It’s yet another Saturday, hazy from the western wildfires all the way here to Indiana! It’s been hot and humid, with hardly any rain still but somehow with the heavy morning dew the crops are managing. August is always an odd month, with parents and children adjusting to “back to school,” the weeks seeming to be pushing toward autumn but yet hanging onto summer, days certainly long enough to accomplish a lot but little energy to do it! The bounty of summer is flowing in from the potager, yet the gardener must be thinking about and planting not only fall crops, but the plan for next year. Amid all this, it’s important to take a few moments to enjoy the beauty around us, beginning with 1) the brilliant yellow goldfinches that are devouring the sunflower seeds long before they are close to ripe. As much as I hate to see the sunflowers in tatters, I’m happy to see a healthy goldfinch enjoying it as much as I do. You may not be aware, but here in Indiana the Department of Natural Resources has issued a plea for residents NOT to put food in bird feeders. This is to avoid birds congregating together, to try to stop a highly contagious disease that is killing hundreds of our songbirds. It’s a sad, sad situation. Since many birds are accustomed to simply gorging themselves at a well-stocked feeder, which no longer has food they are having to forage…some for the first time in their lives. Could you manage? So, I’m happy to donate my sunflowers to the cause!
2) Normally, the dill and parsley are covered in swallowtail caterpillars throughout the summer. This year, I’ve seen nary a one! No sprays or pesticides are used on our property, no herbicides and I’m exceedingly careful with even Bt and soap spray. However, there seems to be an increased use in spraying by airplanes in the surrounding fields, which has even led me to stop eating the wonderful “Sun Sugar” tomatoes straight from the bush as I garden. Now EVERYTHING must come into the kitchen and be washed first. I wish I could wash all the flowers before the bees, birds, and butterflies ate them, too…
3) I’m willing to share most of the seeds that develop in my gardens with the birds, but some are harvested for our use as well. Last year’s crop of cutting celery returned this spring (as usual for a biennial) and we enjoyed the first, early leaves in soups and salads. As soon as the bloom stalks formed (like parsley) the leaves get tough and bitter so we no longer harvest them. I DO use many of the stalks as filler in bouquets all through May to mid-July. Once the seeds begin to form the plants are left alone until the seeds turn brown, and I observe the birds helping themselves. Then it’s time to harvest the tiny seeds to refill the jar marked “Celery seed” in the pantry. Yes, most “celery seed” sold in stores is actually either cutting celery or smallage!
4) Didn’t even notice until I uploaded this photo that I goofed again! I’ve continued to collect seeds for next year’s gardens throughout the growing season, and I can only hope I did a better job most days than I obviously did yesterday. Look closely and you’ll see that BOTH envelopes are labeled “Feverfew Gold Moss.” Well, one of them is actually “Perennial Blue Flax!” I’ll be able to tell by the feel of the seeds and correct it, because the flax is little hard balls and the feverfew is dust, but I certainly had to laugh at myself.
5) You may recognize these dry stalks with numerous little brown balls. Yes, it’s coriander seed. Plenty were left in the potager’s interior border to reseed a crop of cilantro for this fall, and very likely another in spring as some will germinate quickly, and some will dawdle. However, there was just TOO much seed to allow them all to remain, and too many for envelopes so I pushed them into a paper bag to finish drying. Some will be ground for a pantry jar, some will be packaged and sold at the garden club plant sale next spring, and some will be seeded in pots for that same sale. The rest will become bird feed, hung out a sprig here and there, to prevent congregating by the birds.
6) and finally, the bucket of flowers picked yesterday and conditioned in the cool basement, ready to become two bouquets to go along with give-away produce this afternoon. Notice the “blue” asters, which actually look pretty blue in the photo but in reality are more purple. It’s a variety called “Bonita Blue” which grow as a cluster of 2″ flowers on a single stalk. Looks like it will be a one-cut, but that’s okay, and it’s an annual growing to 3′ tall. I’ll keep one stem to see how long its vase life is. The other experiment for this week is using fragrant “Mandarin Orange” balm as a filler. It’s a more rampant grower than I expected, but if it holds up well in a vase I won’t mind as much and will harvest it more heavily.
That’s the six things for this Saturday. If you’d like to see what’s on other gardeners’ minds and in their gardens, visit The Propagator, who hosts this meme.