Thursday, September 14, 2023


 Remember when I said this tall Overdam grass was grating on my nerves?  Well, I pulled it out.

So much better!

I had some other ideas for more drapey grasses, but after looking at this with no grass for a few days I decided I needed a really, really low grass.  And I have some of that.  So I dug up some Carex Ice Dance and planted it in the blank spots.

This is a very vigorous grass.  I bought three of them a couple of years ago and now I have them in eight different spots.  They divided really easily and are impossible to kill.

This is what it will look like next summer.
Problem solved.
I replanted the upright Overdams along our split rail fence in another dry creek bed where their pillar-like uprightness doesn't look quite so jarring.

Work to be Done

Back in July I did a post on how well the dry river bed garden had filled in this year.  Last year, some of the grasses were slow to respond.  I divided a few hoping to rejuvenate them.  I relocated some that were in too much shade.  Just about the time they began to look lush and put out their beautiful seed heads it was time to cut them down.  That is a process that I have resisted each autumn.  But it really is a necessary step.  The first winter I left the grasses standing.  In the spring it was a horrible mess.  The damp, dead grass did not pull loose like day lily foliage and it was also nearly impossible to cut with shears or any other battery powered tool I have.  Lesson learned.  Now the grasses get cut down the first of October before the tree leaves fall and before the frost knocks down the grass.

The River Bed in July
This is the first year that I have begun to look forward to cutting this down.  It beginning to look pretty wild and wooly.  There is a lot of work to be done.

...and today
There are a few things that remain uncut.  Namely the Butterfly Bushes, the Button Bush, four Elderberry bushes and a Ninebark.

All of the tall grasses need to be cut close to the ground to discourage rodents from nesting in them and destroying their roots.

The Coleus have almost completely outgrown their container, but the Heuchera in the whiskey barrels are actually evergreen and will only require some cleanup in the spring.  I will need to keep them protected with some wire and perhaps a frost cover because while the deer leave them alone during the summer, "green" foliage in the middle of winter will be a rare treat.  This spring they found one I left unprotected and ate it down to the roots.  It took three or four months for it to recover, but it survived.

The Hostas are still small and can easily be trimmed with scissors or pruners, but the grasses have to be contained in a twine or bungy cord as best we can and cut with the Stihl Kombi power scythe

So the days are numbered.  We will start with the rest of the landscape, removing the many daylilies and other tired perennials.  At this point any remaining daylilies are just piles of dried grasses and I have continued tearing them out by hand as I start with the worst looking areas nearest the house first.

The giant Black Eyed Susan has continued to look nice despite flopping over.  I don't remember an year where the BES flowers have looked fresh more than two or three weeks, and this plant has been putting on a beautiful show since the first week of August.  Otherwise I would have cut it back weeks ago.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Winding Down

At this point in the raised bed garden I have six beds empty and mulched.  I keep up with the weeds, and admire the beautiful soil.  All ready for next season.

But there is still food in here.  The pole beans rallied.  You can see that the yellow Monte Gusto beans on the left look a little haggard.  But the Seychelles are deep green and producing well again.  I just kept them watered during the hot spell and they began to flower again.  Even the yellows are beginning to flower a little.

And we have as many peppers as we can eat.

The Clarimore zucchini continues to flower.  There are fewer male flowers so I am losing about half of the squash to poor pollination.  Still plenty.

The herb bed had a blank spot in it so I put a packet of nasturtium seeds in.  Last year I go no nasturtiums at all.  So I am enjoying these.

This is the first year I tried Dara (wild carrot) from seed.  I only got two plants.

But I love these so next year I will try again and be more careful with them.

The Zinnias are gorgeous.

More of these next year too.

I did not adjust the saturation on the above photo.  These Sayonara dahlias are even more vibrant in person.  It sort of overwhelms the cell phone camera.

The Dahlia patch is looking stellar.
Sometimes the cool nights can tweak the colors a bit.  Below is a Lady Darlene which is usually red and yellow.  This one is fuchsia and powder pink.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Cutting Out the Ugly

 That's what I've been doing.  We are on the brink of tearing out a lot of the garden for autumn, but for now I just start each day with a muck bucket and a pair of snips and I trim out anything that doesn't look nice.  That could mean anything from just deadheading Dahlias to lopping off a wheelbarrow load of Sunflower tops and overgrown Cosmos.  We have just reached the end of a two week dry stretch which culminated in several hot, oppressively humid days.  We are now entering a break of cool weather with some rain and I won't have to worry so much about watering annuals to keep them looking nice.

The grasses in the dry river bed are heading out.  Above is a Pennisetum Foxtrot.  This is the second season for this plant and it has finally filled out and reached its full height of four feet and is putting out these fun little fox tails.

One of my stand out Dahlias this year is the new to me "Ice Tea" which always has a dozen or more blooms on it.

It began flowering as a rather monochrome, ball style dahlia, but later in the season it is showing some good, dark eyed color and looser, decorative form.

Another favorite is the Mai Tai (above)  This is a big, impressive plant with close to ten blooms at a time.  Not bad for a first year single tuber.

Summer's End

I am deep into planning for next year's garden.  I have my layout finalized and am already placing seed orders for things that are available now and going through my inventory to make sure I have everything set for next year.   I use a spreadsheet and create icons for each of my containers, plant supports and required row covers so I know I have the proper equipment to carry out and support the plan I've made.

 I have a list of fertilizers and such that I need to restock so I can budget for that in the spring. I have placed orders for spring bulbs and those will be arriving the end of this month so I will be able to enjoy planting again.  At the same time that I am cleaning up the detritus from this year I will be putting new life into the soil for a fresh, new spring.

Friday, September 1, 2023

...of Pickled Peppers

 Peter Piper Picked a Peck 

of Pickled Peppers.  

And when you have a peck o' peppers, its time to get pickling.

I am using my Havasu peppers for refrigerator pickles.  Now last year I ended up eating these fresh with hummus.  They have a nice thick wall and were not particularly hot.  Their cone shape makes them perfect to slice up for scooping dip.   This year they are hotter and I haven't enjoyed them fresh.  Last year I planted them intermixed with Sweet Banana Peppers.  There is a rumor out there that if you plant your sweet peppers and your hot peppers together, that the sweet will be hotter and the hots will be sweeter.  That would certainly be true if the plants cross pollinated and you planted the seeds. This year it is probably just the weather, but that is how rumors get started.  Maybe next year I will buy another pack of Banana Peppers and see...

Anyway, I have all of these (too) hot peppers and I had intended to try pickling them for my husband.  I chose a random recipe off the internet which used ingredients I already had on hand and hit paydirt on the first try.  These peppers are awesome pickled and they have been a big hit here for snacking with friends and neighbors for the past few weeks.  From the beginning I put a little twist on it of my own.
My ingredient list for one pint is:
1/2 cups white vinegar
1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon of pink peppercorns
Mix the ingredients and bring to a boil.  Pour the liquid into a jar of peppers sliced in spears or rings.

I forgot the sugar in the first photo.  Sugar is very important.  The brine is wonderfully sweet, then you get the fresh crunch of pepper and finally it socks it to you with the hhhhhot.  The amount of hot depends on how much of the seeds and pith you remove when you are slicing your peppers.

The addition of Brazilian Pink Peppercorns was an inspired choice based on a pickle kit I've used in the past for dilly beans.  I can't get that mix anymore and was thinking I would just recreate it.  So I bought pink peppercorns.  I haven't gotten around to trying the horseradish beans and I have all these peppercorns...

I make these as refrigerator pickles because I like the fresh crunch.  There is no reason why you couldn't water bath can these to make them shelf stable.  I feel that the real merit of refrigerator pickles whether they are peppers or dill spears or dilly beans is that they are garden fresh and oh so crunchy.  My husband has declared these the tastiest peppers ever and they are so easy.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Moving Things

 It is finally getting to the time of year where I can move perennials around again.  The weather has been mild and we just got a good soaking rain.  Its time to start dealing with this blank slate.

The bed to the right had become quite crowded and was being used as a temporary storage place for a couple of things. Over the past couple of years, if I had something that I wasn't sure what to do with I would stick it there.  Some things worked and will stay.  Some things worked too well and outgrew their space.  I decided to start with the Peony which became too tall and wide to look right up front.  I will also be relocating the apple tree next to it and there was a Candytuft that was being crowded out so that came out too.

I put the Peony in front of the corner post which will come in handy of the Peony gets very tall and needs to be anchored to something, and the Candytuft went in front of a rock (to the left)

I also marked the center spot where I will put the apple tree and began working up the soil where I want to reseed the lawn.  Next year I will consider some low growing color for the front edges.  I call the area to the right "the spring garden" because there are a lot of Daffodils and Primrose and the Peony was also an early bloomer.  I usually plant Marigolds along the front to the left, but I want some perennial summer color in front of the green shrub backdrop on both sides.  That's just a whole lot of plain ole green.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

The End of Sweet Corn

This week I picked the last dozen ears of sweet corn and froze it.  It held well on the stalk, but was beginning to lose a bit of its sweetness.  It was still very good, but more ordinary than what I like to put on the table as "corn on the cob".  I again got four dozen from one raised bed.  I had thinned the plants down to about 65 plants.  Some plants tried to produce a second ear but they were later and didn't amount to anything so I removed them from the plants.  There were also some plants that just didn't produce early enough and those ears (about a dozen) were late to the pollination game so I composted them as well.

You can see that these ears are quite mature.  We prefer them that way because the flavor is more developed.  The pollination was absolutely excellent.  We had eaten three dozen ears as corn on the cob, which was as much corn as we wanted for several weeks.  The husks on these was actually beginning to fade to tan.  Picked at the last minute.  This stage is perfect for cutting off the ears and went right into the freezer.  They say this variety, Gotta Have It, and sH2 super-sweet hybrid variety, retains its flavor in the refrigerator for three weeks.  That would have been an interesting experiment had my fridge not been full of cucumbers!  From Gurney's website:

Gotta Have It has tender kernels with a rich, oh-so-sweet flavor and an incredibly long shelf life – over 3 weeks when refrigerated in its husk! The kernels are slow to get starchy, and they retain their sweet flavor even when frozen. The flavor holds up for a wide range of maturity, so you have a longer window of harvest than with many other corn varieties. The 7-1/2 ft. tall plants are shorter than the average corn, but just as strong as field corn. If given enough room, it will produce up to 3 ears per stalk. It's a very productive variety.

I have heard that farmstand corn in our area is between 70 cents and a dollar an ear this year.  Here in my garden it certainly was a good year for sweet corn.