Garden Diary 2020 - August 1-31
Leaving the garden unattended for two weeks while visiting family and friends out of town presented some challenges and opportunities. Pests and diseases left unchecked destroyed some plants, while unharvested crops opened up more seed saving opportunities. Steady rainfall kept the garden well-watered, and overall the garden flourished without me! It was a testament to the power of nature.
But leaving my garden meant going to another that is very special to me - my mom's. It's been my inspiration and outdoor photo studio for many years. Check my intro article here, where I'll add links to my Garden Diary 2020 posts throughout the gardening season.
Total Corn Fail
Our effort to grow corn this year was a total fail. This wind pollinating crop requires planting in large blocks, but given our limited space, we had to settle on planting just a few stalks. Then we had difficulty getting them to germinate. Then we had difficulty keeping them alive once they germinated. At last, we had four stalks growing in a grow bag, and one actually produced a couple ears of corn - small, but nonetheless, corn. Then, just as they were finally ready to be harvested, they got completely demolished overnight. We think a squirrel got to them, and a swarm of ants followed. I don't think corn will be on our list of crops to grow next year.
Succession Planting More Tomatoes
I cleared out the diseased tomato plants and replaced them with a succession planting of Roma tomatoes. These are the leftover seedlings I had from sowing too many indoors in the spring. I kept them alive in plastic pots and finally moved them into the sunny, in-ground bed where they would have a better chance of developing. It will be nice to continue getting tomatoes all the way until frost.
With a large part of the summer garden harvested, it is time to leave town. Every summer, we visit Missouri to spend time with family and childhood friends. This year is a little harder to depart than most because I am leaving behind the garden I had toiled for months to cultivate. My plan is to be gone for two weeks. I sure hope it rains while I'm gone because I do not have an irrigation system or anybody to water. I'm curious to see what happens when I return.
Before leaving VA, I packed up all of my harvested tomatoes and the KitchenAid fruit and vegetable strainer attachment and threw them in the car. I knew my mom had a KitchenAid mixer as well that I could use to process the tomatoes. After traveling 900 miles, the tomatoes got made into sauce. It was just the excuse we needed to get the family together for a harvest meal. My mom used the sauce to make her delicious, homemade lasagna. As I've said before, sharing the harvest with family and friends is the most joyful part of food gardening. We had a lovely evening.
A Visit to Mom's Garden
My mom's backyard flower garden has been an inspiration to me for many years. It's shady on one side and sunny on the other. Years ago, she removed almost all of the grass and filled the yard with footpaths, fountains, containers and a host of annuals and perennials. She also tucks a few veggies and herbs into the planting beds. When I go to visit her, I often use it as my outdoor photo studio. Here, I've photographed people amongst the beautiful garden backdrop for over 15 years. It's also a source for garden information - what plants I like, what kind of light they need, when to grow them and which do well by seed. This year, it was her elephant ear bulbs that dominated the sunny garden. They were huge! Every year, her garden is a little different as she experiments with new plants and hardscape configurations. See the August Wrap-Up below for more images of her beautiful garden.
Wow, the garden went wild without me! It didn't miss me at all! Friends reported that we had gotten lots of rain while I had been gone, and the plants certainly flourished because of it. But don't worry, garden. I won't take it personally!
Sometime this summer, I noticed a vine growing out of the shade bed where I had removed all the ivy. It looked to me like a pumpkin, but it was nothing that I had planted. Over the years, I would always throw our rotted Halloween pumpkins into the garden instead of in the trash. Could it be a seed from one of our old pumpkins? It had the characteristic big yellow flower, but it wasn't producing any fruit. When we returned, however, there they were - four white pumpkins. Or were they squash? I searched online for a similar fruit, but to no avail. It's still a mystery.
Once a cucumber fruit begins to form, it doesn't take long for them to become overgrown. By the time we returned to VA, I had found several overgrown cucumbers dangling both inside and outside the fence. I am letting them turn yellow in order to harvest their seed. Since I grew three different types in the same area, I don't know which seed is which, or if they cross-pollinated. They're all slicers and that's really all I care to know. I'm not enough of a cucumber connoisseur to taste the difference.
Tomato Ups and Downs
My main tomato bed was planted in two blocks with a lettuce and celery bed in between. Disease had overtaken the left block, thankfully after the main harvest was complete. I replaced the final tomatoes in that block with more leftover Romas. I'm eager to see how well they do as the weather cools.
The right block is where I planted a couple heirlooms - German Johnson and Brandywine. They suffered under the intense heat and stopped producing for awhile. My hope is that once the weather dips below the 90s they will produce again. Oddly enough, the right block remained fairly disease resistant. They grew wildly while I was gone, spilling way over the tops of their cages and onto the neighboring ones. I wonder what the difference was - the soil, the tomato variety, the watering? Next year will tell me more.
More Carrot Fails
I tried and tried to grow carrots this year, but every attempt was a failure. I planted them three times, and each time produced only spindly little carrots. They weren't even worth eating. Into the compost they went! I've heard other gardeners talk about how difficult it is to get them to germinate, but I didn't have trouble with that at all. It was the lack of growth underground that was the problem, despite the fact that I had worked the soil into a friendly carrot environment. Was it the soil? The light? It will be a challenge for next year.
While I didn't spend much time in my own garden, I did spend some quality time in my mom's. Here are more of the beautiful plants she's been growing for years, along with some new ones.
In her sunny garden, she planted lantana, yarrow, zinnia and phlox. Hummingbirds are frequent visitors to her zinnias, as I posted last year.
Despite the fact that they are annuals in her hardiness Zone 6, her ageratum, cleome and celosia have been returning for at least eight years.
Creeping Jenny and Ajuga groundcover come together at the stone footpath, creating a stark contrast in colors.
When her two fountains got to be too much of a hassle to maintain, she turned them into planters. The sunny side fountain is surrounded by flowering annuals and perennials,
while the shady side one is filled with ferns.
More staples in her shade garden, along with the hostas, are Solomon's Seal and Lamb's Ears.
Every year, the garden is different and full of surprises. She experimented with tomatoes in grow bags and some trellised beans, which were winding down by the time I arrived. We've enjoyed comparing notes and getting tips from each other, especially this year. Visiting mom's garden is a delightful treat every summer, and I always look forward to seeing what she'll grow the next year.