My summer garden concession speech…

Man, this was not my year for yardening! The weather was either too hot, or too rainy, or just too much. I was reminded of my limitations in time and body this summer as I undertook the new bed under the walnut. The data gathered from this experiment was very useful! You CAN grow vegetables under a walnut tree! However, said tree needs to be pruned to let *some* sunlight through, and I didn’t really get around to that. I did get some beans, a cuke or two, and a squash or three of it, but I’ve decided to let it go back to grass next year. I’m going to continue to fill in around the walnut with all the different hosta I can find and then in the spring rake out my beautiful dirt and seed it with a great shade grass. A recent trip to the dead rack (the dregs of the end of season stuff) at Horrock’s yielded four new varieties of hosta that I don’t have at $6.50 apiece, so I’ll be planting those in this weekend. I am ALWAYS down for more hosta, so if you’re splitting some and have too many, please consider the Farm at the NSSL in your charitable giving plan. Blue-greens and large leafed varietals are underrepresented in the current mix. I’m also going to add in some other shade-loving flowers, and make that the spot for a frame hammock and a good book next summer.

The bales. Oh, how the bales disappointed me this year. I truly did not think that having them on their sides, rather that upright, would make that much difference. I mean, the basic premise is the same, right? Right? I guess not. ALL of the tomatoes out front performed poorly and I cannot blame the plants I got from Schuring Greenhouses, they were good plants. I think by having them on their sides I violated a cardinal principle in bale gardening, keep the straws upright so water can get through the bale effectively. Live and learn, but again, this is where half-stepping gets you in the hind end. I also learned that having them on their side like that encouraged me to overfeed w/the nitrogen to get the decomposition started. The rains came and that washed down the berm and made all the grass SO VERY HAPPY to the detriment of my daylillies. Coneflowers didn’t seem to mind, though.

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IMG_20180812_122818.jpgI’m going out there this weekend and pulling any tomato plants that still appear to have a chance and throwing them in dirt in the raised beds. It will be a triage move and a last ditch hope for salvaging some of the tomatoes. The San Marzanos in the barrel planter are happy, and they’re in dirt. Next year I think I’ll skip tomatoes in bales. The peppers did very well, so I may reuse this year’s bales for peppers again next year, and I’ll put a couple of bales in front of the garden to experiment with some other crops. I won’t be doing a massive installation, though.

I lost a couple blueberries this summer, and I have three more to plant this weekend. I’d planned to put them in the back corner, but after walking out the distance from the walnut tree, I just don’t want to take the risk of juglone affecting them. I’m going to be removing the bales from the front bed and creating a line of blueberries, something of a blueberry hedge, if you will. I think once I remove the bales, that will a) create space, b) allow more light, c) allow better use of water resources, and d) make a prettier look facing the sidewalk.

I still plan to keep the garlic in the front bed, I couldn’t move all of it if I tried, because it’s been out there for probably 8 years now. I’m moving the lilac from the awkward space it currently has behind the grow box, and putting that in the front bed. I imagine with more space and light, it will flourish and become the beauty on the scale it was meant to be. It’s been soldiering along, but the new location will give it what it needs. I didn’t cut back the random Rose of Sharon starts that popped up in the front bed, and oddly enough, these are a beautiful pink. I didn’t plant pink ones at any point, only the white ones. I’ll take ’em, though.

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My plan for the back corner next year is tomatoes in the black fabric grow pots. I probably won’t do potatoes next year, they’re inexpensive at the store and I don’t eat enough of them to really go all out again. The herb beds in that back corner is on the slate for next spring, just as soon as the dirt can be worked.

Some of you are on my Facebook and followed the saga of my tattling neighbor who called the city about my overgrown sidewalk, rather than come talk to me like a decent neighbor would. Thanks to the BSE and Gadgetron, we have thoroughly uncovered the sidewalk. We threw the sod that came from this project grass side down in front of the porch in that little bit of yard. It looks a mess right now, with big dirt clumps all over, but I’m going to let it settle in over the winter and then next spring I’m thinking to plant Alpine strawberries in it. You can see from the photos how deep we had to excavate after 18 years. I wasn’t wasting that dirt.

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My sunflowers were a particular bone of contention with their happy sprawling over the sidewalk. I restrained them with old election sign wires. I’m taking them out as soon as the inspection is done.

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I’ve enjoying having a lot of basil out the back door this year. I also did basil among the tomatoes in the barrel planter and it remains VERY happy and productive. I’ll very likely have pots of annual herbs out the back door again next year for quick clips. A few weeks back I planted a few pots of cilantro and oh, they’re happy. I’m exploring my options on freezing a batch of chimichurri and a few other cilantro-based sauces I enjoy.

It’s not been the summer of bounty I’d hoped for, but the fact remains that anytime spent outside digging in the dirt is a pleasure. I learned a lot and I’ll put those lessons to use. Now on to the winter garden! I plan to use my cold frame to keep lettuce and other greens on my plate all winter, and I have quite a bit of the floating row cover to put over my hoop beds once it gets colder. Don’t think a garden blog has to end in the fall. There are root vegetables and all manner of leafy greens to be had all winter with the right amount of care.

Author: Amy Crabtree Campbell

figuring it out as I go, since 1967

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