Late Summer Flower Bed Care

Ahhh…those late summer days!  Crickets chirping, hummingbirds swooping by!  We cherish these days.  But, if your flower beds look anything like mine, they have plenty of weeds, dead flowers and brown foliage. Believe it or not, a better looking garden is only about an hour away!

Hydrangeas are the highlight of August!
Hydrangeas are the highlight of August!

With extremely low rain fall the last few months, my garden is looking really crispy.  The daisies, hostas and most of the oriental lilies have gone by.  Many of the lower leaves of the perennials have turned brown.  Perennial garden care is much easier when done more frequently.  Time for a late summer garden face-lift!

This is a shot of one of my garden beds.  You can see how brown the iris have become.  Lots of flower stems, but still plenty of flower action going on.

One of the gardens is looking a bit shabby!
One of the gardens is looking a bit shabby!
After quick spruce up!
After quick spruce up!

Now, look how the bed has been freshened up.  You will need hand clippers, a bucket and a kneeling pad.   Without even edging the garden, I was able to rip out the grass that grew in toward the plants.  Roughing up the dirt around the plants makes the garden look even better.  By clipping all of the stems of the hosta flowers,  the plant can now look reasonably good until frost.

Hosta with flower stems.
Hosta with flower stems.
Hosta after stem removal.
Hosta after stem removal.

Notice how the lily stems detract from the gorgeous hydrangea blooms.  By cutting back each one, you have a more manicured look.

Notice the stems of spent day lily blossoms.
Notice the stems of spent day lily blossoms.
Same spot shown after dead heading.
Same spot shown after dead heading.

As the summer goes on, iris leaves can look terrible and make your garden look very unruly.  Simply pull any dried pieces, they come right out.  Then, with your clippers, cut them so they look like a fan.  Fanning the iris leaves like this can make a huge difference in how your garden looks!

Fanning the iris leaves.
Fanning the iris leaves.

We have a large clump of Shasta daisies in our front garden.  After some rain they have completely flopped on some of the plants.  It was time to cut them down.  No deadheading here.  A quick haircut and then I stuck a mum in front of it to fill the gap.

The daisies have flopped!
The daisies have flopped!
After a quick cleanup!
After a quick cleanup!

Deadheading is very helpful in promoting more blooms.  I have several butterfly bushes or buddleia that really love being trimmed.  My pollinators really love it too!  Just snip above the next flowering shoots.  The plant will then stop having to send energy to that dead blossom.  Perennials start producing seeds after they bloom.  In some cases, you may want more volunteers to come up.  But, some plants should not be allowed to seed out because they quickly become weeds.  Ever have that happen with chives or tall phlox?  Then you know what I mean!

With some plants, such as cone flowers or yarrow, you may want to leave their seeds.  They add a structural element to the garden bed that can last through the winter.  It’s up to you how you want the garden to look!

Encourage more blooms by dead heading Butterfly bushes.
Encourage more blooms by dead heading Butterfly bushes.

I picked up a few clearance perennials at the greenhouse.  When they are under $2, you don’t have a lot to lose.  I found a Penstemon and a Salvia.  Both look a little done but the foliage is healthy.  Just some clipping of the dead flowers and they are ready for the ground.

Two perennials under $2!
Two perennials under $2!
A few blooms left on the discount penstemon!
A few blooms left on the discount penstemon!
Cutting back the bargain penstemon!
Cutting back the bargain penstemon!
Trimming up the Salvia plant.
Trimming up the Salvia plant.

I always scavenge around for cheap plants at the end of the season.  I guess I have the patience for these poor orphaned plants!  One year, I bought a rhododendron for a dollar.  It is now 5′ tall and blooms profusely year after year.  I just make sure that whatever I pick up is hardy for our area and it usually works out.

If you have planted any annual flowers in your garden, it’s a great time for them to really shine through.  Cosmos, zinnias, cleome, they all go until the frost.  These can drastically impact the way the garden looks.

Annuals like zinnias can take center stage!
Annuals like zinnias can take center stage!

Don’t give up on your flower beds yet!  With a little spruce up, you can extend the beauty of the season!  Try just an hour or so, it will make a huge difference.  We still have plenty of warm weather left so get out there and immerse yourself in it.  Did any of you plant any veggies for fall?  I’d be interested in how it went.  Leave a comment and let me know.  Thanks for joining me this week!

Hilary|Everlongardener

 

Plant Your Fall Garden Now!

Do you ever get to the end of the gardening season and wish that the harvest would keep going?  Enter the fall planted garden!  I have recently been getting emails from seed companies that have my name on their mailing list, singing the praises of the fall garden.  If you’ve never done it before, maybe now is the time to consider planting a fall garden.

Fall gardens can provide an abundance for the table!
Fall gardens can provide an abundance for the table!

We recently harvested the potato bed and now have a large empty space.  I always winter over salad greens that I plant in fall as outlined in my post Self-proclaimed Salad Green Queen.  So this year, I made a plan, got my seeds together and planted that potato bed with fall crops.

Kale in the fall garden!
Kale in the fall garden!

Why Plant A Fall Garden?

You may be wondering why it’s even practical to waste all of those seeds in the fall.  After all, how much time do we really have?  Actually, since it’s only mid August, we have several good months of fairly warm weather.  Cooler temps mean better germination and mild weather vegetables thrive on those warm fall days.  Fall varieties also don’t mind the cool nights that we will be having.

This is how we prepare soil around here!
This is how we prepare soil around here!

Plan Your Garden Space

If you have recently cleared an area of a summer crop, this may be the place for your fall garden.  Draw up a plan on paper.  Map it out to see how much room you have.  Sorting through left over seed can help determine what you plant.  Local garden centers may even have seeds on sale at this time.  We usually have plenty of seeds left from our spring planting.  The woes of being a seed addict!

Planting some lettuce seeds.
Planting some lettuce seeds.

What To Plant In Your Fall Garden

Of course, you will not be planting everything in your fall garden.  No tomatoes or melons here!  Think about the plants that you usually sow early in the year.  Plant varieties that can take cooler temperatures and that can be planted as soon as the ground can be worked.  It may be perfect time to grow a quick cover crop to enrich your garden soil.  Some veggies to try in northern areas:

  • broccoli
  • bok choy
  • beets
  • salad greens
  • mustard greens
  • kale
  • radishes
  • carrots
  • peas or shoots
  • scallions
  • chard
  • spinach
  • turnips or turnip greens
Selecting the appropriate seeds.
Selecting the appropriate seeds.

There is a difference between overwintering and winter harvesting.  With overwintering, there may be things you  want to plant simply to get a head-start next spring.  Many greens and even some onions can be covered and preserved right through winter.  When the sun gets higher, these established plants just start growing and are way ahead of everything else.

Winter harvesting means that the plants you have sown in the fall are harvested throughout the winter.  Both methods work well together and with greens can work interchangeably.

Planting The Fall Garden

Your garden bed probably needs little more than a bit of compost or organic fertilizer added.  Smooth the surface of the the garden.  I use my trowel to draw a few lines to allow enough room for each variety.

I rounded up the helpers!
I rounded up the helpers!

Plant seeds according to directions outlined on seed packets.  We have been experiencing some extremely dry weather here.  Be sure to thoroughly water and often.

Early morning watering.
Early morning watering.

As the fall season progresses, keep an eye on the small plants.  When night temperatures fall, you might want to construct a basic hoop and cover with floating row cover fabric.  If you are overwintering your crops, make sure to build your hoop strong enough to withstand winter snow and wind.  This could be made from wood or metal re-bar.  Secure some clear plastic and you have a mini greenhouse!  There’s increasing information out there on season extension.  Eliot Coleman’s book The Winter Harvest Handbook has helped me more than anything.

Row cover is ready when cooler weather hits!
Row cover is ready when cooler weather hits!

In as little as a few weeks, you may be harvesting your first salad greens.  They will be small at first, just give them time.  As you can see, after only three days we have some seedlings pushing up through the warm soil!

Three days later, we have spinach seedlings!
Three days later, we have spinach seedlings!

If you are interested in extending the garden harvest with a fall garden, make sure to comment with any questions that you have.  I would love to hear from you!  Make sure to subscribe in side bar for more season extension updates!  We have had some much needed rain here in Maine along with some warm weather.  Perfect for my fall garden!  A good friend also helped us have our first geocaching adventure!  Have a splendid week!

Hilary|Everlongardener

A Little Vacation From Gardening

Last week we left all worries behind and went camping.  No thoughts of the gardens or anything else, for that matter!  Sometimes you just need to get away on a little vacation.  Camping can be a lot of hard work but it can also be very relaxing to have a total change of scenery!

Sunset on Rangeley lake!
Sunset on Rangeley lake!

After a stunning two and a half hour drive through moose country, we made it to the little town of Rangeley.  Check-in was at one, so we stopped downtown for a pizza then headed back to the park.  We knew we had a walk-in site, but as the park ranger led us down the path, we were glad that we brought the dolly to carry all of our gear in on!

Campsite path.
Campsite path.

I was not sure how the rest of our party was going to real about the long haul in but it was wonderfully secluded.  The kids had a series of paths to run and ride their bikes on in the woods.   Each family had a separate tent site and we had a large common area with picnic tables and fire pits.

The clear, crisp waters of Rangeley lake.
The clear, crisp waters of Rangeley lake.

Some went fishing, some got in the kayaks but some of us just swam and slept in the sun.  The lake was clear, cool and refreshing.  The bottom of the was made up of small rocks.

Mealtime seamed to be top on the priority list!  Of course, we planned the meals but it was all pretty laid back.  The ladies in the group bustled around fixing grand breakfasts of scrambled eggs, cinnamon raisin French toast, blueberry pancakes, bacon and sausage.  Suppers were prepared at an early enough hour to ensure enough daylight for cleanup.  Fresh from the garden beans, potatoes, tender cabbage and lettuce.  Tacos, steak,  corn on the cob, coleslaw, burgers and of course, hotdogs!

Moss, ferns and logs...
Moss, ferns and logs…

Our adventures led us to Coos Canyon in Byron.  It looked like something cut out of the Wild West with its shear rock faces and time-worn river bed.  The guys panned for gold (not very successful but you can buy it at the store across the street!) while some got in the shallow river.

Coos Canyon in Byron, Maine.
Coos Canyon in Byron, Maine.

Just a small tourist attraction in the middle of what seamed to be nowhere!   There was plenty of history to discover along with a store with ice cream, an old school house to tour and a campground.

Directions!
Directions!
Toilet in Byron, Maine!
Toilet in Byron, Maine!

Next stop was Angel Falls a few miles up the road.  We really had a hard time even finding this gem in the woods.  The GPS was not too helpful at this point.  Thankfully I brought along the trusty old Gazeteer!

Back road rambling!
Back road rambling!

After asking for directions several times, we finally got to the parking area.  First, we headed the wrong way, then someone yelled to tell us we were headed the wrong way.  Finally, on the right mountain trail, we made the twenty minute hike up the hill.

Fauna on the hike to Angel falls.
Fauna on the hike to Angel falls.

The scenery was a bit like Dagobah as if Yoda would step out any minute among the rocks and ferns!  Climbing over logs and boulders, we made it to the falls.  Said to be the longest single drop in Maine, falling around 90′. We were all thinking the falls would be really something to see in spring when the waters are high.  Pretty impressive just the same.

Angel falls!
Angel falls!

My husband was not satisfied to end the hike there.  He disappeared and later popped out at the top.  He just had to find out what was above the waterfall and found another waterfall!  I on the other hand, was trying to imagine how we would carry an injured person out of there!

The hike was easy enough for the kids and short enough for the adults.   About a mile in.  We would definitely do it again next time.

Height of Land scenic lookout.
Height of Land scenic lookout.

Back out on the highway we stopped at a scenic lookout called Height of Land in Township D.  Part of the Appalachian Trail, it offers a stunning view.  Perched on the side of Spruce mountain this is a turnoff area that allows you to look out over the vast expanse of mountains and lakes below.

Mooselookmeguntic at Height of Land.
Mooselookmeguntic at Height of Land.

I could have stayed there all afternoon looking at the clouds and their shadows.  But the afternoon was marching on and people needed to be fed.  So back on the road and back to camp.  The guys got the fire going and another evening of laughter, kids playing and eating got underway.

Morning on Rangeley lake.
Morning on Rangeley lake.

On Sunday morning, after a hearty breakfast, we packed up our gear and headed for home.  Saying goodbye was not easy.  I think that I could have stayed a few more nights.  That calm, sparkling lake.  The cool breeze from the pine trees.  Maybe we will go again next year!  Or back to Moosehead, or Baxter State Park, or Mount Blue.  So many beautiful choices!

We came home just in time to see the ‘Casa blanca’ lilies open in all their solid white glory.  There were beans, lettuce and tomatoes to pick.  We even had to water the garden because of lack of rain.  I hope you can escape some of your responsibilities in what’s left of the summer and get away for a bit.  Thanks for coming along on my vacation from gardening!

Hilary|Everlongardener

 

 

Green Beans

Whatever you call them, green beans, string beans or snap beans, when you get fresh, sweet, crunchy beans from your garden, they really can’t be beat!  Homegrown or locally grown beans are far superior to the run-of-the-mill, grocery store beans.  For a dependable crop that will get you closer to growing your own food, leave room for some beans.  One taste and you’ll be hooked!

Beans ready for snapping!
Beans ready for snapping!

Pole Beans

If you need a space saving bean growing option, try pole beans.  These beans need support.  Four-legged tipis, poles or fencing will be needed.  I have an abundance of alders growing on my property so I give my husband the job of cutting some for me.  This year, I used four instead of eight.  The picking gets ahead of me so I thought that I would downsize.

'Romano' pole beans climbing.
‘Romano’ pole beans climbing.

I have been growing ‘Romano’ Italian flat pole beans for years.  Seeds from my friend Rick that have been saved for a long time.  I started growing these when the Japanese beetles took over the more traditional varieties I was used to planting.  I usually stick a few ‘Scarlet Runner’ beans in there for color and diversity.

Scarlet runner bean blossom.
Scarlet runner bean blossom.

There are so many types to try.  ‘Kentucky Wonder’ is an old favorite but you could really get creative with the yard long varieties, multi-colored pods or the purple streaked ‘Rattlesnake’. Fedco even offers a ‘Multicolored Pole Bean Mix’.  This can allow you to grow many kinds in a small space.  For heirloom varieties look up Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  Or for more local seeds, contact Medomak Valley Heirloom Seed Project.

A bean growing in the garden.
A bean growing in the garden.

Bush Beans

For years I did not consider growing bush beans.  After all, my brother-in-law says they take up too much valuable real estate.  I figured the only way to go was pole beans.  They save space, you don’t have to bend to pick them…but then a friend expounded on the virtues of bush beans.  While I wait patiently for my pole beans to produce, I can now be harvesting the bush beans until the pole beans start.  Double harvest and season extension!  More beans than I ever knew what to do with!

Wax beans.
Wax beans.

Types to try include ‘Provider’, ‘Blue Lake’ and ‘Jade’.  Wax beans were developed in the 1830’s and share all of the characteristics of their green counterparts, but the flavors are wonderful!  Some gardeners may even have time for a second planting for fall, although the quality is better with earlier plantings here in Maine.

Bees love to pollinate the bean blossoms!
Bees love to pollinate the bean blossoms!

Planting and Harvest

Beans prefer well drained soil.  They can be grown in raised beds, traditional gardens or even containers.  Bush beans can be sown 1″ deep, 2″ apart and in rows 20-36″ apart.  I’ve even planted them in a whole bed before in a large band.  They seem to like the support of each other.  I read somewhere to plant the seed with the hilum pointing down.  That’s the part of the bean that the sprout will come out of.  I’m not sure if this matters but it’s something to try!

My mothers beans in a container.
My mothers beans in a container.

Pole beans need support.  Make sure your supports are in before planting seed.  We use a heavy crow bar to drive a hole into the ground for each pole and make sure they are sturdy.  They need to be able to stand up to summer wind storms and the weight of the vines.  Plant 1″ deep and 3″ apart.  Germination is best when temperatures exceed 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Gorgeous beans!
Gorgeous beans!

Mexican bean beetles can be a problem.  Japanese beetles tend to skeletalize bean leaves, leaving the plants in a weakened state.  I’ve never dealt with Mexican bean beetles but I have had success with hand picking Japanese beetles.  This year they haven’t been a problem in our garden and we are thankful for the relief.

Baby green bean!
Baby green bean!

Harvest green beans anytime they are at desired size.  Picking when plants are wet is not advised because plants and pods can become rusty.  Keep them picked to encourage new baby beans to set.  Store in refrigerator for a few days in a sealed bag.

Just enough beans for supper!
Just enough beans for supper!

We like to eat beans raw, straight from the garden.  They can be steamed, boiled, cooked with bacon, deep-fat fried, sautéed or roasted.  Green bean casseroles have always been a favorite.  To preserve, freeze, can or pickle them.  Nothing like cracking open a jar of dilly beans on a cold winter day!  I grew up on them and make them when I can.

Planting the 'Provider' beans.
Planting the ‘Provider’ beans.

Green beans are one of the easiest and prolific vegetables to grow.  We are always thrilled with our first beans from the garden.  Even if you have a small space, make room for some beans.  Saving seed is a snap too.  Just allow some of the pods to fully develop and harvest in the fall.  Allow to dry.  Shell beans and dry beans are grown in the same ways but seeds need to develop and fully dry.

'Provider' bean blossom.
‘Provider’ bean blossom.

I hope that I’ve given you some ideas for next years garden.  The summer is going faster than I would like but it always does.  The crickets are chirping and the strong smell of the Oriental lilies is wafting through the open window.  Time to savor these moments!  Until next week, thanks for giving this a read!

Hilary|Everlongardener