Today was absolutely beautiful...skies blue, not too hot, a gentle breeze kept me comfortable in the garden.
It's too hot here in July and August to spend much time in the garden, so things run amuck. I spent today weeding the main border and cutting back the lavender, curry, and daisies. We fired up the chipper/shredder to make mulchy compost out of the cuttings, but it gave out after just a few minutes; it's a temperamental yard sale find and we're still trying to get the hang of it.
I never know just when to cut back the shrubs. If I don't do it immediately after flowering, which I never do, it's too late....new buds are forming already. Today, I just started whacking them back, new buds and all. We've still got a couple of months before frost threatens. This curry plant isn't the kind used in cooking but it smells heavenly and ladybugs love it, making it an indispensible resident. It's evergreen (gray-green) and puts forth yellow flowers in spring and fall.
Last spring I noticed moldy spots all over the lavender and curry and was forced to cut them back. I feared they were goners, but they're now as healthy as can be and the curry plant is twice the size it was before I cut it. I intend to cut them back regularly now, not only to preserve their health....I can't spare the room anymore to let them range.
When I first started this garden, I stuck in as many plants as I could. Still, too much bare dirt between them left plenty of room for weeds. Five years later, space is at a premium and I'm less reluctant to chop away. If I'm not in charge Nature is, and takes over and squeezes me and my vegetables out. But I'm not kidding myself, Ma Nature graciously allows me my efforts to control what grows and lets me pretend it's all my doing.
Thoughts wander while tending the garden. I usually don't have a radio on...it's the one time I spend in quiet. Just the birds and bees buzzing, a hummingbird helicoptering above the sage. Once in awhile an airplane drones overhead. Otherwise, a blessed reprieve from the tv, radio, and traffic noise. On those days when my husband works alongside me outside, classic rock blares but doesn't hinder the work.
It hasn't been a good year for tomatoes. They've all been slow to ripen, the plants themselves have been afflicted with one virus or another. The squirrels have helped themselves to plenty! Zucchini...plenty and then some. It's only my second attempt at growing corn, I haven't wanted to devote the space. Last year I planted too much too closely and got nothing except stalks. This year I planted a lot less and we got a few small, very tasty, ears of sweet corn. Maybe next year will be just right.
The pumpkins (all 5 of them) are tiny. I've grown pumpkins effortlessly in the past, just toss them onto the compost pile in fall and ta-da! pumpkin plants in spring. This year the compost pile is in a bit more shade than previously, we'll have to trim back the oaks before next spring, or move the compost pile.
Gophers have gotten in, and they've eaten most of the artichokes and a few of my dahlias. I know there's a snake in the garden and I've been trying to be patient, hoping it's a gopher snake. Artichokes produce best after their first year, so our harvest next spring is going to be a bit short, even if I do plant more now. Which I will, of course.
There's a garden spider, Esmerelda, who has spun her classic web under the bird bath. Every day or so, she snares one of our honeybees. I hate to see them go like this, bees are important....but Esme's got to live, too. At least until a bird spies her and makes a snack out of her. Next year there will be a new Esmerelda, or two or three.
Time to plant the fall/winter garden. I've set out the brassicas; the cabbage and cauliflower, broccoli and brussels sprouts. I've got to sow the spinach, lettuce, radishes, carrots, beets, and peas soon, or no go til spring. Swiss chard has been in repose through summer's heat but is showing signs of springing back, if only we can keep the deer at bay. Onions have seeded themselves nicely, tender shoots easily mistaken for weeds if one is in too much of a hurry. Garlic! Who knew garlic was so easy? One year I planted it in February, months too late by conventional wisdom. Nontheless, it was ready for harvest in June. In years past I planted expensive ornamental Alium bulbs, but elephant garlic puts on quite a show in June, huge lavender bulbs soaring high over most everything else in the garden. This year I'll plant some for harvest, some for show.
After all this work of gardening, what's for dinner? Pizza! Too tired to resist. Back to work tomorrow.