Garden Daybook 9/12/13

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Fall is up upon us!! Well . . at least it looks like fall. Evening shadows seem to go on forever and are infused with a golden light. The fields are bordered with blooming purple Joe Pye and golden Goldenrod is infusing the air with it’s honey scent. The garden is simmering in the heat and looks shriveled. The weeds that have not been pulled are FULL of seeds and I HAVE to, at the very least, cut the tops down. The gardens are struggling along waiting for frost. But . . . there is active life all around.

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I found this gorgeous garden spider in the center of its web in Greg’s Dahlia bed this morning. These guys always make themselves known in the fall. They spin fabulous webs for catching their dinner. When Nick and Allison were small we would catch grasshoppers and toss them at the webs. The grasshoppers would be caught in the web and we could watch the spider rush in to inject its venom and spin new web to encase them for later al fresco dining. BTW – these spiders are good guys in the garden. They dine on creatures that can be harmful to your plants.

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Evening temperatures are slowly getting colder and the days shorter. It’s time to bring tender plants into their winter quarters. Here are my Sweet Bay and young Rosemary plants. I will drench the soil with water to get rid of any unwanted creatures, drain them well, wipe the leaves, and winter them in the south kitchen window. One year I brought a young fig tree into the kitchen because a black frost was predicted. I was in the living room that evening and heard a PLOP! A search of the kitchen turned up a good sized toad that had concealed itself in the pot. A few other things – especially lemon verbena – will sit out the winter months in the west window by the kitchen sink.

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Fall is Dahlia time. The flowers are gorgeous and bloom until a good frost takes the plants to the ground. Greg’s Dahlias make fall a less barren time in the gardens. Many of the blooms are HUGE and, to the uninitiated, look rather like perfect silk flowers. Here in northern Ohio, the dahlia tubers must be dug and stored inside over the winter. Worth the work, I’d say. Just look at those blooms!

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Cleome (above) and Verbena bonariensis (below) are hardy annuals in our Zone 5 gardens. This means that both of these beauties will mature and drop seed in the fall. The seed will safely winter in the ground and germinate when spring conditions are right. Get these hardy annuals started in your garden and every summer thereafter you will have flowers with no work. Well, you may have to thin the volunteers or maybe move a few seedlings to a new spot but they will appear each spring as if by magic. Cleome is also called Spiderflower and matures its seeds at the ends of its “spiderlegs”. You can see the “legs’ in the picture – notice the thickened ends. These ends are the seed pods and when ripe, quick as a flash, they unfurl and spew their seeds about. The Verbena simply mature to brown and drop tiny back seeds all over the ground.

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The Sweet Potatoes have fill their raised bed with rampant vines. The hills should be filled with potatoes by now but I know that sweet potatoes make their best growth at the end of their growing season. I leave my sweets in the garden until frost threatens and then very carefully dig them. I know that if they are damaged when they are dug they will not store well. Treat them like gold and they will feed you all winter. Did you know that they get sweeter and sweeter after a month in storage?

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Chilly mornings are warning us that more cold is coming. We have this year’s wood supply split and stacked and that gives us a good feeling. But . . because we use wood for extra heat on very cold days and as a safety back up for times without electricity, we like to think a year ahead. We have been blessed lately with the beginning of next year’s wood pile. A good friend had several maples taken down in his yard and offered us the wood. We have brought home 5 truckloads and piled the wood neatly by the chicken coop. We have also decided that a HUGE maple tree close to the house has to come down. This is such a gut wrenching decision but unfortunately the top branches of this Maple are dead and already dropping in the yard. We will lose summer shade but the tree is dangerous so close to the house. So . . when this tree is down, cut to stove length, and stacked, we should have a few years worth of wood. We will share the work and wood with a neighbor who heats exclusively with wood. Greg is afraid that we will end up with so much wood we will not use it before it rots. Hoarding is not good – might as well share the bounty.

Hey from the farm,
Fran The Country Cousin





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