the potager and feed them my excess tomato plants that I was going to toss, like everyone is doing with monarchs and milkweed?  Not only would it be a fine gesture to Mother Nature, but it might improve my karma!

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Short reports: Dahlias

Dahlia Sylvia  My visions of “Dallying with Dahlias” are beginning to come to realization.  The first of the dahlias are beginning to bloom.  As you may recall, there were two batches of dahlias:  the tubers saved from last year’s order from Brent & Becky’s bulbs (which were large and very productive last summer, were stored in the basement, divided and planted at the same time as batch #2)) and the first-time order from Swan Island Dahlias, which were lamented in a previous post as being so small for the price.  Several of you responded with positive comments, so I hoped for the best.  Now, at the beginning of the dahlia season, I can report the following:

1.  The saved bulbs from B & B all returned and in fact did multiply last summer to provide several new plants for this year.  The first to bloom (shown in the above photo) is “Sylvia,” still one of my favorites because it works so well as a cut flower, is prolific, early, and doesn’t fall over without staking.  She’s already 3′ tall.  All of the saved dahlias are thriving, and several are budded.

2.  All of the Swan Island bulbs did indeed produce growth as guaranteed, but some of them (the most expensive of course) never did seem very happy and are remaining small.  Maybe they needed more coddling, but ALL of the dahlias received the same care, and the others are thriving.  Here’s what about half the Swan Island plants look like at present:  Swan Island dahlia  Limp and pathetic…..and yes, they were carefully hardened off, not over-fertilized, crowded, or neglected.  All of both groups were planted in the potager’s interior border, except for two which were planted in the Addition Garden.

3.  To date, none of the Swan plants have produced a bud, or are branching well.  At this rate, I doubt I’ll get any flowers.  I’m just hoping they snap out of their funk, and produce some decent sized tubers that I can store and try again for flowers next year!

I’m definitely not thrilled.  If there is improvement, I’ll be sure to let you know!

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Short reports: Heritage Roses

For whatever reason, the urge to blog or even read blogs has been lacking.  It’s not that I don’t care about your gardens or thoughts, but that I have so few…thoughts that is, other than what job needs doing next.  The mulching and harvesting, with short bursts of deadheading and edge clipping, a little time spent cooking and preserving, and much needed sleep after long days working in the heat seems to leave me rather brain dead.  That said, there is definitely a light at the end of the tunnel, and the job list is shrinking.  The gardens do look great at the moment, and I’m a happy, but weary gardener.  There are observations being made in the garden, so I’ll be posting some quick reports.  Feeling the need for more roses in the gardens, there was an order placed last winter with Heritage Roses.  Having never ordered from them before, I was my usual skeptical self.  The prices just seemed so reasonable compared to those I’d ordered before.  However, just as the weather settled temperature-wise, the big box of roses arrived.  I was delighted!

Heritage roses arrive  Prior to this, I’d ordered bare root plants from David Austin or Jackson & Perkins, and for the most part, they were larger than these quart plants from Heritage, but also more expensive.  However, these were green and growing with good root systems.  Once planted, they never seemed to hesitate, despite our cold, wet spring.  Some already had flowers, and although I know it was prudent to clip them off, I let them open and receive admiration before clipping them.

Heritage rose 1  As the weeks are progressing, all the roses look healthy and happy, despite two being dug out by the raccoons, and despite being constantly soggy.  Some of them are 3′ tall.  Several are blooming again.  I’m so happy with my Heritage roses, that I’m looking for more places to plant them next spring!

The rains continue, the Japanese beetles and other bugs have arrived, and the kitchen is being inundated with summer squash, beans, and cucumbers.  Hope your potager, large or small, is bountiful as well.

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June: Monthly Review

Potager June photo  Here’s the official “end of June” photo of the potager.  If you go back to look at the May Review, you can see quite a difference.  June began as a replay of April & May…cooler than usual and rain almost daily.  Very depressing and hard to get anything done unless one was wearing waders and had an iron constitution.  A few things (mainly shallots!) rotted in the excessive wetness, but most of the plants relished those conditions, especially the violas, peas, lettuces and other salad greens, radishes, and all the cole crops.  The really nice side benefit was the lack of insects.  No spraying for cabbage worms, no squashing of squash bugs, no baby grasshoppers, no pill bugs or Japanese beetles!Pot int bor E white Asiatic  The potager’s interior borders have looked especially attractive this year.  The snapdragons love the cool dampness.  The Asiatic lilies have never lasted so long, and the dainty white cilantro flowers and dill heads add an extra enchantment.  Life was good, although soggy. Deck G mulch  Finally, mid-month there were three dry days in a row.  Farmers frantically planted, and I was able to get the first truck of mulch in and mulched from dawn to dusk.  I am happy to report that except for the potager’s paths and the berry rows, all the mulching is now finished!  Normally it’s done by mid-May, so the end of June is very late.  Not being able to mulch meant that much more time was spent weeding and re-weeding and re-weeding again, which means that the planting is STILL NOT finished!!!Beets wilted  Another result of 3 months of nearly daily rains is that the plants are very shallow-rooted, since they didn’t have to grow downward in search of water.  So, by the second dry day in a row, plants like the beets on the left collapsed and pea leaves suddenly yellowed.  The lettuces and spinach threw down their leaves in surrender as well.  There was nothing to do but drag out and connect all the hoses, and spend hours watering to wean them, encourage them to not give up, but to grow some roots!

Three dry days in a row presented an opportunity to harvest and dry chamomile and elderflowers for teas, and the increased warmth encouraged more sprouting of seeds and blossoms on beans, squash, and cucumbers.  Peas were picked, shelled and frozen in the evenings after it was too dark to work outdoors.  But during the dark hours, others were busy as well.  Coon damage container  Yes, after the raccoons destroyed the strawberry crop, they turned their attention to other areas.  They dumped and ate nearly all the “French Fingerling” potatoes that were growing so nicely.  The deck planters have been designated target areas.  This poor planter has been destroyed three times.  Emila coon damage  The emilia and golden feverfew along the sidewalk has been replanted FIVE times!  So far, five raccoons have been relocated, but after extensive destruction in the Cutting Garden last night, it’s obvious there are more who need to take a joy ride.

By the third week of June, the menu of potager fare had greatly increased in variety.  Fava & zucchini first  The first (and sadly, only) fava beans were harvested.  The temperatures skyrocketed into the 90’s daily, and favas don’t like it above 75.  But, one delicious meal of favas is better than none, and now their space can be replanted with something that enjoys this heat.  The first zucchini was harvested and used in the traditional first panzanella of the season.  We’ve enjoyed the first kohlrabi.  There have been lots of garlic scapes, cabbage, and scallions.  The first beans finally recovered from the hail damage and are producing well.  Fresh “green” beans always  Bean RB first taste so much better than canned or frozen!  Bell peppers and the wonderful “Fehr” peppers are abundant, and the first “Indigo Cherry” tomato was harvested.  The cucumbers are climbing their trellis, and I’m already giving them away because I’m too busy to start canning pickles!

The final week of June has been a scorcher.  The weatherman warns us to stay indoors as the heat index is so high, but there’s too much catch-up to do!  The Cutting Garden is the poor stepchild, the one that gets the leftovers after the other gardens are planted.  It’s always the last to be planted (the potager is first, the Front Garden, Front Island, Deck Garden, Addition Garden, Lavender Slope, Blue Garden and Fairy Garden follow in that order of importance.) Cutting Garden  So in 96 degree heat, it was finally planted and mulched.  Doesn’t look like much so far, but it will be filled with color in a month.  Having neglected all the deadheading and edging while I mulched, all the gardens need attention.  Newly planted annuals and perennials need daily watering until they adjust to being in the ground.  Blackberry row cleaned  The blackberry row finally got clipped and cleaned.  That day I pulled my smartphone from my back pocket to make a call, and got a message “Temperature alert!  Phone must be cooled in order to operate!”  I decided that if it was too hot for my phone to work, maybe I shouldn’t be working so hard either, so I didn’t put on the mulch there and came indoors to shell peas instead.

Melon & nasturtiums June  The melons are loving this burst of heat and have exploded with growth and blossoms.  You can’t see them, but there are egg-sized melons hidden under those leaves.  The peppers and eggplants are also happy with the heat.

Sadly, I’m still way behind on the planting, and the entire succession-planting plan went out the window weeks ago.  After the first peas came out, “Teddy Bear” pumpkin seeds were planted along the fence, but they’ve failed to germinate.  Same with the parsnips that I’ve tried to sprout indoors.  The winter squashes have yet to be seeded, and the third plantings of beans and carrots needs to go in the ground, so July will be just as busy as June was.

For those interested in the numbers, the harvest jumped to  71.50 pounds after May’s dismal 20 lbs. (57.5 in 2017; 104.5 in 2018)  The biggest difference over last year is squash…this year we’ve had 1, last year we’d had dozens; same with kohlrabi.  Last year I was already canning beans and giving them away.  This year we’ve had one small picking.  But, we’ve had plenty to eat all season (just not as much variety until now) and the freezer is filling.

That’s June in review.  It’s hard to believe it is over and that July is underway.  Hopefully next month I can report that I’m all caught up, and just reading in the shade, overlooking beautiful gardens!

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In between the raindrops

Front Island mulch close  the Front Island has been mulched!  It only needed minor weeding, but I gave the edge a scissor clip as I mulched and deadheaded the marigolds and violas.  The first “Snow Lady” shastas are beginning to open, as well as the “Bumblebee” daylilies and apricot foxgloves off to the right, but not shown in the photo.  Deck G mulch  The Deck Garden is also mulched, but first all the faded “May Queen” shastas had to be cut back, which took forever since there were so many.  They were glorious while they lasted.  Only one lone stalk of eremurus (Foxtail Lily) emerged this year and it’s already nearly done.  Only a single gaillardia and a couple of self-seeded gloriosa daisies survived so there are big empty areas that will need planting when I can get to it and the weather cooperates.  There’s still part of Load 2 on the truck, but it poured last night, so it will be a while before I can spread it on the North Island, which has been weeded and planted but needs edging AGAIN!   Bean R B setting on The
“Royal Burgundy” beans are tiny, but they are setting on despite the hail damaged leaves.  Just for comparison, last year the first beans were harvested on this date!  The “Fast Vantage” cabbage Cabbage Fast Vantage is ready to harvest and looks great despite all the hail holes in the outer leaves.  I did see 5 cabbage butterflies flitting about yesterday, but they seemed more interested in the bolted bok choy and broccoli plants.  With all the rain, spraying Bt to prevent their caterpillars is impossible, so I’m thankful they are late in hatching this year.  This is a new cabbage variety for me, with heads about 6″ across, but it lived up to its name by maturing quickly.  Strawberry Alpine blooms  The “Mignonette” alpine strawberries are blooming, started from seed in February and grown in the basement.  Now if we can keep the raccoons from finding them, we will have strawberries again.  The smashed strawberry beds have recovered and plants are upright again, but the June-bearers won’t produce any more fruit this year.  Next year, strawberries should be abundant because the new varieties planted this spring are going crazy producing new runners.  I think I’ll set them in pots and start a new bed rather than letting them get too thick next to their parents.  Strawberry runners  During a brief sunny interval, the “Parisian” cukes were tied up so they can begin climbing the trellis.  They get very tall.  If you look very carefully, you might spy a few 1″ long baby cukes. Cuke Parisian climbing   The “Green Arrow” peas are still going gangbusters.  This 6′ planting has produced over 5 pint of shelled peas already, with a couple of pickings still to come.  I’ve never had them get so tall before.  Must be all the rain and cooler temperatures.  A year ago today it was 94 degrees.  But, I was able to be productive and shell peas while watching the end of the U.S. Open and put 3 pint in the freezer.  Peas Green Arrow  The “Polbig” tomatoes are setting on nicely Tomato Polbig setting on but I think they’d like it a bit warmer.  No sign of fruit on the contender “Defiant” yet.  The “Juliet” grape tomatoes are full-sized but fully green yet, and I found a pepper the size of a walnut, and a grape-sized cantaloupe, so things are coming on, just a bit later than usual in terms of the potager.  However, the elder is blooming right on schedule.  I picked a big full of elderblow yesterday, and did the same thing last year on that date.  Here’s my gorgeous elder, after I picked over 100 clusters!Elder tree in bloom  Luckily, I got it harvested just before the rain began, stemmed it, and now it’s drying safely in the dining room.  Elderblow drying  Since it’s so humid (rain coming again this eve) the blooms will be spread on trays to dry more quickly.  That’s a lot of delicious cups of tea!  There are still elderberries in the freezer, lots of elderberry jelly, and lots of elderflower syrup from last June’s harvest, so more of the flowers will just be dried this year.  Also drying in my big rectangular wooden bowl is the chamomile I harvested earlier in the week.  It’s ready to go into jars or tins.Chamomile drying  So, the harvest is well underway, although I’m wading in water in the potager’s paths again.  Maybe I should get a canoe and harvest the way the Indians do wild rice!

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