Of Geese and Crocus

Geese

For some reason I’ve been noticing the geese more this year. I watch them in Grand Prairie Park near our home and in the sky where they are busy honking and rallying to fly south for the winter.

The other day I was walking through the park and saw over a hundred Canada Geese in the park on the other side of the pond. They were honking now and then but more so they were softly talking to one another. Then I noticed they were lining up along the water’s edge. Each line had about 15-20 geese in it. They formed these lines parallel to one another from the water’s edge backward. Soon the entire flock was lined up.

Within a minute the first line began to honk and babble much more and then flapped their wings a bit. Then that first row lifted off in perfect unison, flew over the pond to the north and banked to the left to head southwest.

About the time the first group was banking the second row started talking and flapping and it took off and repeated the same flying pattern. Each successive row of geese took off in this manner about 30 seconds apart.

Finally, growing impatient I suppose, the final four rows took off in one group. By the time they had banked the entire group formed the familiar V shape and headed south by southwest. Once in the air their honking was louder and more of them seemed to be doing it.

I’d never seen this behavior before in geese. But then I am not sure I’ve watched such a large group take off. It was fascinating and beautiful.

Crocus

Yesterday I noticed that the crocus have broken ground. They are just nudging up. This seems very early for them. I recall seeing them come up in early January or even late December – but never before a day after Thanksgiving.

It has been unseasonably warm of late, is that why? Or is this another sign of climate change? If they grow as fast as usual we are likely to have flowers by Christmas.

Fall Faces

On my walk the other day I captured the photo on this post of three fanciful faces peaking over the fence at a nearby home. I love it.

I love fall itself. I love the turning leaves and the crisp air. It is an enchanted time of year with the changes happening.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

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Fall in the Garden

Fall has been with us for over a month now, officially. It took over a month to put the vegetable beds into their winter state. In the attached photos you can see the little shoots coming up – the crimson clover cover crop I planted a couple weeks ago. You will also see that since we have not a true frost yet the marigolds continue to shine forth as though they think it is still summer. I do not have the heart to remove them until frost kills them.

Photo 2

Photo 1 is entering the back yard from the side yard on the west side. You see the garden shed on the right and the herb harden on the left. Photo 2 is the lawn with coreopsis still green and behind them the herb garden and the raised beds. The green house is also visible though there is nothing growing in it right now.

Phots 3 and 4 are the raised beds with their cover crops starting out and marigolds hanging on.

Finally I have a photo here (5) of the tiniest ripened tomato we have ever had. It is barely larger than a green pea!

Yesterday I raked up the first leaves fallen from our two maples in front and the neighbor’s sweet gum. Many more leaves will fall yet leaving me plenty of raking to do in the coming weeks. The leaves are composted.

In the coming months pruning, lawn care and leaf gathering will be the chores to attend to in the yard. As much as I love the gardening in spring and summer it is nice to put it all to bed for the winter and take a break from watering, planting and harvesting.

Soon it will time to start planning for the early spring planting. It will all begin again…

 

Photo 3

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo 5

Photo 1

Harvest Report

The vegetable garden is now almost totally put to bed. The only thing remaining are some marigolds and the potatoes. I have not had time to harvest the seeds off the Marigolds yet and am waiting for the tops of the potatoes to die back before digging them up.

Here are the vegetables I planted and how they did:

Tomatoes

Sungold Cherry tomato – small orange fruit – we had an excellent yield and the fruit did not split or otherwise lose its structure. They were very sweet. I’d plant that again.

Brandywine beefstake tomato – very poor yield; maybe three or four fruit and the split or developed blossom end rot. I think this is my third run at these with poor luck; I will not plant these again.

Beefy Boy beefstake tomato – very poor yield

Early Girl tomato – poor yield; these have done well in the past but not this year.

Oregon Spring Tomato – plant was very small and only set a few fruit; flavor was OK.

Tomatoes did not do well this year over-all and the local farmers are having the same problems. Spring was too cold and too wet followed by a very hot summer with too little water. Tomatoes, despite being a semi-tropical plant, do not like a lot of heat.

Peppers

Sweet Non Bell Pepper: v: “Fooled You” – a small non-bell pepper; the yield was very good this year. It was the best pepper growth I’ve ever had. The plant grew tall and vigorous with a lot of fruit. Flavor was good.

Sweet Bell Pepper –poor foliage with very poor yield; only one pepper reached maturity and it was too small.

Over all peppers do not seem to like my garden conditions and I will not plant them next year.

Other plantings:

Green Gold Broccoli – these may not have been hardened off well enough from my green house; they died within a week or two.

Butter Crunch lettuce – these did very well, excellent yield and flavor.

Genovese Basil – these did well with very nice flavor. They have been dried and saved in the kitchen.

Sunspot sunflower – this died within a couple weeks of planting the start; I suspect some kind of cut worm destroyed the stem.

Marigold Inca I – these did well, they are still growing.

I left most of my large box fallow this year; it has never been left fallow before and needed the rest. I only planted marigolds around the edge and they did well.

In the herb garden I added English Thyme, Italian Parsley and French Tarragon. The thyme is growing very slow.

Yesterday I threw out crimson clover throughout all the boxes for a cover crop. We are to get rain this week so if the soil stays warm enough it should sprout well.

Next year I will likely plant all four boxes and leave nothing fallow. I will try some succession planting as well. I’d like to plant some corn. We do not have room for much corn but I’d like to try it here.

 

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

 

Fall is in the Air

It feels to me as though fall is coming more quickly this year. It may be because August and the first week or so of September were so hot and so smoky. The upper 90F heat and the smoke sucked all my energy away.

Now for the past week the temperature has dropped very noticeably. The smoke cleared for several days though it was back yesterday. The forecast now calls for five days of cooler weather and rain.

There are other signs that fall is here even though the calendar will not acknowledge it for five more days. Leaves are beginning to turn and fall. Not in large numbers yet, but enough to tell you that summer is coming to an end. Nights and early mornings are now chilly. Yesterday morning I actually had to wear a jacket working in the yard until about 10 AM.

The vegetable plants are also showing the end of summer. The tomato plants are looking tired. The leaves are beginning to dry out and although there is still some fruit ripening it is near its end. The pepper plants still look vibrant as does the potato.

In the next week or so I will clean up the vegetable garden and consider planting a cover crop for winter.

I do not like the dog days of summer. There is no denying that climate change has made summer hotter here and it is no fun for me. The smoke this year from the many forest fires throughout the western US also made August less pleasant.

I still have projects to finish though. I need to fashion a cover for the new compost bins before the rains come. I also need to finish the rain collection barrels to be ready for early spring.

I did get one little job done yesterday – cleaned up the Japanese garden. I trimmed the boxwood shrub and trimmed the lace leaf maple a bit. As autumn sets in I want to plant a couple more plants in the Japanese garden and in the front yard. There are some bare spots that need filling.

A friend of mine told me he reads this blog and that I must be very serious about my gardening. I suppose I am. It is a great hobby and it feeds me! Not many hobbies do that.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Compost Treasure

About five years ago I built two compost bins side by side out of old pallets. I’ve added compost to them for all this time. Once about two years ago I harvested some nice compost from the one on the right but left the left one undisturbed.

Screening Compost

The old Left side compost bin

Last weekend I began the long-planned move of the compost from the old bins to a new double bin I built out of cedar fencing and chicken wire. I removed about 4 or 5 wheel barrows of dried up weeds and other plants from the main bin, the on the left side, and found the bottom third of the bin was totally composted. I was delighted to find a foot and a half of rich, black compost.

I screened it creating a fine compost material that will be excellent for amending the vegetable garden this fall and next spring with enough to fill my container in the green house with bedding medium. It will be perfect for starting seeds.

Having moved this year’s weed and trimmings to the new compost bin I am starting the process again except this year I will move the contents back and forth between the bins to speed the process. I’ve learned that an undisturbed bin will fully compost in about two years. I hope to reduce that process to 9 – 12 months in the new bins.

I also have an old tumbler composter that I am again filing with kitchen scraps. It is already breaking down nicely and I should have some nice compost by mid to late October for the beds.

There is an original cost to buying the tumbler and building the bins, but they will last a long time and other than some labor the compost is free.

Compost is great for plants. It feeds them and acts a mulch to protect them and save water. More about how I mix ingredients in the compost for a future post.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Watering Tips

Here are ten tips from my favorite British garden expert on how to use water most effectively in the garden.

  1. Water selectively adding water when plants need it. Check soil moisture levels by digging down a bit. Hand watering can be the most effective way to get water just where it needs to be though drip systems can be effective too.
  2. Watering early in the morning gives plants a chance to absorb moisture before the heat of the day evaporates it. Morning watering also leads to less plant disease than evening watering.
  3. If watering by hand aim flow of water to the base of the plant.
  4. A good soaking less often is better than a light watering often. Deep watering encourages a good root system to develop.
  5. You can also sink a plastic pot (with drain holes) in the ground near the plants. Fill them with water which will then slowly drain into the soil.
  6. Use drip systems or leaking hose if you want to automate the watering. This I especially good if you cannot be present for a day or two.
  7. Clay pots are very porous which means they suck moisture out of the soil. In dry water this can be a problem. Plant in glazed pots or plastic pots to avoid this. You can place a plastic pot in a larger clay pot for a better appearance. Metal containers will heat up very quickly accelerating moisture loss. You can group pots together to provide shade and greater water conservation.
  8. Whether in pots or in the open soil use mulch to conserve water. The best mulch is a couple inches of well-rotted compost. You can use grass clippings, straw, black plastic and other materials.
  9. Collecting rain water conserves water, provides a free source of water to put on plants and it is better for plants then municipal water which has chemicals in it.
  10. Remove weeds as soon as they appear as they will compete with your plants for water.

The very hot weather we have been having in August and now in September with temperatures in the high 90s F. has made keeping the vegetables adequately watered a challenge. There have been days when the soil is sucked dry before I can get to it again. I try to water in the early morning as is recommended but often must water again in the late afternoon or evening.

I failed to mulch adequately this year. I was intending to get a bail of straw to mulch the veggies well but never got to it. I may yet do that for the remainder of the season as it looks like we will continue to hot weather for some time. I do however add compost.

Finally, I will mention that this is the 201st post on this blog. I forgot to mention last time that I’d reached #200.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Blossom End Rot

I’ve had blossom end rot attack my tomatoes in past years though most often it is not a problem. This year it is. One of my varieties, Big Boy, is supposed to be particularly vulnerable to it. I’ve lost about a third of my tomato crop to it so far.

Blossom end rot is when the blossom end of the tomato fruit turns brown and watery. You can cut it off but the entire tomato is often mealy.

My research indicates that inadequate calcium is the culprit. This often occurs because of erratic watering. I’ve been trying to water either every other day or every day during the recent hot period. I did not mulch my garden this year and I suspect that is also a problem – the soil is giving up moisture to quickly to evaporation.

From one on-line source I learned to make a slurry of pelleted lime and water. After mixing the slurry for a long time I then added it to the plants at the ground. I will report back on how that goes.

Today’s photo are my wife’s Morning Glory which is in full growth and bloom. It greets me every morning as I go out the door.

Happy Gardening,
Dan Murphy