Thursday, August 21, 2014

I've been hunting eggs out of season...

...and I finally found the latest egg hiding place!  I've been allowing the chickens to roam in the vegetable garden adjacent to their chicken pen since most crops are mature enough to withstand their pecks, and there are many tasty critters there for them to eat, and they have eschewed their lovely nesting boxes for other creative spaces.  For awhile, they had a hollowed out place beside a hay bale and underneath the arching branches of a weed, and then eggs stopped appearing in that nest.  My faithful Americanas, who lay the blue eggs, continued to place their eggs politely in the nesting boxes for awhile, but their eggs also disappeared over the past week.

I've searched the garden and the pen, stepping through weeds and over plants, but hadn't found them until today, when I leaned over to pick Crowder peas.  I suppose I would rather lay eggs, if I were a chicken, under a canopy of pea vines instead of inside a chicken tractor, too.  I don't mind playing egg-hunt out of season, and at least the game keeps the snakes guessing about the location of the eggs, too.  Today's haul was 18 eggs, and they were all fresh.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

LEGOS® and Flowers at the St. Louis Botanical Garden

On a trip to St. Louis, we visited the Missouri Botanical Garden.  It's a 79 acre garden in the middle of St. Louis, and it's the oldest botanical garden in the US; it was begun in 1859. Along the paths were perennials enjoying the Midwestern summer, and we picked the perfect day to go: chilly enough that we started our trip wearing jackets.  I don't know the names of all of the plants, although they are labeled in the gardens.

Spiky red-hot poker
Daisies inside the Ottoman Garden.

The Ottoman Garden is my favorite.  I think.
Red Zinnias


My children love LEGOS®, so we had to visit the Lego Exhibit at the garden.  Artist Sean Kenney used more than 300,000 bricks to create ducks, a praying mantis, flowers, and other fantastic creatures.





If you can get to St. Louis (the LEGO® exhibit ends September 7) I recommend visiting the garden--which is open year round--and the LEGOS®!  After you exit the exhibit, there are Legos with which you can play.    

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Prepare to plant the fall garden

I know it is too hot to think about fall, but it is time to plan the fall garden and to start some seeds to grow into transplants to put out later in the fall.  Many months of warm weather remain before the first fall frost arrives, so there is also plenty of time to plant more crops of beans, crowder peas, basil, dill, cilantro, cucumbers, and winter squash, among other heat-loving plants, before frost arrives.  If your first attempt at a summer garden failed, try again.  Sometimes pests that attack plants early in the season have moved on later in the season. 

I will not try to set out any plants soon, but I plan to sow some seeds in the garden within the next couple of weeks, as soon as I can find a place clear of other crops.  I will start the seeds while it is still hot instead of waiting for cooler temperatures because the plants need time to become established before cooler weather comes.  If I wait until late September when the weather cools and I naturally start thinking about the fall garden, frost will damage the baby plants.  Older plants tolerate frost.
Before I sow any seeds during hot weather, I soak the soil with water.  After I plant the seeds, I water them very gently, and continue to water them gently once or twice a day, depending on rainfall, until they germinate.  Mature plants, with deep roots, need infrequent, long soakings.  Seeds, which are only in the top inch or less of soil, need only enough water to keep the top inch or so of soil moist.  They need gentle mists of water, because vigorous water applications will wash the seeds away.  To reduce watering chores, consider laying moistened strips of cardboard on top of the seeds; just make sure to remove it when the seeds germinate. 

After I sow the seeds, I put metal hoops across a garden row and I lay shade cloth across them, pinning it down with clothespins.  Shade cloth is available at garden centers or at  Old sheets will work also; use something that blocks the hottest rays of the sun while allowing some light.   
When they seeds sprout, I continue to keep the soil moist, but I gradually wean them off such frequent watering so they will develop deep roots.   I leave the shade cloth up until the weather becomes cooler, and I gradually expose the seedlings to brighter sunlight.  If the seedlings look too tall and spindly, they are not getting enough sunlight. 

Within the next few weeks, sow seeds outdoors for beets, carrots, collards, and rutabagas for the fall, and sow seeds of summer vegetables listed earlier.  You may begin sowing seeds of kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower indoors.  Keep the baby seedlings inside, under grow lights, and away from scorching temperatures until the weather cools. 
Outdoors, continue to sow seeds of carrots, beets, chard, Chinese cabbage, collards, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, parsnips, radishes, spinach, and turnips.   Keep the soil moist through frequently misting the soil with water, provide shade as needed, and you should have a garden ready for harvest throughout the fall and winter.   

 For information about what to plant when, and which plants to sow indoors and outdoors at different times of the year for an ongoing harvest, visit the Mother Earth News website.  Through succession planting, which is having another crop ready for the garden when the previous one is finished, I can harvest something from my garden every day of the year.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Fall flowers will soon be blooming

These shrubs and flowers are not yet showing color in my garden; these photos are from a couple of falls ago.  However, these plants are available in garden centers now, and you may decide that your garden could use some fall color.

Pyracantha berries contrast with Mexican sage in the background and salvia in the foreground
Fall-blooming iris
Goldenrod in the rear, Mexican sage blooms purple to the right, and ageratum to the left
Sedum turns a rusty orange in the fall (2 guineas visit in the background)