October 3, 2013

The Garden at Change of Season

I've been admiring some beautiful gardens around the internet. And I truly mean admire, because the ones I've seen are well tended. Me? Well, the honest truth is that my garden is a mess.

My beds are overgrown with morning glories, Bermuda,
and other grasses,so that the beds all seem to run together.

It's been a challenging year for gardening with seemingly nonstop rain, no sun, and mud topping the list. Then there's been poor germination (too much rain?) and scant harvest (too little sun?) I've also lost this year's battle in my ongoing war with wire grass aka Bermuda grass. I started early with heavy mulch, like about 8 inches in the asparagus bed, for example, but the wiregrass spread right out over the top of and took over.

Jerusalem artichokes blooming. Morning glories
and mature summer squash brighten the foreground.

Then there's the ants. If I was in the chocolate covered ant business, we'd be millionaires. They are always a problem but worse this year. These are the small biting kind and their bites hurt and leave welts. I'd say every time I was out in the garden I got at least half a dozen bites. It took a lot of the fun out of it for me.

Wild muscadines. We haven't had these since our first year here. I didn't get
many because the goats eat the vines. The rest grew too high up the trees.

The summer harvest was not abundant which has meant I've done very little canning this year. But, we had enough enough for daily eating for the two of us. I won't complain about that.

All my corn has done well, thanks to plenty of nitrogen this year. I previously mentioned that this has been an abundant year for compost, of which the corn benefited greatly.

Japanese Hull-less popcorn. Probably not a year's worth,
but I'm thankful for what I have!

I've had excellent pollination with almost all kernels developed, also, very few problems with disease and insects.

Earth Tones Dent Corn, seed from R.H.Shumway.
How could I resist anything with a name like that?

Husking helpers. I save the leaves & stalks to feed the goats.

Still to harvest are my sweet potatoes, field corn, cowpeas, and orange cushaw winter squash.

Orange cushaw winter squash

I decided to try these this year instead of pumpkins. I've used them in the past as a pumpkin substitute and no one was the wiser for my "pumpkin pie." They certainly have done better than my past pumpkin attempts. I will harvest at least two huge ones before first frost.

Of my front yard herb garden, I have very few new herbs. I planted 15 types of seeds, but very few germinated. The sweet basil I planted with the tomatoes, catnip near the house, and marshmallow in the front yard.

Marshmallow blooming

I've been planting the fall garden bed by bed: kale, beets, carrots, onion seed, lettuce, radish, and broccoli so far. Unfortunately, the deer have been grazing the tops off of the beets and nibbling on the sweet potato vines.

Various types of purchased cabbage plants

Even though I have the seed, I bought cabbage and cabbage-collard plants. Time got away from me!

Watering with collected rainwater.

We had a dry spell during the first half of September, so I watered the new transplants with rainwater from our rainwater tanks. The sprinkler above is primitive by modern standards; it has no moving parts (but never breaks!) Between the tanks and gravity, I get just enough pressure to water the width of the bed.

With first frost expected this month, it's time to finish fall/winter planting. Throughout the dormant season we'll rake and haul the zillions of leaves on the ground, and pile them in the beds as a blanket of mulch. Like tucking the garden into bed for it's winter rest. All the while I'll promise myself I'll stay on top of it next year, knowing that next year will likely be the same and that a year from now, I'll be shaking my head at what an overgrown mess the garden is. Ah well.

The Garden at Change of Season © October 2013 


Sandy Livesay said...


Even using the new computer url on my blog roll, I'm getting up to your last post on figs. Now if I manual force everything, I can get to your blog. I've re-entered your address as indicated in the top corner of your blog and have the same problem.

Sandy Livesay said...

Update to my e-mail. I figured out the problem. Not only did I need to update my blog roll. I also had to update my reading list with your new address.

Tina T-P said...

John just puts all his barn cleanings in rows and people are astonished that he doesn't use a rototiller - we had vegies go to waste this year we had so much - it is a Japanese model for gardening that he found - I'll see if I can get him to cough up the name of the book for you. :-) T.

Willow said...

Those marshmello blooms are lovely.

Anonymous said...

I have been bad about keeping up with weeding too. My straw is helping with that, but still have to pull shoots of grass out. That stuff just doesn't die.

Mama Pea said...

Aw, Leigh, don't beat yourself up at all about some things in the garden getting away from you. Although I'm envious of your (much!) longer growing season, you have more pests and hassles (wire grass!) than I do, that's for sure. And you are still putting in SO much time on the house and homestead remodeling (plus animals!) that unless you clone yourself, you simple don't have enough hours in a day to give to it all. (Oh yeah, don't forget about that little thing . . . the book you've been writing!) I'm exhausted now thinking about what you get done so I'm going back to bed.

Nina said...

There are only so many hours in a day and one does have to leave enough time to eat and sleep. The nice thing about gardens is that even if they aren't perfect, if you get the right weather, they will still produce.

Ed said...

I've been using hubbard squash for years in place of pumpkins. It has a creamier texture and tastes more like what we identify as pumpkin than pie pumpkins. One or our favorite treats it to make pumpkin ice cream out of the hubbard squash.

Woolly Bits said...

my garden doesn't look better than yours, so you're not alone! with us it hasn't been the weather - which wasn't bad at all - but unfortunately I cannot cut myself into halves - so either I help renovating or do the garden. it was mostly the former, so the garden suffers. the worst bit is that I know that I'll be punished for it next year, when I have to start all over with beds etc. - but as there's nothing I can do about that, I'll worry about it next year:) the one good thing for gardeners: we get a new chance every year!

Unknown said...

I have a lot of animal and pest problems with the garden here too and didn't have a good summer harvest either. My best seasons are fall and winter.

With so much going on I figuere it okay. Fall's here and the next thing we are setting up is the green house so I hope to be back in the garden soon. Pumpkins haven't done well for me the last couple years so i'll be sure to try the Orange Cushaw squash.

You always amaze me with how much you guys do. Always busting out big moves over there and it does sounds like you are getting some good eats out of your garden. The corn looks great! Enjoy and and don't beat yourself up too much :)

Susan said...

I'm curious about your orange cushaw squash - is it a deep orange, like pumpkins? And what are the uses for marshmallow - besides the lovely blossoms, that is? My garden needs a good clean up and I'm hoping to give it some attention this weekend. If it doesn't rain...LOVE your harvest helpers!!!

Ellen and Adrian said...

Your kitten pictures are adorable! I remember reading that even the commercial canned 'pumpkin' isn't actually pumpkin, so you're not the only one making substitutions :) A word about mallow from seed: my first year, the plants seemed to struggle, but by the third season, the stalks in my expanding patches get to over 6 feet tall, and I have to be really careful it doesn't seed itself everywhere. One more invasive plant to watch out for! Oh, and I think those pictures show a beautiful, colourful fall garden too.

Leigh said...

Sandy, thank you for sticking with it and figuring things out. If I had known what a headache the whole domain name thing was going to be, I would have done it differently from the get-go!

Tina, the Japanese have had a lot of innovative ideas, and I love getting good results with less work! But that sort of sounds like Ruth Stout too. Her's was the very first gardening book I read.

Willow, aren't they pretty? Like smaller versions of hardy hibiscus.

Stephanie, once the harvest kicks in, all weeding bets are off anyway. :)

Mama Pea, sounds like the cat's out of the bag, LOL. I'm awaiting proof copies of the book. I agree there are never enough hours in a day, and I figure the weeds will always be there so, oh well. :)

Nina, eat and sleep! LOL. It's true though, gardens are rarely perfect (by our standards anyway), but we still benefit greatly.

Ed, pumpkin ice cream, what a great idea. I really like that you use hubbard squash. The year I first tried cushaw no one was the wiser for my "pumpkin" pies.

Bettina, you and I are on identical pages of the same book! It's true for me as well that renovating wins out over gardening. But, I tell myself that the renovating is a one time project and that when we're done, we're done. I hope.

Jen, I'm in a similar situation; summer is usually too hot and dry to garden (this has been an unusual year). And, yes, do try the cushaw. There are different types, I just happened to pick the orange for this year. They are huge, not only the squashes, but the leaves and vines too. But the do better than pumpkins.

Susan, the first time I was given an orange cushaw, I thought it was a pumpkin. A misshapen pumpkin, to be sure, but a pumpkin. :)

Marshmallow is a soothing herb often used for skin conditions, in cough syrups, and for gastric inflammation. This year I'm letting it get established, next year I'll harvest!

Ellen and Adrian, thanks! Interesting about the commercial pumpkin! Equally interesting about the marshmallow. It seems that all perennials have that potential to spread. Thanks for the heads up!

Thistle Cove Farm said...

What a bountiful harvest; you are blessed! Could you use Skin So Soft (ugh) for the ants...keeps other insects away, might work.

Lynda said...

Leigh, I think you are doing as well as anyone possibly could. It has been kind of a tough year in the South with so much rain. Powdery mildew, black spot...I'm feeling lucky to still have some tomato plants producing.
The best thing I ever found for weeds probably came from Ruth Stout, not sure. But if you scout around you might find someone close who has spent hay. After being stored either in rolls or bales in the field or even in a barn, hay deteriorates and becomes useless for animal feed. A farmer or rancher who has some spent hay will likely be happy to give it to you free if you haul it off. Pull it off in layers and lay it down DEEP (a foot is not too deep) around all your plants. Do not even weed in early spring, just lay it over the weeds. Be sure to have an ample supply because as it breaks down you will want to pile more on. The years when I could garden this way I pulled almost no weeds, had to water a lot less, and had healthier plants because the top of the hay mulch was dry.

Lynda said...

Also, about pumpkins, I don't know about where you live but in our neighborhood a lot of people buy them to decorate at Halloween. Then, some put them out at the street the next week. Some keep them as part of fall decorations until after Thanksgiving. We keep a sharp eye out and pick them all up. Properly stored in our basement, most will stay good until spring. I have developed a very easy method of processing them, so we use some fresh and put a lot of pumpkin puree and chunks in the freezer each year. It is one of the mainstays of our vegetable diet except during the summer. I have many, many recipes we love for soups, stews, casseroles, pasta dishes, and desserts and it never becomes monotonous.
Ever since I began doing this, we don't bother to grow our own winter squash or pumpkins.

Mitch H said...

I can sympathise with the non stop rain. 2012 was the same for us in the UK gardening was just a bit if a nightmare..
My main veggie plot was under water and many crops just didn't happen.
Didn't have a single carrot last year, this year I planted masses and needless to say we have carrots coming out if our ears! Lol.