Showing posts from July, 2015

Flower Friday: July 31, 2015

I only have one bouquet today, and this one I only barely managed to bring in before the sky opened up yesterday. It's super-pretty, though:

Snapdragons, rose, Chinese forget-me-not, astilbe, and yarrow.
It's a little hard to tell in this photo, but those snapdragons at the bottom are a deep, velvety red-purple, which really sets off the delicate pink of the rose. So much pink this year! It's definitely growing on me.

Peach Tree Problems

About a week ago, we noticed that we had a problem in the orchard. One of these things is not like the other:

It's not just the leaves of our (formerly) best peach tree that are having trouble. Check out the (former) fruit:

A couple weeks ago this tree was covered with peaches just waiting to ripen up in August, but now they are shriveled down to the pits. It looks more like an almond than a peach. They all look like that.
No peaches this year.
So what's the problem? 
Well, it's clear that the tree isn't taking up water, but we've had decent rain, and other trees are fine. As I was looking at the damage and trying to figure it out, I saw a funny bug fly by. I couldn't get a photo, but it was unforgettable. It looked like this:

That's not a bug you forget easily—it looks like a giant wasp with a bright orange belt. So I hit the books (specifically The Backyard Orchardist, our go-to guide) and double checked online to see a color photo of our bug.
It's c…

Bonus Peas

Usually by this time of year, our pea vines are long gone. We typically pick garden peas through mid-July, and the vines turn brown and die back as temperatures rise. We've never had much luck replanting them in the fall, so we usually just freeze a year's worth of peas in the spring and call it a season by the end of July. You can see the die-back starting here:

But…what's that bit of green down there at the bottom? Let's take a closer look:

New growth on the old vines! This has never happened to use before—maybe because we pulled out the vine before they had a chance to get to this stage? I'll be honest: that's exactly what I was planning to do when I noticed the new growth. There's even a pea pod or two!

So to see this unbidden (but welcome) experiment through, I clipped the old vines just above the new growth and threw them in the compost pile. I left the new growth behind to see how big they'll get, and if we'll get a second harvest. My guess …

Black Raspberries

Though we still haven't reaped many blueberries from our new stock, the raspberries this year are awesome. We even have black raspberries for the first time, since this spring we remembered to prune them properly. Black raspberries grow differently than red ones:

The canes are more silvery, and when they arch over and touch the ground, they'll set new roots and form a brambly hedge. If you prune them back, they'll send out more side branches instead. We'll get to this one after the fruiting is done. 
Black raspberries also spend a good portion of their lives looking an awful lot like red raspberries:

If you aren't paying attention and think that those pretty red berries are ready to eat, you will be disappointed in a particularly face-puckering way. Unripe black raspberries are almost inedibly sour.
If you are paying attention, though, you notice that black raspberries grow together in upward facing clusters, and this bit of knowledge will keep you from eating ter…

Flower Friday: July 24, 2015

Unlike last week, this week I remembered to take a picture of the cutting garden before any actual cutting occurred:

Yes, there's still a hole in the fence. Yes, it's gotten bigger as the kids continue to use it as a short cut to the neighbors' yard next door. Allow me to distract your eye with pretty flowers:

Chinese forget-me-not, astilbe, yarrow, snapdragon, and bachelor's button.

Chinese forget-me-not, astilbe, and open-faced snapdragons.

Here's a closer look at those open-faced snapdragons. They grow on a spike, but are a cup shape instead of a mouth shape. I like them (though the kids don't think they're as fun), and they were pretty easy to grow from seed.

Black-eyed Susan, echinacea, and snapdragons.

Midsummer Herb Harvest

Last week I spent some serious time in the herb garden. It could use a renovation: some are now too shaded, others are garden bullies that have spread beyond their borders, etc. Even so, there was plenty to harvest. Here's what I walked away with:

That's not everything we grow, but it is a sampling of what's doing well. Things like sage and rosemary will be better in the fall, but these are some of the herbs that are ready to go at the height of summer.

Basil. I cut a lot to avoid having it begin to flower and go to seed. Even with this giant pile, I still only ended up with eight pesto cubes. Luckily, a little bit goes a long way in the flavor department.

Horehound. Those globes between the leaves are its flowers, so I may have cut this a bit too late for full potency. Horehound is a bitter relative of mint used to cure respiratory ailments, and I keep meaning to use it to make some homemade cough drops. 

Tarragon. It's not worth drying because it loses almost all of…

The Amazing, Gravity-Defying Zucchini

It's the time of year again: zucchini is back in force!

This one had a particular joie de vivre and would not be dragged down. It was growing straight up – something I hadn't seen before. I figured it would fall back to earth as it got too heavy, but no. This one was aiming for the heavens until we cut it.
It was tasty, too. When zucchini is still small and tender (if you can manage to stay on top of it), you can totally eat it raw. We had this one in a shaved zucchini and fennel salad:

Kirk just uses a sharp vegetable peeler to make long, thin strips. It's dressed simply with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. There's also some thin bits of fennel bulb thinnings and some fennel fronds as well.
This was a rare occasion in which we cooked together. The other part of last night's dinner was an omelet I made with (obviously) eggs, baby broccoli (the side shoots are even better than the big heads!), tarragon, chives, scallions, and a mild goat cheese. 
Welcome t…

The Return of Flower Friday

I introduced a lot of annuals to the cutting garden this year, and since they were all grown from seed, it took quite some time for them to finally come into bloom. But here we are in mid-July, and the cutting garden has a lot going on. I should have taken a picture of the garden itself before doing said cutting, but I didn't think of it in time. Here are some vases I threw together to bring inside:

Chinese forget-me-not, echinacea (two kinds!), and yarrow.

Snapdragons, Chinese forget-me-not, yarrow, delphinium, echinacea, astilbe, zinnia, and baby's breath.

Chinese forget-me-not, snapdragon, delphinium, astilbe, echinacea, yarrow, and bachelor's buttons.

Bees On A Hot Afternoon

Today is our first truly hot day this summer. According to the trusty thermometer on my car, the temperature in the driveway is about 100 degrees, and downtown it's in the 90s, even with a little sea breeze. Any gardening that didn't get done before noon will have to wait until tomorrow morning, while some of the garden is still in shade.
The bees also are feeling the heat. Their house is uninsulated, and when it gets hot, they come outside to hang out on the front porch: 

That bar acts like a porch and awning at the same time. Just below its lower edge are the three holes that make the bees' doorways into the hive.
They aren't just hanging out, though. Every worker bee has a specific job, and a lot of these ladies are fanning their little fannies off to keep the hive cool and the humidity just right for honey:

You can see the blur of fanning wings on the bee at the center if you look closely. Lots of bees on that bar and around the entrance are fanning away – so much…

Renovating The Perennial Border, Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about the half of the perennial border that runs along the driveway. Today we'll walk around the corner to see the rest of it along the path that leads across the yard to the front door.

Around the corner from the climbing roses, Siberian irises, and sedum ground cover is some white salvia. Behind the salvia is some red bee balm, which is just starting to bloom. The beeslove this section of the flower garden! There's also a male holly busy and another smallish peony (I really like the way these look even when the bloom is over, so I have a lot of them). Across the front is a wide swath of hardy mums that will bloom in the fall.

Like I said, there are a lot of chrysanthemums here. Behind the mums are white lilies, Shasta daisies, and the female holly bush (that's the one that will have the berries in the winter).

Beyond the holly the border widens near the front door. Across the back is a boxwood, rhododendron, and a big clump of tall white garden phlox. T…

Renovating The Perennial Border, Part 1

Perhaps you recall that last summer I spent a month in Costa Rica. During that time, Kirk took care of the garden by himself. He did a great job keeping up with the vegetables, but there wasn't any time left for just one person (with a day job) to keep up the perennial border.
So this year it needed a lot of work. All the weeds that weren't pulled last year went to seed, so I had my work cut out for me in that department. There were also some plants that didn't make it through the winter and others that were in serious need of dividing. 
The best part of summer vacation is having the time to get lost in an outdoor task, and that's just what I did this past weekend. Or maybe week. It's nice to forget what day it is, too.
Anyway, here's the result of the perennial border overhaul. This section will take us from the garden gate along the driveway to the corner of the bed. 

Immediately outside the garden gate at the top of the driveway is a clematis vine that is f…

The Little Hydrangea That Could

In the small miracle department:

Our littlest hydrangea somehow managed to put out a flower this year. After suffering through two brutal winters and a fairly intense rehab pruning session, I wasn't expecting anything at all out the two white hydrangeas in the perennial border. I thought the best case scenario would be some new growth. 
Not impressed? Well, this one has never bloomed since I bought it several years ago. I also think a little scale is in order:

Can you even see it? This particular hydrangea "bush" is right in the center of that photo, in front of a stand of Siberian irises. It's just to the left of a small patch of mini red petunias.
Once you see just how little this plant (still) is, I think you can appreciate just how surprising that single bloom really is. I will definitely take it!

Early Summer Eating

After a month of late nights and less-than-healthful eating choices, it feels sooooo good to be back to grocery shopping in the garden. One big success this season has been our head lettuce:

This is one beautiful head of Buttercrunch lettuce, and we put it to good use in some lettuce wraps:

This is a great way to eat stir fry on a hot day because it's lighter to have lettuce than all that rice. It's also nice when you're in a hurry and don't feel like waiting 45 minutes for brown rice to cook. Kirk made the filling by marinating chicken in soy sauce, ginger, and garlic. He then fried up the chicken with a mixture of cashews, pineapple, shitake mushrooms, and a spoonful of peanut butter for extra richness. Once the stir fry was almost done, he added some fresh cilantro at the last minute. Yum!
The things we have in the garden right now lend themselves well to Asian dishes, so we had a proper stir fry last night as well:

This one featured chicken with the same marinade,…