Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Weeds of Summer

I always start with a relatively weed-free garden, then as the season progresses and things are up and growing, the weeds make a strong comeback. I read about a gardener who doesn't bother much with weeding once her plants are knee-high or taller. Her reasoning is sound - tall plants prevent sunlight from reaching the weeds below and a bunch of tall plants crowd out any chance of weeds taking over - but the reality of it happening is flawed.

Weeds have a magnificent way of surviving no matter what we do to them. I think purslane (Portulaca oleracea) would survive a nuclear blast. Common lambsquarters (Chenopodium album) loves rich soil so much that it doesn't need an invitation to sprout in every new flower bed and vegetable patch I prepare. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), a common perennial weed, with its underground creeping stems doesn't care in the least about what it's creeping up on. Let Canadian thistle (Cirsium arvense) get established and you might have to dig 20 feet down to find its taproot. What will you dig that out with, eh?

It's all a part of growing stuff isn't it? You could stop gardening altogether and let the weeds take over. I have three hosta beds that I've neglected all summer, I had plans of transplanting everything to a new home, but then I'd just have to worry about weeding that area too. It seems to me that when left to their own accord, both weeds and what we grow as ornamentals get along together just fine. We're the ones who don't like their living arrangements.

Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense) is considered an invasive weed in Pennsylvania. This particular clump is managed as ornamental grass in my wife's herb garden.

This strand of bindweed is havin a lot of fun vining up a large clump of zebra grass. I haven't noticed any bud formation so I'm not sure if it's wild morning glory, or some other member of the flowering convolvulus family. Weed lady and author Nancy Gift ("A Weed By Any Other Name") allows this perennial vine to climb on its own personal trellis.

The weeds of summer are green, and that color alone makes them an important part of my total gardening experience. Someone said "weed it and reap" and that's what I do.

About a week ago, Felder Rushing paid us a quick visit.

This is his idea of a traveling garden. Pretty cool ain't it?
(Click on the photos for a larger view.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Double Eights

It's finally starting to feel like summer here in western Pennsylvania. It never does until temps reach the high 80s (it was 88 today) and humidity levels hang around 60% or so. Not quite as bad as summers in Mississippi or Kentucky where July and August bring "humidity so thick you can lick it."

The veggie garden is shaping up to be one of the best we've had in years. It was more work this year, what with having to replace a bunch of pest infected topsoil (overwintering cucumber beetles). We rotate, and it helps, but it don't necessarily keep a veggie garden pest and/or disease resistant. Even buying "disease resistant" varieties is often no guarantee.

I roll with the punches. For instance, the Japanese beetles are having their way with some of my hollyhocks and roses, but at least we got to see most of the blooms on both and for the most part, the beetles are stayin out of the garden (Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! patrol). It's a compromise I decided I'd live with when I chose to quit using chemicals (this is my fourth chemical-free season).

I think we're beginning to see healthier soil since we stopped using pesticides and herbicides. And that's well and good, and as it should be. We just pile on composted leaves and add a small truck load of mushroom compost every other year or so, Nature does the rest.

I hope y'all's gardens are producing as you hoped. Enjoy your harvest, and if you have extra, share it with someone less fortunate.


Sweet Pickles (you're the best cook and canner in the land hon!)



Ripening 'Sun Gold' cherry tomatoes.

Fruit or flower?

Can you identify this bug?

So, you want to be a school bus driver?
(Graphic artist: Mort Drucker)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Say Nothin' Saturday

Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"A fanciful or fantastic device, object, or creation especially in writing or art." (Or gardening.)

Ain't it funny how sometimes what you're thinkin of doin was just recently done by somebody else at about the same time you were goin to do it? I've been meaning to post about whimsy in the garden for some time because it's so much of my identity as a gardener. I would probably feel lost and out of place in a formal garden. Although I admire their form and function, such gardens bring to mind a monarchy, and I don't garden by such an authority.

I was ridiculed once many years ago for putting a brug in a tire planter. It didn't seem to mind its whimsical home and bloomed beautifully. The one in the above photo is a pass-along plant from Tennessee Gardening Coach and fellow garden blogger Tina Ramsey. Its home is a little more classy, but still whimsical.

Pictured above, whimsy is easily seen in a fake poinsettia. Some readers might recognize it as the plant I wrote about some time ago. (A certain master gardener bought it and mistook it as genuine.) It's hanging on a fun rustic trellis I made out of weed trees. Click on the picture and you'll notice a fake vine too.

Whimsy on steroids at last year's Philly Flower Show.

This last photo was taken a few days ago. I think someone, or some thing, was tryin to make off with my whimsical flower pot podium.