Monthly Archives: June 2009

Time well spent

campanula cup and saucer mix 6-09_edited Gardeners are often so focused on what is left to plant, prune, weed, thin, spray, fertilize, and pick, that we forget to stop and enjoy our creations.  I was reminded of this yesterday.

Over the last couple of weeks all my spare time went toward completing some overdue gardening chores waylaid by rain.  Outside of grabbing a few photos of flowers in bloom or nice plant combinations, I took little time to enjoy the view.  But complements offered by friends and family attending my daughter-in-law’s baby shower reminded me how important it is to grab the opportunity to stop, look, and listen.

Lamb's Ear in flop_edited

 

Lamb’s ear are in full bloom and, yes, some of the tall flower stalks have flopped; foxglove blossoms have passed, or nearly so, and their brown spent blossoms cannot match the visual delight these biennials offered in full bloom; and still, there is weeding and mulching to complete.

astilbe-pink 2 Louisiana iris black gamecock 3 But, astilbe and Louisiana Iris (black gamecock) grab attention away from browning foxglove stalks, while bright nasturtium blossoms and pastel campanula (cup and saucer) beckon “look at me!”   With highlights such as these, little notice is made of yet unaccomplished chores.

nasturtium multi_edited So, thanks to the baby shower-goers, who not only supplied wonderful gifts to our awaited family addition and heartfelt well wishes to her expecting parents, but reminded me to take some time to enjoy the flowers.

Creatures leave their mark

slug damage to petunia - edited Many creatures have left their calling cards in my gardens.  The wet, humid weather has caused a bumper crop of slugs.  They usually only feed at night, but not this year.  Maybe it’s their numbers, maybe the lack of sun has kept the slimy crawlers from seeking daytime cover. Regardless, the telltale shiny trails left on this petunia, and on many of my lettuce and tatsoi plants, show slugs are feasting quite well.

garter snake I can only hope the concurrent explosion in the garter snake population will eventually decrease the slug population.   I am NOT even slightly enamored of snakes … but I have learned to  tolerate garter snakes., and identify their favorite basking spots so I know where to expect them.  Usually one or two ‘regulars’ and I develop a mutually tolerant, but still standoffish, acceptance of each other  through the growing season, but this year my tolerance is being stretched.  During a brief bout of sunshine I came across four garter snakes sunning in a three square foot area of a stone pathway and two more among nearby vegetation.  An hour later I nearly stepped on one in a different part of the yard … trust me, profanities flew from my mouth faster than the snake slithered away.

aphids on nasturtium_edited Aphids are also thriving in our lovely swamp-like weather.  Theoretically, planting nasturtiums helps keep aphids away from other plants.  Here, on the underside of a nasturtium leaf, black aphids have set up housekeeping (I doubt the aphid-eating ant is an invited guest).  However, to deal with this year’s aphid population, this ant may need backup from an army of ladybug beetles to help chomp the aphids away.

What caused holes in my moonflower and morning glory leaves was a mystery until one of my sons noticed a small – ladybug sized – metallic gold beetle climbing nearby.  A little research identified it as a golden tortoise beetle – a bug with the admirable ability to change its color at will.  Cool, except this beetle’s favorite food is ipomeas.

vole hole 2 Voles have found the small group snow peas planted directly into the ground at one end of the garden – notice the hole where a pea vine once grew.  These tunneling vegetarians also find the in-ground planted lettuce an easy meal.  This is why I plant most vegetables in pots.

deer damage to coneflower_edited Lastly, these coneflowers used to be about a foot taller – proof that deer have moved back out of the woods after delivering their young and are teaching a new generation where to find the best eats.

Weeds – pull ‘em now.

passed iris and lavender_edited The nearly constant drizzle, sprinkles, showers, and downright downpours we’ve had of late has put me way behind in my gardening plans. By now I’ve usually finished weeding, mulching, edging but currently half the beds still need weeding and mulch, and many of the iris and early bloomers still need to be deadheaded. Iris stalks should not look like those in the photo when lavender is ready to open.

Every Connecticut gardener I’ve encountered of late has commented on the nearly constant moisture we’ve had this spring. Too much rain has caused rot in many freshly planted annuals, plus an inordinate number of slugs that, in turn, have chomped down many more plants. I’m already hearing about powdery mildew, a high humidity side effect that often attacks phlox – one of our summer bloom staples – as well as foliage on many other plants (for more on powdery mildew, including photos, see uconnladybug’s blog).

weeding in progress_edited Then there’s the weeds which have grown … well … like weeds. But this rapid growth makes them easy to identify and easier to pull free from the soil. I have a bucket and gloves at the ready so between drizzle and downpours, I can zip out to yank a few weeds. Once the weather breaks into ‘real’ summer, dry soil makes weeds harder to pull than a post from concrete. Weeding for 15 minutes here and there now will save you a sizeable amount of time and effort later, particularly if you catch your weeds before they go to seed.

Finally, to really cut back on weeding chores, spread mulch to suppress future weed growth. I like natural shredded cedar mulch or shredded autumn leaves for perennial/annual beds, and dried grass clippings from early spring lawn mowing for the vegetable garden. When grass clippings run out, I dig for leaf mold from the bottom of mounds of fallen leaves left the year before.

So my last gardening days of June will be spent weeding, deadheading and, provided I get a couple of hours without heavy rain, mulching. Once the weather breaks, and the heat of summer descends upon us, I’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the view.