Every day when we get up, after my spouse and I have fortified ourselves with caffeine, we go outside for a slow saunter through the vegetable garden. Today I’m taking you with us.
And just for more fun, I’m going to try squeezing this post into a #sixonsaturday format because I love mingling with other gardeners.
1 — Butterflies
Most days there is a butterfly or two to marvel at as we proceed on our stroll. Recently we spotted the first monarch butterfly we’ve seen here, which I wrote about in my last post. Click here if you missed that. With the new butterfly garden we’re developing, I’ve become more focused on observing which kinds we have here and identifying them. I was particularly hoping to see some of the “blues” like the acmon blue, and this week I was delighted to spot one–at least I think it’s an acmon blue. If anyone knows definitively, let me know. My Seek app wasn’t sure. 😉 It’s a small butterfly, but easy to spot against the warm tones of the coreopsis.
I brought home some additional butterfly nectar and host plants last week and set them on the porch. Moments later, a Gray Hairstreak was sipping from the yarrow. And I was delighted to see a Lorquin’s Admiral on a buddleia recently.
2 — Veggie Garden
The organic vegetable garden is having a modest year, which I wrote about last time, but at long last things are taking shape and producing. I just pruned back my winter squash a bit to encourage the growth and ripening of the existing fruits. I’ve never done this before, but Monty Don suggested it, so I’m giving it a go. (I couldn’t find a link for that episode, but similar info is here on The Spruce.)
Since we have to grow our vegetables in gopher-protected raised beds, the space for growing corn is limited. Corn is wind-pollinated and a large patch is recommended for good kernel development. So we do a work-around for that, and hand-pollinate. It’s actually rather fun. I recommend watching this video for instructions.
Our peas and beans had to be replanted many times, due, we think, to a buck deer, hungry birds and earwigs. All the creatures seem especially hungry this year, possibly because of the ongoing drought. All food crops, including fruit trees, are on drip irrigation, but the dry air and soil seems to suck away the moisture and most are peaky-looking and needing rain. Let’s hope we get a good soaking this winter.
3 — Technically Fruits, but basically just a continuation of the veg garden
There are also the usual zucchini, cucumbers, chard, tomatoes, yacon, tree collards, potatoes, artichokes, and probably some other veg I’m forgetting. (We’ve got a lot of irons in the fire, hence the “compulsive” admission.)
4 — Going Nuts About a Squirrel — luckily it doesn’t harvest the Asian Pears
We planted our oldest English walnut about twenty years or so ago and it is doing well and has a voluminous set of nuts this year. They must be getting close to ripe, as the resident squirrel has been sampling a great many of them — the evidence of rampant snacking is all over the ground. I can only hope that it gets too fat to climb the tree, so we can actually harvest a few for ourselves. 😉 If the squirrels are winning the walnut game in your garden, you may like this funny and amazing video of a backyard squirrel maze created by former NASA and Apple engineer Mark Rober. Yeah, no wonder we’re not getting any of the nut harvest. Squirrels are scary amazing.
The Asian Pears do well here and are just starting to ripen. They are perhaps my favorite fruit that we can grow here–so juicy, crisp and delicately sweet with a hint of anise. The trees are beautiful too, providing pretty blossoms in spring, cool shade in summer, and golden autumn color as well. When harvesting, be aware that the yellow jacket wasps enjoy them too. I always wear gloves when picking and check first where I’m grasping.
5 — Starting to Save Seeds
Some of the veggies and flowers are going to seed now and this year I’ve decided to make an effort (again) to start saving seed–at least the easy ones. Saving seed from the California poppies, as in my last post, got me re-inspired, nudged on by blogger Going Batty In Wales in her comment on my post. With a streak of the survivalist in my veins, I always like to be prepared, and it seems a good time to spruce up my seed-saving skills. Some of them are so easy, it’s really silly of me not to, just to save money. Going Batty In Wales recommends the following site for seed saving info and heirloom seeds: Real Seeds. For those of us on the Americas side of the pond, a good resource is Seed Savers Exchange. They’ve been doing amazing work preserving heirloom varieties since 1975. There are some terrific educational articles there, as well as heirloom varieties for sale. Scroll down on this page to the Seed Saving section. If any readers wish to mention any other sites with free and excellent seed-saving info along with heirloom seeds for sale, feel free to put in comments. There may be a spam block turned on in the comments section which may not allow links, but do what you can and I will remedy it.
For beginners, just know that hybrid veggies usually do not come true from seed, and that fruit tree seeds, like an apple from the store, may not produce a tree with the apple type that you were expecting. First of all, fruit trees in nurseries are often grafted on a root-stock for size control and disease resistance. Also, apples are the result of pollination between two parents, so growing a seed from the fruit will likely not produce the same exact flavor. It might be terrific! Or it might be ho-hum:
“As a result of all of this, most apples grown from seed produce apples that are duds — small, tasteless, bitter, etc. The apple may be edible, but not anything you would want to eat (although these apples can be good for hard cider production!). The chances of getting the next wonderful apple variety from seed are 1 in 250,000! This is why apple trees are grafted or cloned to get an exact copy of the parent.” Cited from this article. Click here.
To save seeds from your veggies, start with heirloom varieties. Seed Savers (or similar sites) will get you started with the easy stuff as you learn more. Seed packets usually say if they are heirloom seeds.
6 — The Quintessential Summer Flower — the sunflower
And would summer be complete without sunflowers?!
Hope those of us who need rain will get it, and those in intense heatwaves will get some cooling relief soon! And thanks to the blogger The Propagator, for collecting all of us gardeners together as we share six things from our gardens. ~lisa
Here’s a link to the Home page if you are reading this from an email or WordPress reader and want to see it from your browser, where it will probably look better. 🙂 The-Compulsive-Gardener.com