Now that July is winding down, the weather is finally warming up, and the perennials in my flower beds are in their “pink” stage. I haven’t exactly planned my flower gardens all that well. I’ve taken whatever divisions friends and relatives have offered me and have planted them all willy-nilly along with those I’ve purchased at garden-club sales and greenhouses. Consequently, I have distinct stages in my floral coloration–purple early on with iris, lilac (though it didn’t bloom this year), purply-pink wild geranium, and violets. Then there is the white stage–mulva and this really weird plant with sharp, bent leaves and clusters of white blossoms that open during the day and shut at night, and another pretty little delicate white flower with the faintest pink tinge at the center. These I picked up at a garden club sale at the Unitarian Church in Bangor, Maine five summers ago.Now is the time for pink. I did have earlier pink, of course. My bleeding-heart plant below the beech trees is a prolific and long bloomer, and the wild rose transplanted a couple years ago after the plow dug it up from its bed at the foot of the driveway splashed a bit of color in the midst of all that white at the end of June.
Now, it is all about pink, however. Salmon-colored Asian lilies. Bright pink and magenta bee balm. Large-petaled echinacea luring in the butterflies. I miss my butterfly bushes, killed by the heavy ice this winter or by my over-jealous pruning. (I will never prune anything ever again. The butterfly bushes were doing great without my meddling.)
There are a few rogue lilies blazing orange here and there, and I’m thinking a few more in yellows and reds might perk up this late-July season when the black-eyed susans and sunflowers haven’t popped open yet and the sedums are still light green on their waxy stalks. On the other hand, I’m halfway considering turning the flower beds into veggie plots next year–not because I dislike the flowers but because these beds sit on prime garden real estate in my somewhat shady lot. They get 6-8 hours of sun a day (eight on the southern side of my front steps, five or six on the north) and are convenient to the door and walkway. In permaculture terms, this is known as Zone One. I believe the heat-loving tomatoes and peppers would thrive in the sunny, southern bed.
I have interplanted The Three Sisters amongst the flowers this year–corn and vining beans and squash. The beans are overtaking the corn, will probably pull them right over! The temps have been so cool that even in the garden boxes the squashes and cukes are just now beginning to sprawl. I doubt the pumpkins and winter squash will have time enough to ripen, but I have high hopes for the yellow summer squash and pickling cucumbers.The transplanted lettuces put on a burst of leafy speed, as did the cilantro and one lone basil grown from seed. The peppers, despite my dire predictions, have rallied and are throwing out new leaves. I have small tomatoes on all seven plants, and I picked ripe shell peas a couple days ago! The green beans are finally in blossom (better late than never!), and the carrots and parsnips look healthy. I can’t wait until fall when I can pull up one of the orange or creamy-white roots for closer inspection!
What with the rain and cool temperatures, this gardening season has been a trial of patience and peristence. I’m hard pressed to decide whether to blame my newbie farmgirl ways or the weather for the small harvest. I will definitely try the square-foot gardening again next year, but I think I’ll make each twelve-inches tall and will add more compost and manure than Mel Bartholomew suggested. A few extra boxes around the shady, back side of the house will be perfect for lettuces and maybe peas. I’ll try corn and pumpkin again next to the front steps as I love the idea of dried-in-place cornstalks and grown-in-place orange pumkins for “instant” fall decorating.
Fall. Not sure I’m ready to think about that yet. Instead, I’m going to pull the few weeds growing in my perennial beds, water the cucumber plants, watch the bees gathering nectar from the fuzzy bee-balms and prickly knoblike centers of the echinacea flowers. I’m going to smell fresh-cut grass and listen to the insects buzzing in the hazy, late-afternoon heat. I’m going to hobble up to the pick-your-own blueberry farm and gather some berries for jam. There’s a refrigerator crisper drawer full of small, fat cukes bought at the farmstand waiting to be transformed into pickles, and I’m still itching to try my hand at sewing a cotton wrap skirt before summer’s end. I’m in the midst of researching online sources for information about a misinterpreted and misunderstood plant and hope to share my findings here next week.
So much to do in August!
What projects have you planned for the last month of summer? How are your gardens doing now that Mother Nature has finally turned up Her thermostat? Drop me a note. I’ll be digging around–in the dirt and online–Outside the Box.