2020 will be a memorable year simply because of Covid, but I’m beginning to think it will also be one that I’ll recall as one of the prettiest. Last year we had such a wet, wet spring that most field crops weren’t even in the ground until mid-June, so this year’s much earlier planting season has certainly eased that tension. I was fussing, because thousands of my annuals were still in flats rather than in the ground. This year, nearly everything was planted before the end of May. As you can see, the daylilies began opening a bit earlier this year. Normally the small-flowered ones (Bumblebee and Stella d’oro) do open towards the end of June, but the large-flowered ones wait until July. But, “Monterey Jack” in the center of the bed has already been flowering for several days as June comes to an end.
There are more self-seeded Rudbeckias (descendents of “Chim Chimnee”) than usual in the Front Garden this year, but that’s fine with me. I love them. This year, there are no tall zinnias in the Front Garden. By the time the bulb foliage dies down so they can go in, it’s too late for them to do really well and fill out they way they should. Not a good look for a Front Garden, so instead the front, dwarf “Profusion” zinnias extend further back. I think I like it better this way.
The word that come to mind most often this year is “editing.” I find myself editing the gardens. This year what’s being edited out most is black-eyed Susan. After the recent rain, dozens and dozens were pulled out, mainly to give the newly planted roses some breathing space and more sunlight, but also to be able to add more variety to this garden. Several “David” tall garden phlox (pure white) were added and although they won’t provide many flowers for a year or two, they also need space to grow. And, I’ve pulled all the black-eyed Susans from under and around the “Tiger Eye” sumac so it make a more dramatic effect with its twisted branches and trunk. In the June photo, it’s totally surrounded! I’ll also be editing out all the self-seeded magenta and pink garden phlox as they come into bloom and potting them up for a future plant sale.
Sometimes I call it the “Windowbox” garden, so I need to decide on its definite name. The rudbeckia have nearly taken over this area, so I’ll do some editing after they finish blooming, but they will hide the less than attractive legs of the hollyhocks so some will remain. They are also filling in for all the slightly shorter (but still yellow!) gaillardia that are normally on the right hand side of the border, but were dug out over the winter by some nocturnal critter.
These “Chim Chimnee” rudbeckias were grown intentionally from seed, not self-seeded so the narrow quilled petals and range of colors is more representative of the variety. They are also a bit shorter than later generations of volunteers.
This border has evolved since its initial planting in autumn of 2015. Some things just couldn’t handle the amount of water coming off the potager and disappeared. Although I liked the look of the tansy, it just became too overpowering for its neighbors, so it was replaced by a more friendly “Blue River II” hibiscus, which will have plate-sized white blooms (if I can keep the Japanese beetles controlled!) The “May Queen” shastas in the upper right corner are nearly finished, so they’ll be cut to ground level, and the space created will be filled with tall celosia and tall zinnias. I love the clover in my lawns and so do the bees.
I didn’t do much editing in the potager interior border this spring and it shows. Self-seeded dill, cilantro, and borage filled in ALL the space between the daylilies, roses, lemon balm and sweet peas, but I love the joyous abundance of it all. Actually, there are also pepper plants, calendula, dwarf snapdragons, alliums of various sorts and red cabbage plants in there as well! The garlic in the bed on the right is browning and will be dug yet this week.
You know that I love succession cropping to garner the highest yields in my small space. I delight in those transitions from one crop to the next. For instance, in the second bed down from top right, there were peas on a fence. They’ve finished, and the bed wasn’t empty 20 minutes before a row of “Little Gem” lettuce transplants went in, a row of leek plants, a row of rutabaga seeds, and a row of “Romano Purpiat” beans went in. The lettuce and beans will be gone before the rutabaga needs more space. While it rained, I did a little math and found that by June 30th, 234 linear feet of growing space had transitioned from first crop to second, and of that 18′ were already on third crop! 234′ could be an entire garden!
Not that long ago, the Cutting Garden looked pretty empty, but now its filled with color: Purple verbena, white larkspur, yellow and white yarrows, rudbeckias, shasta daisies, zinnias, and blue salvia are all in bloom. But, I’ve yet to cut a bouquet, and unless we invite company (which isn’t likely these days) I probably won’t. Instead, I’ve been picking the sweet peas from the potager trellises, because the flowers have such a lovely form and fragrance, and if I don’t pick them and keep them from setting seed, they will quit blooming.
Now for the potager numbers: In June, the number of varieties growing in the potager increased from 60 to 82, some from transplants grown first in the basement and some from direct seeding.
Harvested: 95.75 pounds! Of course, last year’s 71.5 reflected pitiful, wet weather but 2018 had good weather and was only 57.5. Obviously, efforts at improving varieties and succession cropping is making a difference. Additions to this June’s menu: lots more strawberries than last year, peas, garlic scapes, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, fava beans, aspa broc, cabbage, “Royal Burgundy” beans and kohlrabi were added to the abundant spinach, lettuce, etc. that were picked in April and May. Total 2020 harvest to date: 144 pounds.
On the preservation front, 31 jars (strawberry jam, elderflower cordial, pickled beets) entered the pantry and 9 packages (peas, broccoli, fava beans) were added to the freezer. Since there are still broccoli and peas in the freezer left from last year, I’ve planted fewer of both, and we are eating most fresh from the garden rather than preserving this year.
That’s the report for June 2020. Since the rain, the melon vines, tomatoes and squash are exploding in size. There are egg-sized melons, 1/2″ cukes and full-sized tomatoes waiting for ripeness. July is starting out HOT and humid, but that’s great for many vegetables, and hopefully for the blackberries as well. Hope your garden is happy and healthy, and that you remain that way as well! Blessings!