As May slips to an end, it is most appropriate to feature the star of the Deck Garden, the prolific, no-care “May Queen” Shasta. I love these simple daisies, so abundant that cutting daily bouquets barely makes a dent in the display. As spring bulbs fade, colorful annuals are added in any empty space and soon it will be their turn to steal the show. I like the echo of chartreuse from the easy perennial, “Golden Jubilee” anise hyssop and the “Tiger Eye” sumac shrub that is finally getting tall enough to provide the height I wanted. As May ends, it hints of wonderful things to come, such as this elder whose buds are just beginning to swell. Soon it will be a giant bouquet of lacy white fragrant blooms, providing lots of nectar and pollen for pollinators and lots of elderflowers to dry, make into syrup, or bake into tarts and even after an ample harvest of flowers, there will still be thousands of berries for jellies, cordials, and syrup later in the summer. Ambling down the slope, in a small corner near the Lady Cottage the stunning yellow “Itoh” peony is getting larger each year. This is now its third season and the number of blooms is increasing. I love the double yellow columbine that I grew from seed, now in its second year that repeats the color, and again the “Golden Jubilee” agastache provides a punch of chartreuse that shouts “spring” to me. Stepping into the potager, one of the eye-catchers is the double white clematis, now in its second year that is beginning to climb the trellis over the old bench. Someday I hope it will cover the trellis and provide a bit of shade in the process. On another trellis the “Parisian” cukes are just beginning to climb. We need rain, and even though I’ve watered, you can see that the tips of the garlic leaves are beginning to brown. There are even scapes forming…in May!!! We’ve had record heat here in central Indiana, and we’re behind nearly 4″ in rainfall for the month. The fava beans have been very unhappy, slouching and sulking in the heat. Since they dislike any temperature above 75, two weeks of 90 degree or plus days has made them quite grumpy. There are a few pods, although shorter than usual, but I may get one meal if I’m lucky. We just didn’t have a real spring…it jumped right from winter to summer’s high heat with barely a pause between! So far, the various pea plantings have not seemed to mind the heat. The first to bloom and form pods was actually the second planting, an early variety called “Strike” that I haven’t grown before, but certainly will again. They are already filling their pods with peas, while the first plantings of ‘Green Arrow” and “Knight” are just beginning to bloom! Other crops that prefer cool weather seem okay, probably because of ample watering, such as the broccoli that is just making baby 2″ heads. Both broccoli varieties and the aspabroc are at about this same stage. Hopefully, they’ll get larger before they threaten to bolt. I’ll harvest them before that no matter how small they are, and hope with some rain nice side shoots will form. The cabbages are beginning to head nicely. This is the “Katarina” which seems to be heading a bit quicker than “Gonzales” or the red cabbages. Knock wood, but so far I haven’t seen a single cabbage butterfly…yet! All of the wintered-over spinach has been harvested, and the space replanted with peppers. There are still lots of volunteer lettuces scattered throughout the potager. I can’t resist letting some of my favorites, like this Red Romaine drop seed to provide quick crops for salads early in the season. Take a good look, because it is now in the fridge, pulled to make room for the “Twilight” watermelon that needed the space. Most of the Black Seeded Simpson lettuces have been harvested, but there will still be plenty of lettuces coming on like these beautiful “Victoria” butterheads that are over 10″ across! There are several butterheads and cos lettuces, which tolerate more heat than leaf lettuce. I’d planned to space out the POTato Patch by planting 3-4 pots a week and that was done with the “French Fingerlings” that are already topping their pots edges, but when it turned so hot I decided I’d better get the “German Butterballs” in their pots quickly. More soil is gradually added as they grow. There are 25 “FF” and 20 “GB” pots happily growing now. If you look above the POTato Patch, you may notice the 4 beds of strawberries with their tee-pees of bird netting. I’ve just begun picking berries, and hope to keep the birds and raccoons from taking most of the harvest as they did last year. The Black Raspberries back in the Berry Rows west of the potager bloomed heavily and began setting fruit, but to prevent dropping fruit in the dry conditions, the soaker hose was brought out. Hopefully that will ensure a good crop of berries. Netting will be added as soon as the berries begin to turn color. As busy as May has been, the blooming peppers, beans, and tomatoes show that June will be even busier! Even though the potager is fully planted, and most of the flower beds are as well, the Cutting Garden has only been cleared so there is plenty of planting work ahead. We’re hoping May ends with a bit of rain…well, more than a bit would be welcome. There’s a whole list of “to do after a rain” jobs waiting regardless of which page the calendar is on!
Wherever you and your garden are, I hope the weather is cooperating, the crops are bountiful, and that you take time to truly enjoy what you’ve created. May was a challenging month, but overall a good one. Now it’s on to June. Let’s see what it has up its sleeves!