Tag Archives: edible landscape

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.

 

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Solstice Transitions

June is still maneuvering its way through mercurial weather, with increasing hints of true summer, now that we’ve crossed the official June Solstice date.  A far cry from last year, when temperatures were hot, long before summer, we have continual cycles of cool and warm, a few thunderstorms.  Although we’ve had weather more reminiscent of the ’80s – 90’s, strong gusty breezes seem to be present more than usual, so plants and soil dry out more quickly than anticipated.

It has been a bit rough getting our row of lettuce to proliferate until this last week; a weekend of extreme heat after 7 days of rain seemed to confuse it.  Then our local young bambi-deer came through to chomp down on the new seedlings that had been acquired to supplement the laggards.  Finally, they’ve sturdied themselves.  Meanwhile the mesclun mix and radishes have finished their acts, stretching themselves up in their time-to-bolt looks.  Since we got too busy to properly thin the radishes and greens early on, there was a bumper crop, with plenty to give away!

Changes are afoot for this bountiful garden and homesite, as life evolves, and it appears that I will be moving away to another residence, still local.  The heart calls to co-habitate with my significant other! His place is a bit larger than mine, but it will be a tight squeeze.  He has a very large back yard that has been minimally attended to until my presence in his life 😉   But, we won’t be attempting to rehabilitate or redesign it too much at this point; this may be a transition move, as we look for a different house that will be a bit larger.  The blueberry devas have definitely been busy improving the bounty over the last couple of years of my working with them.  Large, luscious berries this year!

Hence, this year our CG is smaller, maybe 55% of its usual size, with part of it tarped over for weed control.  Once some squash and melons are established, they can meander over the top of it.  Our usual participants are also either leading busier lives, or less inclined to participate for various reasons, so it is an appropriate time to scale down, and let part of the garden soil rest.  This has been another concept I’ve known needed to be implemented at some point, and this is the perfect opportunity!  Ideally, the planted portion this year could be left to rest next year, and the fallowed side this year can be planted.

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A misty day progressing, although Solstice was pleasantly sunny. Still in spring/summer transition, the familiar tomato red jackets, and jug covers for emerging melons and squash are present and keeping the youngsters warm and protected.

Then, to find a renter for my place, who loves to garden!

Real rain arrived…

winter Solstice 2015

It’s the season for growing rain puddles!

Just realizing the last post requested some real rain; wow, four months ago!  We moved into most of fall without substantial moisture, and then it started to be a little more serious in mid-November.  It joined us in Hawaii, too; the Big Island having one of its wettest years.  Weather shifts everywhere!

Frosty and frigid temperatures came by during early December, making the lettuce and chard stress; frost wilt has an interesting look.  A move into the December deluges we have going now, is balancing out the summer drought, but required a harvest of the lettuce, which was giving up due to a bit of rot and slug problems.  The beets are surviving the fluctuating surface ponds, and the chard is in some sort of stasis…

It is, after all, the season of rest now that we have reached Winter Solstice in our part of the world.

Wishing everyone a bountiful, healthy, peaceful, and enjoyable holiday season!

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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!

 

Come Together…CG 2015 is underway

It’s always a great feeling when all the seeding and planting is finished, and can announce that the CG is “open as usual.”  This year it has been hard to assign the right time to put everything in, given the incredibly warm and dry spring we’ve had.  March, April, and May have seemed to be intertwining months, with no real differentiation in their feel of time.  In April it felt like it was almost time to plant, but the calendar reminded me that tomatoes are best not put in before mid-May.  And so it is, and the tomatoes have their red spring jackets on.  Because, inevitably it may be warm for weeks, but when you get ready to plant tomatoes, the temperatures cool down a bit.  Variability is the name of the game.

Finally underway!

Finally underway!

As of today, the spaghetti squash once again wins the race for first emergence of all the squash, melons, and cukes!

Since our precipitation has come primarily in the form of spitting drizzle, it was necessary to wet down the soil with an oscillating sprinkler a few days ahead of planting.  We were rewarded with more ease of fertilizaer and soil preparation, and the emergence of tiny lettuce, beet, and radish seedlings in record time.  The cooler weather has actually been a boon for transplanting, but is deceiving in that the breezy, dry conditions require more watering than thought.

Neighbor's artistic use of bamboo at back of our property to confuse deer.

Neighbor’s artistic use of bamboo at back of our property to confuse and deter the deer; at over 8 feet high, we are hoping it works!

While awaiting the sprouting of squash, cucumber, and melon seeds, it’s time to contemplate the next phase of deer defense, as they have found their way into the house yard through the few open spots of the back area.

In spite of our overcast, cool, yet very dry weather, the bees are actively buzzing amidst the Spanish lavender!

In spite of our overcast, cool, yet very dry weather, the bees are actively buzzing amidst the Spanish lavender!

Hope your gardens are emerging and growing well, wherever you are!

Winter bypass

Winter (for Western Oregon) showed up in brief spurts in mid-December, in January, and seemed fairly negligible in February, leaving many of us wondering what is in store.  Many of us love the sunnier and unusually warm days that have presented themselves, but it does not bode well for water availability in summer, since there is essentially no snowpack in the mountains right now.

Spring arrived early, like mid-February.  Usually not this many plants showing so much growth, and March required a lot of pruning!

Spring arrived early, like mid-February. Usually not this many plants showing so much growth, and March required a lot of pruning!

February now goes down in the weather records as the driest and warmest month Oregon has ever experienced.  We welcome the next episode or rain scheduled for tomorrow, to give us allergy sufferers some brief respite.  The air itself looks a bit brown, which is really unheard of in February and March.  Undoubtedly, we are very grateful not to endure the harsh weather patterns in the eastern states, yet it all seems a bit surreal.  To spend the last half of February in warmer Costa Rica (which had its own atypical weather patterns happening), then return home to find I needed to start pruning everything, was a bit of a time warp.

Checking in with a local beekeeper a week or so ago, he wasn’t too happy about the weather, although there are plenty of blossoms out for the active bees.  Nights are still very cold, and he is concerned about any potential cold snap over the next 2 months that would kill many bees because their physiology has changed to warm weather activity, after which they don’t adapt quickly/well to sudden temperature changes.  And bees are a precious commodity anywhere, so we’ll have faith that this will be fine.  My Spanish lavender plants have overwintered better than last year, but having a sudden, brief deep freeze in mid-December, just after a warm fall, really tests their limits.

Wandering around in shorts and sandals for a couple of hours the past weekend I marveled at the warmth.  By February we knew everything would probably bud early, if no cold weather arrived, since some of us noticed daffodils and tulips pushing out of the soil in late December. There is nothing to stop a brief winter blast from hitting us anytime into April, of course, and that could present some issues, both for plants and for bees.

Some gardeners are getting their veggie beds ready for planting the early lettuce, spinach, etc., but my brains aren’t there yet, since we tend to enjoy warmer weather produce.  Also, it’s one thing at a time, and right now that thing is more pruning, and feeding blueberries, kiwis, strawberries, roses, and such.  That will be a few evenings and weekends of time.

Today, March finishes with more typical weather, just in time for the fickle month of April.  An imminent thunderstorm and a cold front of rain moving through right now; almost fifteen degrees cooler than yesterday!  And rainbows brightening the clouds when least expecting it.

Bees, get back to your hives!  Spring has sprung…

Newly leafed and blossomed apple enjoying no pruning by deer; we'll see how long!

Newly leafed and blossomed apple enjoying no pruning by deer; we’ll see how long!