I Thought the Drought Was Over

Although I thought that the national media did a horrible job of publicizing the fact that the northeast just endured well over two years of extreme drought, complete with water rationing,  reservoirs drying up and massive plant die offs along with insect infestations, most of that seems to be over now, thank goodness.

The drought stretched from Maine all the way down to the south at times and as far back as the Ohio Valley but New England was particularly hard hit. Parts of Massachusetts were rationing water for well over a year and here in Hartford County Connecticut we are still drier than we should be even after abundant rainfall elsewhere.

Still,  this year, things look much better than they have for years with the exception of the aftermath.

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You heard on Friday that my gardening is pretty much limited to pointing my finger or my camera at this point for the next several weeks.  But the Spoiler has had to call in help to clear out all of the drought killed plantings–& every time we look we find more. This partially killed blue spruce around our pond is just one example.

In many cases, things haven’t been killed outright,  which is a blessing.  I just wonder, after the pruning, what they will look like. This kerria will look just fine. The blue spruce that I showed above, not so much, I fear.

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And then there are the things that are just dead and need to be pulled out. Several hydrangeas and a rose finally succumbed.

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And finally there are things that just aren’t going to bloom this year at all–but at least they survived and came back. This peony is one example. (And notice that lovely “grass and weed” mulch. I may never recover from that either–but that’s a different issue!)

I have rhododendons taller than I am also without blooms–but it would be a catastrophe to have lost those.

We’ll need a few more weekends of help to get the pruning all done. Good thing it’s a long summer.

Mulching With Grass?

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You have probably heard of mulching your plants with grass clippings. This is a good way to use up clippings that may be a little too long to leave on your lawn. If, however,  you choose to do this,  you’re going to want to evaluate how “weed free” your lawn is. There’s no point in introducing lawn clippings that are filled with weed seeds.

And you definitely can’t do it if you have treated your lawn with a four step program.  The “Step 2” part of that program contains a herbicide that definitely has the potential to harm your plants. And perish the thought that you might think of using lawn pesticide treated grass around your edibles!

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This year I am unfortunately growing my own grass as mulch. It wasn’t something I planned–not like my moss and fern gardens in other words. But just as the gardening season started,  I have needed some more surgery for skin cancer, this time in a tricky spot on my back.

So I was able to get a little bit of planting done early, and now I am done for several weeks. My neighbors are just going to have to put up with the “grass mulch” look.

But heck, so long as they keep catching all my cancers early, I will put up with some gardening inconvenience!  I am grateful.

 

Wordless Wednesday

A friend from another part of the country remarked last week that we have very different plants here.

If I had to describe the quintessential New England shrub, this is it: some version of a  large rhododendron in pink, mauve, white or red. They’re everywhere right now in sizes from about 2 feet tall to ones like this that tower over my head.

They do grow in other places too but they do extremely well here in our acidic soil and normally moist climate.

As a general rule,  they prefer at least partial shade, which most of us have  because we are gardening under mature tree canopies.

And since many of those trees tend to be evergreens, oaks, or maples which compete with the “rhodies” as we affectionately call them for moisture,  it’s a good thing that they tend to be shallowly rooted as well!

Here is a close view of the flower cluster. They are stunning this time of year.

Happy Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day.  Thank you to all who have served our country.

I honor this day in a bit of a strange way.  I always plant my tomatoes on Memorial Day. What on earth might that do with honoring the memory of veterans, you ask?

Well,  for years, I used to plant tomatoes with my Dad, who was a World War II vet. Even after we gardened in different places, I still grew tomatoes for him and, if I had to,  I shipped them to him.

He will be gone 17 years this summer,  but the tomato planting always helps me to remember him–& all veterans.

As a bonus this year, my poppies opened this weekend too.  Very fitting.

If There’s Such a Thing as Foodscaping, How About Berryscaping?

I wrote Monday about foodscaping and showed you a photo of my vegetable garden that incorporates flowers and herbs as well. All throughout the discussion of edibles that I have been having here, I said that I don’t grow too many fruiting plants.

There are a couple of reasons for that. I was into habitat gardening and established my “habitats” or wildlife gardens long before I ever established dedicated to grow food. And while that wonderful book I talked about Monday, The Foodscape Revolution makes clear that you can grow food anywhere and everywhere, if you are gardening for wildlife you are going to be competing with that same wildlife for the food you are growing and so you are going to have to create some sort of effective fencing to separate your food from them.

I’ve talked a little about that little issue before. The Spoiler is opposed to fencing of any sort. And then he wonders why he has no blueberries and isn’t getting tomatoes. You reap what you sow! And when what you sow isn’t protected from all the hungry critters that romp through your yard after you’ve invited them in, well, them you don’t reap very much.

But this surely doesn’t mean that there are no ways to grow fruit crops in landscapes. For one thing, many of them make great container plants. Some of the smaller varieties are even suitable for balconies and patios.

And some of a new line of fruiting berry plants called Bushel and Berry™ have been specifically bred to be both beautiful and prolific.

There are 7 plants in this line. Most are blueberries–there are 5 different blueberries–and a raspberry and a blackberry. All are self-pollinating and compact making them perfect for landscapes or containers. Their marketer is Star, who also markets the Drift™ and Knockout™ series of roses and a hydrangea which is completely unfamiliar to me called LA Dreaming. You can read all about the plants here.

I have to say that my attempt to grow two of these plants has been a dismal failure–both have died. Perhaps I didn’t give them large enough containers. I do have two other full size blueberries in pots (shown above) that are doing just fine, so go figure. But I adore their blueberries, especially the variety called Peach Sorbet. The colors the foliage turns in the fall is wonderful.

Another great plant for beds, borders and just about anywhere is the alpine strawberry. This incredibly hardy strawberry will give you tiny strawberries all summer long, up to a hard freeze. It has great fall color–vivid scarlet–and when you have to fight chipmunks or squirrels for the fruit, don’t despair. They will actually plant more of these plants for you. I have them self-sown all over my property, even into other containers. I started with 5 plants. I now must have 50 thanks to my wildlife.  And I am keeping them all!

So in answer to my question: yes, berryscaping can be a “thing” too. Just be mindful of sharing with your wildlife!

Wordless Wednesday

Usually this time of year,  I have a photo of a deutzia called Chardonnay Pearls on here. It’s one of my favorites and it’s in bloom now.  But I thought I would focus  (literally as well) on something different this year.

This is a close up of some things in the wildlife garden.  The chives are just coming into bloom.  I let this clump bloom because I have a potted clump up by the house that I use for cooking. I have another blooming clump in my vegetable garden.  You might have seen it Monday.

Blooming herbs are not only pretty but they are great for pollinators.  They often have just the sort of flowers that pollinators adore.

Of course if you intend to cook with your herbs,  you don’t want them to flower.  But most perennial herbs are so abundant that you can easily split them, keep a clump close by your kitchen for cooking and plant the rest elsewhere for pollinators.

Everyone wins!

FoodScaping

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Foodscaping is becoming more of a “thing”–at least I hope that it is. I was probably a very early adopter, not because I am so very clever or such a trend setter, but because the best sun in my yard happened to also be where I was growing some wildlife plants. But I started foodscaping back in 1995.

This is my tiny vegetable garden.  Along with the lettuces, there are 2 kinds of parsley,  dill, lemon balm, chives, sage and lemon thyme.  For flowers, I have the bidens I posted about last week,  violets and alyssum. Still to come are marigolds, tomatoes and pole beans.

Still,  I do not foodscape nearly to the extent–or with the same gorgeous results–as Brie Arthur, author of The Foodscape Revolution: Finding a Better Way to Make Space for Food and Beauty in Your Garden.  When I tell you that the book is published by St. Lynn’s Press,  you will know that it’s going to have that same comprehensive blend of chapters  that not only tell the reader why a foodscape garden is a good idea, but also how to grow all sorts of vegetables  (along with a chart for “hardscape” plants–perennials,  trees and shrubs–for different regions of the country  in case you are creating the garden from scratch and not just tucking edibles in among existing ornamentals).

Of course there are some of the author’s favorite recipes, and methods of preserving your harvest once your plants are ready. One of the sections I found most helpful,  particularly if someone is a newer gardener, is the pages about how to know when to harvest your vegetables.

Arthur shows some projects she has planted that are absolutely lovely as well. And she even has a section on edibles in containers,  if perhaps you are gardening on a balcony or don’t have a bit of land for planting.

What was most noticeable to me is how different her edibles are from mine. While I will occasionally grow corn, if I am going to take up that much space in my garden,  I usually devote it to non-edibles for wildlife.  I suppose I could split the difference and grow something like Aronia, for example.

She also doesn’t talk a lot about herbs, although she does grow them. Her containers have them and her plantings feature them and she does mention basil a few times. For me, herbs are probably 50% of what I grow,  and I always grow more than what I need so that some can flower for the pollinators.

I don’t find this a weakness in the book; I just find it interesting.  As I always say,  if we all liked the same thing,  we would have a very boring world!

As usual,  St. Lynn’s kindly provided this review copy to me but all opinions expressed here are mine alone.