Category Archives: Summer

Fall…ing fast

Fall…arrived in lightning speed, so it seemed; preceded by a few cooler days of decent rain to relieve some of the stress of excessive smoke and thirsty trees all over the region, both urban and forest. The precious rain was a bit precocious in actually arriving as anticipated; taking itself further north for a few days, but it did finally arrive in time to help with the forest wildfires and start cleaning out the smoky air that kept recycling itself over the state.

The smokey skies, hot temperatures, and strange humidity initiated a very early onset of powdery mildew, ensuring the end-of-squash-and-melons in a very abrupt manner. With the return of some sun and a bit more warmth, the nasturtiums, lettuce, and kale are more vigorous, however. As the first rains arrived it was a dash to clip melons, spaghetti, and delicata squash from their deteriorating vines, and gather in any ripe tomatoes.

Winding down those squash, winding up the greens. Where’s Juni?

A first-year learning experience in a new garden; it was very productive in most ways, and less than anticipated in other ways, seemingly more related to sun and shade patterns than anything else. A few ideas are now being tucked away for reference for next year.

In some ways this “new” garden seemed easier to care for, compared to the former one, with seemingly less watering needed, although the overall bounty was a bit less. Whereas the high amount of loam in the old community garden was well drained and easy to dig, more clay in the present yard helped retain moisture longer, even if it made the ground a bit harder to work to start with. And, more shade trees overhang this yard, keeping the area a bit cooler.

Tomatoes were later producers here, in spite of being next to the house, which is turning out to be an asset as we cool down. What wasn’t foreseen was the amount of shade they would be in until the sun shown on them (after 12:30pm), and then for the remainder of the day. And they weren’t particularly early-ripening varieties, but now they’re doing well, with some extra plastic over them as the temperatures cool down. Maybe a different spot next year, or else an early ripener.

Enjoying the current 2-3 days of warmth before we see a longer stretch of rain settle in. That delightful flip-flop transition of early fall.

Hoping your bounty has been generous this year!

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Smoke gets in your eyes

Greetings from a bountiful garden that has transformed from the swamps into an oasis, albeit under smokey skies (wildfires in the nearby mountains), dust clouds (field tilling in the Valley, plus neighborhood street digging and repairs), along with a long duration heat wave.  My garden devas and many insect pollinators have again done their magic!

Cleome and Echinacea, masking the now-dormant oriental poppies, backed by lavender and flanked by young nasturtium volunteers. Waiting to see if the late-planted Stargazer lilies will make any headway this year.

The winter and spring storms finally gave way to a dry summer earlier than expected, and the yard transformed into beautiful flowers and bountiful veggies.  With rain lasting so long into May, and being on vacation for part of it, I didn’t get around to turning and amending soil until later in May, unsure whether the clay clumps would stymie seed germination.  Decided to use transplant lettuces and kale, while seeding beets, beans, and radishes.  It proved worthwhile as heat set in fairly quickly in June.  It proved to be too late for good radishes, as they were quick to bolt.

We are still awaiting ripe tomatoes on very large plants, but just need to be patient; they are happy against the house wall, but don’t see much sun until after noon.  The zucchinis are on high production mode, with little yellow crooknecks due any day.  Out back in a barren spot, previously overgrown with weeds and blackberries, the spaghetti squash favorite is rambling along with several fruits of various sizes, and the miniature canteloupes are just starting to form.

Blueberry bushes have borne spectacularly this year; now quieting as a few late-ripening berries hang on.  We had fun sharing quite a few of them.  Now about to purchase a small chest freezer to store the rest.

Zinnias, lavender, echinacea, yarrow, and sage at play in the front yard “mounds”, now filling out nicely a year after planting into the old sweetgum stump-grinding residual.

If the lighting seems strange for some of the yard photos, you are not imagining it.  The altered sunlight from haze and smoke lends to a more yellowed and eerie appearance.  We hope for some onshore breezes to make their way inland soon, to help clear the air!

May all y/our gardens be bountiful and sources of delight for all types of Beings!

Hiring frogs, fish and herons!

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Rain, rain, and more rain, followed by a little snow, then more rain, has kept the flood zone fluctuating, but definitely always a swamp. I keep waiting for some frogs to take up residence in our yard.  The swamp area is a little too shallow to be a fish pond, but it seems like it has potential!  It wouldn’t surprise me to see a great blue heron standing there one morning, but not likely.

As our latent winter, pseudo-spring has raised our temperatures into the milder zones, the ground is ultra soggy, and every shovel of soil weighs close to 3 bricks.  It is not a time for planting anything in our yard yet; instead it has been a time of digging up old, neglected, and sprawling shrubs; weeding, and pruning plants to enourage their new looks.  A time to clear the old and make space for new.

Cycles of equilibrium: the balancing of energetic elements; over-abundant rain to counter balance 2-3 years of uncanny drought.

While April plays its games of freaky weather, we wait and dream for gentler, warmer days in May, to dry us out a bit, and give us momentum to actually plant.

Kitties are taking more outings, too, weather permitting.  Juni definitely has spring fever, and likes to take her time scouting around the neighborhood, sometimes causing her mom some anxiety.  Aspen is reliable in hanging around the premises, preferring to keep an eye on his human’s activities.

Spring has sprung in our part of the world! Time to admire the exquisite colors emerging all around us!

It’s a boy!…Monarch that is…

 

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Beautiful male Monarch on my Asclepias!  The spot, circled in yellow, is mirror-imaged on the other wing, and indicates this to be a male.  Photo courtesy of neighbor, Jamie Simmons, who also watched this specimen flitting in his yard.

We’ve been blessed with the presence of an authentic Monarch butterfly in the garden this last week, following my sighting of 3 more out in some pasture lands on the outskirts of town.  The Monarch is a relatively rare butterfly to see in this area, and I can’t remember the last time I saw one: with the overall decline in their populations over the last decade, I was surprised and delighted to see these, especially in a short amount of time!  Almost didn’t trust my eyes! I grew up with them as very commonplace yard visitors, and missed their numbers up here in western Oregon.  Even though I’ve grown a type of milkweed for many years (a non-invasive cultivar), it hasn’t hosted very many caterpillars in its lifetime, nor is it the favorite of the monarch.  However, more people are planting various types of milkweed in the area, and perhaps it is paying off.

He is not always present on a daily basis, but one afternoon and evening he was a visitor for several hours, flitting about, around to neighbors, and back, and alighting on the butterfly bush, which is loves for nectar.  The frequently visiting Swallowtail was also cruising through the yard, and there were some near collisions at the Buddleia bush.  Jujubes have shown up, too, jumping and whirling themselves about in little frenzies, which didn’t phase Mr. Monarch.  Such a delight and blessing to see them all active and energetic.  I did have to remind little Juni-cat that she should not even think about trying to capture our visitor! She has caught a Swallowtail before…grrr.

Our first bounty of beautiful yellow crookneck squash was picked a couple of weeks ago, and a ripening tomato can be seen from certain viewpoints in the yard.  However, most of the tomatoes are green; our intermittent pattern of 3-days cooler than average, then 3 days normal summer heat, is not conducive to speedy tomato ripening.  There might be green tomatoes at season’s end this year, depending.

Spaghetti squash is being true to form and pumping out its fruit, (with bees’ help, of course), and at last count last weekend, I saw about twelve softball-sized squash.  Five days later, some of them are now almost full-grown for this variety, like a good-sized canteloupe.

We’ve had very, very, very, very bad deer this year, in spite of extra netting.  They have learned to walk on netting and bite through it for their highly-desired bean leaf sprouts, and then they won’t leave them alone.  There will be absolutely no bean harvest this year; I leave the stems to torment them!  Always one day (no, one night!) ahead of me, they demolished over half the lettuce crop.  It appears we might get some lettuce re-growing though as summer cools off a bit.  And they harass some of the melon and cucumber seedlings, too, when least expected, so we’ll see how those do.  Tomatoes are protected enough now that they can’t do too much damage.

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Early July deer damage.  Forget any bean harvest this season, and only a bit of lettuce escaped sabatoge.  The day after this photo shot, they munched the rest of the lettuce, and proceed to keep it mowed.

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That’s what happens when you leave town for a few days…all of a sudden it is a massive crookneck jungle! May have to do some disciplining/removal so the hidden melon plant can see more sun!

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Spaghetti squash interloping with tomatoes. At least deer don’t like the prickly leaves at this point.

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Squash fruits galore, running all over the place.

 

We’d like some real rain…please and thank you!

The typical ides of late summer, come earlier than usual, of course.  While we await a much needed, hopefully-for-real, forecasted spell of precipitation in a few days, you are invited to take a short tour through the nooks of the CG, as it gets cleared of tired and/or over-browsed plants after harvesting the bounty!  True, most of the yard looks great, (just a bigger water bill to keep them from dying, and grateful we don’t have water rationing); but their stress is detectable.  Fortunately the lower sun angle as we drift towards fall helps keep moisture around longer. Given the soil crevasses in the beds, surrounding any soaker-hosed segments, it is always amazing how productive and resilient some plants are, with relatively small root systems, relative to their top growth!

The season of thinning out!

The season of thinning out!  Basil and tomatoes galore.

They've had enough!

They’ve had enough!  Hot and dry is OK for awhile, but then just the right humidity makes the mildew pop right up on those leaves.  The melons are pushing the usual size limit for this ‘Margarita’ variety.

Fabulous colors of garden bounty! The lime-yellow of 'Margarita' melons laced with sweet red peppers! These melons are pale green inside, with a very mild flavor--the color of margaritas!

Fabulous colors of garden bounty! The lime-yellow of ‘Margarita’ melons laced with sweet red peppers! These melons are pale green inside, with a very mild flavor–the color of margaritas!

Our discriminating deer is wise--no eating hot peppers, just eat all the leaf tips!

Our discriminating deer is wise–no eating hot peppers, just eat all the leaf tips!

Bound and determined bushes have eeked out a few beans from their bases.

Bound and determined bushes have eeked out a few beans from their bases; while the 4-footed browser insists on picking at whatever stems he can reach through the netting.

Bee party still going strong in the summer squash blossoms!

Bee party still going strong in the summer squash blossoms!

Aspen and Juni checking out the photo session.

Aspen and Juni sensing some moisture in the air, but where is it for the ground?

House yard still holding its own; lavender is tired and resting for the season.

House yard still holding its own; Spanish lavender is tired and resting for the season.  Echinacea takes over supporting the pollinators!

Luscious grapes, still a bit tart, but almost ready for harvest!

Luscious grapes, still a bit tart, but almost ready for harvest!

Aspen finding the easy way to deal with heat...shade!

Aspen finding the easy way to deal with heat…shade!

 

Early is the name of the game

Mature and harvested spaghetti and delicata squash (background) giving more room for other squash and melons to roam. Deer deterrent that has worked best is the upside down chair, preventing his landing attempt! Basil is lushly growing, immune to browsing.

Mature, harvested spaghetti and delicata squash (background) giving more room for other squash and melons to roam. Deer deterrent that has worked best is the upside down chair, preventing his landing attempt! Basil is growing lushly, immune to browsing.

Early to bloom, early to ripen, early demise.  On the calendar that is!  Our “endless summer” has mitigated its heat wave temporarily, so plants look a bit more refreshed.  As observed over the last couple of weeks, some squash leaves signaled their fatigue and resignation to powdery mildew, as the fruits of their efforts came into maturity.  Spaghetti squash and delicata bushes were harvested and removed, providing some more freed crawling space for the little margarita and chanterai-type melons.  It seems so early for all this, but then again summer weather started very early.  Our first tomato pickings, too, and now they are moving into more continual ripening.  Zucchinis and yellow summer squash are still very active, and the cucumbers come in little waves.  I haven’t dared to peek under the acorn squash yet; and it is still quite mildew-free, so there’s a bit of time to catch the breath before doing more work.

The hidden gems of min-canteloupes and other melons coming into maturity. Mildew helping move along the bush lifespan more quickly than usual!

The hidden gems of mini-canteloupes and other melons coming into maturity. Mildew helping move along the bush lifespan more quickly than usual!

As much as I’d like to start planting more lettuce, it is still too early, given the soil and air temperatures are too warm; must be patient till at least mid-to-late August.  It is amazing how well beets will hold up if they can keep their roots shaded from too much light.  And, it is always amazing how beans will recuperate from moderate deer browsing, to push forth more flowers again.  Seems like we might have the deer stymied for the time being, although he does come by to see what vines he can possibly nibble on that might escape the protection of netting.

I have been watching for the signs of summer fatigue in the landscape and forest trees this last week, after another 4-day marathon of 100-degree heat.  Whereas the subtle shift of green to green-gold comes in mid-late August, there are some trees that have flat-out protested the whole summer, with leaves turning brown, curling up, and are blowing off this week.  I had a brief glimpse of fall there, then realized these were severely heat-stressed!  Lavenders have recuperated a bit, and providing plenty of nectar for the bees and butterflies.  Life is good!

Step carefully…

The July jungle is now in full swing!  Evidently our watering regime is working well despite an ongoing drought, and waves of very hot days replaced by cooler, more “normal” temperatures, with heat spikes in between.  We simply use soaker hoses for 10 to 15 minutes daily on everything but the tomatoes, which may be on an every other day schedule, temperature dependent.

The time when the plants just weave their bounty together; criss-crossing paths.

The time when the plants just weave their bounty together; criss-crossing paths.

The bounty is coming in! Mostly summer squash and the oldest planting of bush beans, with a few extra pounds making their their way to a local food bank. The winter squash are prolific, too, just not ready!  And while scouting around the squash some mini-canteloupes and margarita melons showed themselves!  Always such a thrill to find the hidden gems!  Thinning the prolilfic tomato vegetation is allowing the tomatoes to see the sun and a few are just blushing.

Four spaghetti squash tucked away; and yes, the powdery mildew has started.  Earlier than usual this year, corresponding to the earlier maturity.

Four spaghetti squash tucked away; and yes, the powdery mildew has started. Earlier than usual this year, corresponding to the earlier maturity.

This year has seen a return of the twin (fused) yellow squash; this is the third set in 3 weeks!

This year has seen a return of the twin (fused) yellow squash; this is the third set in 3 weeks!

The dilemma of outwitting our browsing buck continues.  Almost a game in a way; one week we are “safe” from damage, and the next week he lets us know he is smarter, or more desperate, probably both!  While we now have extra netting stretched over plants within the already-netted perimeter, our nemesis continues to jump in and scout around, browsing anything that might poke through the netting.  Damage control is tolerable under the usual circumstances, but now he has earned the reputation of  being “bad, bad, bad, really bad” by succeeding in wiping out the beans that had just recuperated from a setback 2 weeks ago.  Apparently this was achieved by literally walking on the netting!  Maybe I should start tally marks on an extra zucchini.  Deer wins this week’s round.

Netting on netting.  Ambushed! Now the deer doesn't mind walking on netting to reach his treats!

Ambushed! Now the deer doesn’t mind walking on netting to reach his treats!