Thursday, August 28, 2008

It's Still Raining!

I can't believe it is still raining! We had a brief break in the rain yesterday in the late afternoon, but it was raining again by evening! Yesterday we set a record for Asheville with FOUR inches in one day! We have received about six inches this week, which we needed desperately. I heard we need ten inches total, but six is a good start. The weather is supposed to clear up in the next coming days. The NC Drought Management Advisory has downgraded our county to a D3 drought, which is still bad, but at least it's not D4.

I hope it stops raining today, because we are going out of town this weekend, and I need to harvest the cherry tomatoes and make some salsa tonight. The tomatoes are all splitting due to the overabundance of rain, and the bugs will get to them if I don't harvest tonight. Those tomatoes are too good to be donated to a bug feast! Rain has its benefits, but it can also cause some problems in the garden! I am NOT going to complain though.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

It's Raining!

Hallelujah! It's raining! I think it has been three weeks since it last rained. The lawn is completely dead, the roses are losing their bottom leaves, the perennials look at me accusingly every day hoping I will lug some water their way, and the garden has just had it with this drought! I am so thankful for this steady gentle rain. I hope it lasts all day!

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

English Cottage Garden

This Spring we started what I like to call my "English Cottage Garden" in a small corner of the front yard using plants I started from seed. Ian doesn't know it yet, but I have some pretty grand plans for the rest of the front yard. I'm planning to tell him about it on a "need to know" basis. For example, when I "need" him to dig, I will let him "know." LOL!

English Cottage Gardens are all about density, color and variation, all within an informal setting.

english cottage garden

I used drought-tolerant plants since I don't want to tend too much to this bed. If you are looking for a drought tolerant option that "fills in" quickly, evening primrose is your lady. In the gardening world, this plant is referred to as "invasive." However, in the English Cottage Garden planning world, this plant is referred to as a "quick filler," providing a nice dense foundation for your more important feature plants. I love how it closes the gaps between the salvia and verbana to give the garden an informal and "full" appearance.

evening primrose spreading through garden

For BIG color, coreopsis and salvia are great choices. The deep purple and yellow complement each other, and their contrasting habits help add variation to break up the shapes and sizes of the garden. Again, these plants are quite drought tolerant, and keep on blooming throughout the heat of the Summer, when other lazy perennials give up on you. A splash of white shasta daisies here and there helps keep the eye moving throughout the entire bed.

salvia and coreopsis putting on a show

Verbana makes a beautiful spiller, flowing out (possibly a bit too far according to Ian) onto the sidewalk to soften up the hard edges of the bed.


Shasta daisies are very drought tolerant once they reach maturity. However, they can cause some grief when they are young, since they do require a regular drink of water. The hole these daisies have left in my garden have certainly caused me a lot of grief.

shasta daisies

I keep reminding myself to have patience and stay on top of them, and they will become maintenance free. These daisies were planted two years ago, and I never water them. They bloomed beautifully this year. They are finishing up their grand June show in this photo.

shasta daisies

My hanging baskets are finally performing well also. These baskets were put together in May, but are just now really "taking off." I think it was worth the wait.

purple and yellow hanging basket

The soft scalloped edges of the petunias and purples and yellows help complement the colors and shapes in the garden bed below.

purple hanging basket

I even have a nice view from the couch to enjoy on days when it's too hot to sit outside.

view from the front window

So, that's my English Cottage Garden! If anyone needs some evening primrose, stop by and I'll dig some up for you. It's seriously getting out of control!

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Bring it on Fay!

It looks like Hurricane Fay could land on Asheville by the end of the week. All I can say is, "Bring it on." Maybe if Fay dumps her rainy goodness on us for a couple days, I will be allowed to wash my car again!

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Surprise Guest

As I was admiring my knockout roses this morning, I was surprised to find that some of the blooms had taken on a purple tint. "Wait a minute," I thought, these are red knockout roses. Besides, purple knockout roses don't even exist yet. On closer inspection, I regained my sanity and found that a morning glory vine had somehow made its way into the rose bed and was climbing up the canes, intermingling its lovely purple hues with the fading red roses.

morning glory with knockout roses

I can't even begin to imagine where this surprise guest originated! There are no store-bought plants in this bed, so the morning glory couldn't have hitched a ride in a potted plant, and I haven't added foreign soil to the rose bed in two years!

purple morning glory

My only guess is that this seed traveled via air wide and far to reach its final sprouting place, but that idea is pretty far-fetched.

purple morning glory

Regardless of how it got here, I really like it. I think next year I will plant a couple purple morning glories on purpose!

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sugar Buns

Ian's grandparents always grow the most delicious varieties of sweet corn. Last year they grew sugar buns and just raved about how sweet and juicy it was, so we decided to give it a try this year. We grew honey 'n pearl last year, and although it was fabulous, we're always up for something different.

We sowed 5 rows of sugar buns in May, in two successive plantings (two weeks apart) so the corn would last longer than it did last year. You have to eat corn pretty fast, or the bugs will eat it for you. One interesting thing to note about sugar buns is that the tassels are red instead of yellow like most other types of corn.

corn quadrant

You know corn is ready for harvest when the tassels turn brown, and the kernels at the top of the ear feel plump when squeezed. You shouldn't peel back the husk of an ear while on the stalk, or you will send an invitation for insects to take up residence in the ear. Here are our first two ears of sugar buns, harvested August 5th.

sugar buns corn

Here are some tips for growing corn in the home garden:
  • You can only grow one variety in a given season; otherwise, the various strains will cross-pollinate and you could end up with inedible corn.
  • You are going to get worms in your corn, especially if you leave it on the stalk after it has matured. The only way to control worms is with potent pesticides. Leave the chemicals on the shelf and just snap off the wormy tip of the corn. They don't eat much. Beware of the "perfect" corn you find in the grocery store - it has been bombarded with nasty chemicals to achieve aesthetic perfection.
  • Sow your seeds closer together than the seed pack suggests. I recommend 2 inches. When growing small crops, you need the stalks as close together as possible so the wind can successfully pollinate the ears.
Sweet corn is so quick and easy to cook. Get your pot of water boiling good and steady, and drop your ears in for just THREE minutes. That's right! It takes just three minutes to cook perfect sweet corn. If you're cooking it longer, you are actually cooking it too long, and the additional time is spent softening the corn back up.

sugar buns corn in the pot

Mmmm .... Perfection!

sugar buns corn

Sugar buns is a shorter sweet corn than average, reaching less than 5 feet in height. We used no pesticides on the plants, and fertilized them twice with an organic fertilizer - once when the seedlings were just 2 inches tall and again when the silks began to appear on the stalk. The ears are smaller than honey 'n pearl when first reaching maturity, but leaving them on the stalk for an extra week or so helps increase their size. Of course this also increases the risk of insect infestation, so keep a close eye on the ears.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Rose Sale

All roses at are on sale for $7.95 until this Sunday, August 17th. I ordered a Joseph's Coat climber this Spring and was very happy with the quality. These roses are regularly $16.95, so $7.95 is a steal! I'm trying to brainstorm where I can put more of these fantastic roses! I don't want to miss out on this deal!

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Grow Your Own

This is my daily morning view. I sit on the back porch with a hot cup of coffee freshly poured from the French press and enjoy the sound of birds chirping away about this or that. Sometimes the sprinkler keeps me company with its rhythmic ticking, but Norman is always there to keep an eye out for squirrels and an ear open for unusual noises.

garden in the sunshine

Not only is the view beautiful, but the harvest is even more pleasing! What a burden we have on our shoulders to eat all this veg before it goes bad. Lucky for us, friends and family are always eager to assist us!

beautiful harvest of veg

I love this time of year - the time when we plan each meal around what is ripe in the garden. It is so awesome not to walk aimlessly through the grocery store trying to decide what we will eat all week. The garden decides for us!

Right now we have so much to choose from; eggplant, corn, green peppers, tomatoes, squash and green beans. The squash and green beans are beginning to throttle back on their production, but I'm about to sow a second planting of each. I hope to get them harvested before the first frost, and I think there is enough time to do so.

If you don't already grow your own veg, I encourage you to consider planning a garden for next year. I can't describe how rewarding and therapeutic the garden has been for me. You can start with a simple 4'x4' raised bed constructed of lumber and filled with compost, top soil and peat. Tomatoes, beans and squash are super easy to grow given 6-8 hours of direct sunlight and a little bit of water. The rewards are just priceless.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Costoluto Genovese

The tomato harvest is finally starting, and I've got to tell you that I am in LOVE with these costoluto heirloom tomatoes! Look at how pretty they are on the vine.

costoluto tomatoes ripening

They're even prettier off the vine, because that's when I get to eat them! This tomato is light on seeds and heavy on flavor. The juicy flesh is smoky and complex and the skin is tender but firm enough to hold up against insects and sun damage. It's the most interesting tomato I've ever tasted. These guys are going to make some awesome pasta sauce!

costoluto tomatoes

Costoluto Genovese is an Italian heirloom tomato, but it is not finicky like other heirlooms you may have grown. I have lost ZERO tomatoes due to blossom end rot, and ZERO tomatoes have yet to rot on the vine. The undersides are smooth and even - no brainy-looking lumps like some heirlooms produce.

costoluto tomatoes

We sowed these seeds indoors in late February and set the plants out in mid-May. The seed packet claims 78 days from setting out transplants to harvesting fruit, which was just about the time the first tomato was ripe enough to eat. Costoluto is supposed to continue producing through the hot days of Summer right into Fall, and I hope that is true, because I want to savor every bite of these guys!

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Tobacco Hornworm

I recently noticed some bites taken out of my Roma tomatoes. I blamed it on the birds since the bites were big and birds were the likely culprit! I was really ticked off too, because these tomatoes were just about ready for harvest!

tomato hornworm damage

The birds were cleared of the crime when I noticed this HUGE bug-thing latched onto one of the stalks. Can you believe how big this thing is? It's a monster!

tomato hornworm

On closer inspection, I found four more of these fatties, but none were as big as the first one.

tomato hornworm

It turns out, these are tobacco hornworms and are commonly mistaken for tomato hornworms since they look so similar.

These bugs really freaked me out. I didn't actually touch any of them but just broke off a piece of the tomato stalk and tossed them in the trash. I had a problem with killing them, because they are so big. Hopefully they are in the landfill having a good old time munching on garbage now!

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