My Garden Diary - 2006

by George Kingston
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December 4
Well, I guess it is time to close out the blog for this year.  Today we had our first light snow and all that is left to do is to plant some daffodils in the excavation left from a home improvement and fill it in.  The first seed catalogs have arrived, but I'm avoiding looking at them until after the holidays.  To all those who read this this year, thanks for your attention.  I hope to start up again in January.  This years blog will stay here as an archive.  Happy holidays to all!

October 14
First frost this morning.  Barely made it to 32.  Went out this morning and surveyed the damage.  Most of the exposed pepper plants are dead, as is some of the coleus and some of the impatiens.  Anything with even a little bit of shelter seems to have survived.  A harder frost is predicted for tonight.

October 13
Frost warning for tonight.  Harvested all the peppers - Banana Bill, ancho, Anaheim, and mild jalapeno; the few remaining beans, and the last patch of cilantro.  Put a flower pot upside down over a dahlia that still has buds.  Re-planted the last row of Japanese iris (iris ensata) and gave the leftovers to the environmental club at the high school.

October 8
Dug up my Japanese Iris (Iris ensata) today and put it aside to divide.  I then enriched the soil in the bed with compost.  After a few days of blending, it will be ready for replanting.  I have also begun making sketches of each bed, showing where the plants are.  This way, I can find them in the spring before they have woken up for further dividing.

October 4
2522 Growing degree days so far this season.  Soil temperature at 62 degrees.  About 2 inches of rain in the last two weeks.   My perennial Chrysanthemums are blooming.  They are yellow with an orange edge.  The pink turtle head is also still blooming.

October 7
Harvested all my remaining basil and made a big batch of pesto.  I make it with walnuts and no cheese, then freeze it in ice cube trays.  When I need pesto in the winter, I defrost a few cubes, blend in the cheese, and presto - pesto!

September 24
Planted some daylilies, 'Top Award', that a friend of mine gave me.  She has extensive Hermerocalis beds with dozens of varieties.  When she was dividing them this year, she very generously gifted me with three different varieties.  Now all I have to do is to find places to put them.  The rain yesterday and today is welcome.

September 21
Spent the day at the Master Gardener Booth in the Massachusetts Building at the Big E.  It was lots of fun and I got to meet a lot of interesting gardeners from all over New England.  The big draw was an Osage Orange fruit.  It is green and looks like a knobby baseball.  People stop to look at it and guess what it is.  Everyone was asking about why the tomatoes were so bad this year.  We chalk it up to the cold wet spring.

September 20 - 2407 Growing Degree Days, Soil Temperature 64 F,  .83" of rain in the last two weeks
The ornamental grass (Miscanthus) is blooming.  It has beautiful, feathery, purple flowers that contrast with the green-and-white leaves.  The roses are blooming still.

September 17
Gave up on the remaining tomatoes.  Harvested every one that looked like it might ripen and then dug out the plants and put them in the trash.  Now we have three rows where we can put in fall crops of lettuce, mesclun, parsley, radishes and peas.

September 12
It is officially fall here.  We bought our fall mums (Chrysanthemum ◊morifolium) today and planted them out.  We got two yellow plants (Bright Gretchen and Padre Yellow) and one two tone red-with-a-yellow-center (Priscilla).  Also bought a purple aster (Aster novi-belgii).  These plants are only half-hardy here so we tend to treat them as annuals, although in a year with a mild winter they will come back.  Gazinia is blooming still and the fall clematis is a beautiful carpet of snow on the garden fence, right next to some tall goldenrod (Solidago sp.)

September 10
My Turtlehead is blooming in spite of having had the deer eat most of it last spring.  I guess it grew some new buds.  The tomatoes are quickly succumbing to various funguses as the wet, cool weather continues.  Some of the annuals like the Gerardia and Salvia that I thought had  died are recovering with the cooler days and putting on a display.  We are spending time making mulch out of the branches of a tree that came down during the micro-burst in August.

September 6
2237 Growing Degree Days, Soil Temperature 65 F, 2.60" of rain in the last two weeks.

September 1
So here it is September.  We have started repotting the house plants we put out for 'summer camp' in anticipation of their coming inside when it gets colder.  Out 30 year old weeping fig (ficus benjamina) had a tree fall on it in August, so we had to prune it back extensively.  Hopefully it will recover.  The recent wet weather has been great for the pulmonaria bed which also has European ginger, coleus, and red salvia.  The bed is heavily shaded and only gets a few hours of sun late in the day.

August 31
It is the last day of August and the autumn clematis is starting to bloom.  The roses are still going strong and the rose mallow is blooming as well.  I have started drying herbs for the winter.  The Greek oregano dries well, as does the mint.  The dill gets frozen, as it doesn't retain much flavor when dried.  Basil I preserve as frozen pesto cubes.  This is also the season for moving plants.  We can observe where they did well over the summer and where they were unhappy.  On this basis, we moved a coneflower and some thread-leaf coreopsis to sunnier locations.

August 30
The rain appears to be going away, but it is leaving behind a lot of fungal problems in the crowded late-August gardens.  My tomato plants are looking awful, but still yielding a lot of tomatoes.  I made a big batch of sauce yesterday and we are dehydrating and freezing plum tomatoes.  It is looking good for pasta this winter.  Before the rains started, I divided my big patch of bearded iris and got more rhizomes than I knew what to do with.  Now I have about a half dozen new patches planted and some happy gardening friends who got my surplus.  The next thing to deal with is the Japanese iris, which also needs major dividing.  Now that things are settling down some, I hope to be writing here more regularly.

August 23, 2006
2070 Growing Degree Days, Soil Temperature 74 F, 1.53" of rain in the last two weeks

August 13
It has been a rough couple of weeks.  We had a microburst on the 2nd that took down a big tree in the backyard (no major damage except to the tree) and put our power out for two days during a major heat wave.  All this in the midst of a major bathroom renovation.  So I've been doing more chain saw work than gardening.  The good news is that the 'Brandywine' tomatoes are ripening, as are the 'Roma'.  We are harvesting beans and basil.  It has been very dry since the storm, so we continue to water.  In the flower beds the gladiola are blooming, along with the campanula, cone flower, roses, and threadleaf coreopsis.  Now that the weather is cooler, I'll start to catch up on the weeding.

August 9
1815 Growing Degree Days, soil temperature 71 F, .81" rain in the last two weeks

August 1
How did it get to be August?  My 'Glacier' and 'Early Girl'  tomatoes are starting to be edible.  The 'Seckle' pears are just about ready for harvest.  They need to ripen after picking, as they don't ripen well on the tree.  In spite of the humidity, rain has been scarce, so we are watering regularly in order to avoid stressing things. 

July 29
It has been a hot and humid week.  We harvested our first tomatoes today ('Balcony' - a small patio type in pots).  Gladiolas are blooming, and a transplanted yucca is blooming.  My daylilies are starting to go past.  The weeds are winning!

July 26 - 1454 Growing Degree Days, Soil Temperature 71 F,  2.00" of rain in the last two weeks
According to UMass Extension, the Pioneer Valley (Connecticut River Valley in Massachusetts) is up to 1454 growing-degree-days today with a gain in the last two weeks of 336 GDD.  That translates into hot.

July 24
Cooler but very humid.  Out weeding today.  I am slowly winning a fight with European buckthorn.  It keeps stump sprouting and I keep hacking it back.  The gladiolas are starting to bloom and my tomatoes are turning pink!  The Rose-of-Sharon (Hibiscus) is blooming too. 

July 23
We finally got some rain yesterday, over an inch, so the gardens are damp again.  This morning I went over to a friend's house to take some pictures of her daylilies for the August article on this web site.  I am always amazed at how she can roam around the beds and name each variety from memory.  She has some really spectacular blooms.

July 21
It has been hot and humid for the last week, but rain has been missing, so we have been watering.  We use soaker hoses in the vegetable gardens and watering cans for flower beds and containers.  This weather is particularly brutal on containers, which can go from soggy to dry and sagging in a single hot, sunny day.  Keep and eye on them, but if you miss one and it looks tired, give it a good drink and see what happens.  Hosta and cone flower are blooming.  Lettuce is slowing up but still coming in, basil is thriving in the heat, but with a tendency to bolt.  I snip off the flower heads and it makes the plants more bushy.

July 14 - Bastille Day
Sun at last.  I may get out and mow the lawn.  Now that they are getting more sun, it looks like my pear trees may actually yield a crop this year, if only the squirrels will leave them alone.

July 12 - 1118 Growing Degree Days, Soil Temperature 70 F,  1.66" of rain in the last two weeks
We harvested our first green beans today.  The bee balm is in full bloom while the yucca blooms are still in good shape.  Cone flower is starting to bloom and the shasta daisies are looking good.  No red tomatoes yet and my patio tomatoes are showing signs of blossom end rot.  I guess the potting soil is calcium deficient, so I will add bone meal to try to combat the problem.

July 11 -
We just got back from a long weekend in New Hampshire.  The wild flowers up there were spectacular, including Canada Lily in the fields.  The lawn has kept on growing while we were gone, but it is too wet to cut it yet.

July 5 -
I visited a friend's garden today.  She lives on a farm, but the area around the house is all made over into perennial beds.  They are really beautiful - an eclectic collection of decades of gardening.  One highlight is a group of three lilacs - hers, her mother's and her grandmother's.  It was a real treat.

July 4 -
The yucca is blooming.  Great masses of cream colored blossoms on a tall bloom stalk.  I learned something about yucca this year.  I divided a clump of 4 plants in late April, leaving one plant in place and relocating the other three.  The ones I relocated turned brown and appeared to be dead, but I left them alone.  Now, in early July, they are all putting out new green leaves.  One is even generating a bloom spike.  So yucca needs a long recovery period after replanting.  Even if it looks dead, leave it alone and see what happens.  You might be pleasantly surprised.

July 2 -
Well, no tomatoes yet.  There are a number of plants with the fruit set, but none are turning red yet.  Maybe another week.  New blooms include the Opuntia cactus, Japanese anemone, and bee balm.  The roses are looking good too.  I'm still trying to get ahead on the weeding, without much success.  It is a beautiful summer day.

June 28 - 817 Growing Degree Days, Soil Temperature 68 F,  2.84" of rain in the last two weeks

June 25 -
Weeding and planting more bush beans this morning.  The St. John's wort is blooming, only one day late.  Mock orange is getting past bloom now.  All this rain is rushing the blooming shrubs.  My patio tomato plants have set fruit, now let's see how long it takes them to get ripe.

June 24 -
The St. John's wort is behind schedule.  It's supposed to bloom today, St. John's Day, but it's not ready yet.

June 23 -
Weeding.  The first regular daylily opened today.  The Stella Doro's have been blooming for about a week.

June 22 -
The morning was good, but then it went to rain and clouds.  The pink Fairy rose is blooming, as is the larkspur in my mailbox bed.  This afternoon we are headed up to Pittsfield, where the Master Gardeners are having our summer meeting at Springside Park.  We maintain demonstration gardens there and use them to teach classes.  I bought a Spirea 'Lime Mound' at the plant auction.

June 21 - 654 Growing Degree Days, Soil Temperature 72 F,  .57" of rain in the last two weeks
Midsummer's Day!  Spent the morning at Wisteriahurst Museum pruning azaleas.  We are working on restoring their gardens to the original plan of the early 20th century.  This included a horseshoe shaped bed of azaleas, but the plants have not been pruned in many years and are really overgrown.   When we have them wacked back to the size they should be, we will relocate them to re-form the horseshoe.  654 GDD

June 20 - Tuesday
Mowed the lawn again today.  Evening primrose is blooming.

June 18 - Sunday
Hot and humid today.  Temperatures got up to 97 F here.  Pruned the rhododendrons in the morning.  We always do this just after the flowers have gone so that the bushes will have all summer to generate fresh wood and buds for next year's flowers.  Weeded.  Bought a couple of more tuberous begonias for dead spots in some of the new beds.  Harvested some lavender flowers to dry for flavor and aroma next winter.  We are also harvesting herbs now, before the bugs get to them.  I tie them up and dry them in a north facing window.  The garden gives us enough oregano, sage, and thyme to last all year.

June 17 - Saturday
Still weeding.  Deadheaded the donkey-tail spurge (Euphorbia).  If I catch it now, just after flowering but before the seeds mature, it won't be popping up in the lawn all summer.  Wear gloves if you do this - the milky sap can be irritating.   We got some rain in the afternoon, so things are nicely watered.

June 16 - Friday
Weeded in the early morning while it was still cool.  Relocated some volunteer morning glories closer to the kitchen garden fence so they will have some support.  Planted out a few more peppers and eggplants, this time in the herb garden where they will get full sun.  Most of the planting is finally done, so now it's time to move into maintenance - weeding, watering and dead-heading.  The mock orange tree is in full bloom.

June 15 - Thursday
Visited the herb garden at the Gilbert Farm House in Storrowton Village today.  This is a formalized version of an early 19th century herb garden, and it includes a lot of plants that we don't consider herbs today.  In addition to the standard culinary herbs, there is a medicinal section with echinacea, heart's-ease (better known as Johnny-jump-up) and foxglove; a textile or dye-plant section with things like baptisia; and, a household section with strewing herbs and soapwort, which actually foams and cleans.  It was a most inspiring visit.  532 GDD

June 14 - 534 Growing Degree Days, Soil Temperature 62 F,  .32" of rain in the last two weeks

June 13 - Tuesday
The garden loosestrife and scarlet lychnis are now blooming in the south perennial bed.  The Knockout rose (red) is blooming, but the pink fairy rose has not yet broken buds.

June 12 - Monday
Another beautiful day, but I had to go to work.  Checking the gardens in the evening, I see that the chive blossoms are just about to fade.  We picked some and covered them with red wine vinegar to make chive vinegar.  It's a simple trick, but it tastes delicious.  We also tried something we saw published on peonies a few days ago.  We cut a stem with a bud that was about to open and left it dry on the sideboard for 24 hours, then recut it and put it in water.  It seems to have worked, because the bed opened and the flower has stayed beautiful for three days not.

June 11 - Sunday
A beautiful day.  The peonies are in full bloom and beautiful.  The Scabiosa daisies are also blooming now.  At the edge of our woodland garden, two virburnums - Nannyberry and Northern Arrowwood are blooming.  The Mock Orange is in bud and should bloom any day now.  We have a young tom turkey who seems to be living in our woods and coming out to clean the ground under the sunflower feeder.  Today he was under the feeder while a rose breasted grosbeak was on it.

June 10 - Saturday
Took a walk up Soapstone Mountain in Connecticut.  Wildflowers in bloom included maple leaf viburnum, squash berry viburnum, false Solomon's seal and wild geranium with the hawkweed just starting.  Cold and drizzling.  We did do some weeding when we got home.

June 9 - Friday
It has been a wet, wet week.  I finally got out into the gardens again today.  Mowed some lawn.  Planted some more annual flowers - marigolds, cosmos, verbena, baby's breath, Arctotis (a white African daisy with a pale lavender throat).  The rain took its toll on the bearded iris and they are now about past, but the peonies are just starting to bloom.  The mountain laurel is also blooming and the Japanese iris are holding up well.  The Shasta daisies are blooming as well.  In the kitchen gardens we have lots of lettuce and the tomato, pepper and eggplant plants are coming along.  My patio tomato has blooms.  We are also starting herbs from seed anywhere we can find a spare few inches of space.

June 7 - 449 Growing Degree Days, Soil Temperature 63 F,  1.81" of rain in the last two weeks

June 2 - Friday
Rain today, so not much gardening.  The tomatoes and peppers we planted out seem to be thriving.

June 1 - Thursday
The Japanese Iris are now in full bloom.  We also have bloom spikes on our foxtail lilies.  Last year they bloomed, but the flowers were disappointing, looking fairly ragged.  Hopefully they'll do better this year.  If not, out they go.  I have more peppers and tomatoes than I can find room for now.  I planted some of the ornamental peppers in a sunny annual bed where the big red maple used to be.  We'll see if the critters will leave them alone long enough to get a harvest.

May 31 - Wednesday - 372 Growing Degree Days, Soil Temperature 66 F,  .12" of rain in the last two weeks
Putting stakes into the ground for the tomatoes and peppers.  This is the stage where the plants look puny and the stakes look huge.  In a month or so, I won't even be able to find the stakes.  The second planting of cucumbers is now up.  I had to water today, due to the hot dry weather.  That meant patching the soaker hoses, an annual spring ritual as I find the weak spots that developed over the winter.  They make great fountains when they split.  372 GDD.

May 30 - Tuesday
With the hot weather, the tomato seedlings that I thought were done for are now showing vigorous growth.  I now have more than I can use.  Such is gardening!  Bought some more annual flowers to fill in gaps. 

May 29 - Monday, Memorial Day
A beautiful Memorial Day.  Weeding and planting annuals today.

May 28 - Sunday
Indy 500 Day.  Trimmed the evergreen shrubs in the morning and potted up some more patio tomato plants.  Watered and fertilized some of the annuals in anticipation of another hot day.  It's a beautiful Memorial Day weekend.

May 27 - Saturday
Mowed the lawn again today.  The corn gluten I put on in April seems to be doing its job of limiting weeds and fertilizing.  The lawn is really lush.  It was hot all day, but in the evening it cooled down enough to plant out tomato plants and eggplants.  The first plot of beans is coming up and the lettuce plants are looking great.

May 26 - Friday - 249 Growing Degree Days, Soil Temperature 60 F,  .91" of rain in the last two weeks
Today's project was more weeding and some planting.  We put in more bean seeds and some annual flowers.  The Rhododendrons are blooming and the Scabiosa has buds.

May 25 - Thursday
Today was spent in garden meetings.  It began with my local garden club meeting at one of the member's home.  We got a tour of the garden, including a spectacular Scotch Broom shrub.  Then it was on to Wisteriahurst, where the wisteria is just finishing up, with a few late blossoms, but it still looks great.  The garden restoration project there is coming along well.

May 24 - Wednesday
Today we weeded and planted.  I put together a planter with a white-and-pink Pelagorum (geranium), the pineapple sage, a variegated vinca.   I also planted out the Verbena.  We started cutting back the spring bulb foliage in the perennial beds so that the perennials will have some sun and room to breath.  In the woods the wild Geraniums are blooming and in front of the house the Rhododendrons are showing some color in their flower buds.  They are promising warmer weather later in the week.  249 GDD.

May 23 - Tuesday
Spent the afternoon at the Springfield Farmer's Market giving gardening advice.  It was cool and blustery, but the market was fantastic.  Berkshire Bakery was back with their great artisanal breads.  One of the stands had fresh Hadley asparagus, which is otherwise next to impossible to obtain.  Red Fire Farm had organic lettuce and radishes.  Overlook Farm had their locally grown and processed pork.  Everybody had flats and flats of annual flowers, perennials, and vegetable plants.  And, of course, Don Mayou was there with his locally made honey.  I bought some Verbena bonairensis and a pineapple sage on the advice of friends.   We'll see how they do.

May 21 - Sunday
Sorry about missing a few days on the blog.  It's been cool and wet, then yesterday was the annual bird census in the Springfield area so I spent most of it in the field looking for warblers.  Then we lost power in the evening.  Now I have a confession to make.  My tomato seedlings are not gonna make it.  I think I put them out in the greenhouse too early, but whatever the cause, they are too small to even consider.  So today we went down to a local farm/greenhouse and bought six packs of Early Girl, Better Boy, Roma and Brandywine as well as one larger Brandywine.  Some years are like that.  I planted out three of the early girls and the big Brandywine.  The rest will wait until it dries out and get warm!

May 18 - Thursday
Took the morning off and went for a bird walk around the Ludlow Reservoir.  The redstarts and orioles were dripping off the trees.  Then, when I got home, an oriole was sitting in the bird bath and a black-billed cuckoo was calling in the distance.  I direct seeded some flowers and herbs (dill and parsley), and did more weeding.  Several of the seedlings I set out before the rain are somewhat worse for the wear, but most things are doing well.

May 17 - Wednesday - 216 Growing Degree Days, Soil Temperature 58 F,  3.23" of rain in the last two weeks
Finally, some sun.  Spent part of the day planting and weeding.  We're working on new annual beds where removal of the trees now lets the sun in.  Mowed the lawn for the second time.  All that rain makes for lots of grass.  I use a mulching mower and cut the grass high.  This reduces my need for fertilizer and encourages deep roots which means less watering.

May 16 - Tuesday
More rain.  That's all.

May 15 Ė Monday
Another rainy day. Luckily, we havenít had a lot of flooding here in Western Mass., the way it was in the East. Iím potting up house plants that Iíve propagated for the local Garden Club sale. I have jade trees and Kalenchoe trees, as well as Scindapsus vines. These are all really easy to propagate. Just cut off a leaf, dip it in rooting hormone (or not) and stick it in some damp potting soil. I usually start lots so that if some of them donít take I still get a good number of plants.

May 14 Ė Sunday
It rained heavily all day, so we didnít get to garden. I received an e-mail from Rhode Island asking about insects that are eating tree and rose leaves. It sounds like winter moth caterpillars, which are active now. They look like green inch-worms and are a real problem, especially in southeastern New England. According to the UMass Extension service, they should pupate (turn into adults) and stop eating by late May. Weíll see.

May 13 Ė Saturday
We spent the morning planting between rain showers. We planted leeks, cucumber plants, and early tomatoes in the kitchen gardens. We also planted some of the annual flowers we bought yesterday. In the afternoon, we visited Forest Park in Springfield. The spring clematis in the rose garden is blooming, but the lotus pools are flooded. I donít know what this will do to the plantings.

May 12 - Friday
It's raining heavily today, which is great for the gardens but is keeping me inside.   The past few days have been cool and cloudy, but I've been working, so I have not been out in the gardens as much as I would have liked.  One of our more interesting trilliums is blooming.  We have two mature plants of Trillium cernuum,  a small but beautiful white flower with purple stigmas.  These are deep in the woods.  The may apples are also starting to bloom, but you have to look underneath their big green umbrellas to see the large white flowers.  All this rain!  I guess I'll have to go buy some more annuals.  Today we bought Gazania (Gazania splendens), China asters (Callistephus chinensis 'Perfection Mix'), Bacopa ('Sutera'), sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) and basil for the herb garden, vinca for another basket, heliotrope (Heliotripum arborescens), and pentas (Pentas lanceolata).

May 10 - 199 Growing Degree Days, Soil Temperature 59 F,  .06" of rain in the last two weeks

May 8 - Monday
I'm feeling awful today with an upset stomach, so we go out and buy annuals.  We got six packs of stock, torenia, zinnias, dahlias, pinks (Dianthus chinensis), Baby's beath (Gypsophyla), snapdragons, annual verbena (red 'Tukana' and white 'Temai'), and coleus.  These will go into the borders of the kitchen gardens and the shady corners of the house.  The verbena and gypsophyla will also make great hanging baskets to attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

May 7 - Sunday
Shrubs blooming today include Daphne, Deutzia, Dogwood and just a start on the honeysuckle.  The oak tree is starting to leaf out.  Planted out one dahlia in a sunny bed.  Spent some time ripping buckthorn and bittersweet sprouts out of the woods.  Finished mulching the kitchen gardens.  There is a frost warning for tonight, but we should be okay.  I'll bring my patio tomato in, just in case.

May 6 - Saturday
Cloudy today, so maybe we'll get some showers and less heat.  Potting out peppers and tomatoes in 3-inch pots today.  Is it time yet to start buying tender annuals?  There is no frost in the forecast - yet!  This is the time for boldness.  The dogwood is in bloom and the first bearded iris just came out.  In the woods the yellow trillium (trillium luteum) are blooming.  I seem to have at least 4 big ones this year.

May 5 - Friday
Cinco de Mayo - Mowed my lawn for the first time today.  Between the rain, the heat and the corn gluten, it is really greening up, even if I am not a lawn person.  The Sargent crab apples I transplanted are still in a bit of shock.  I'm giving them water and hoping they make it.  I  moved my peppers and early tomatoes from under lights out into the unheated greenhouse, and they seem to be doing well there.  Later today I will put in a fall bulb order.  Planting time for them is still 4 months away but the prices are good now.

May 4 - Thursday
Today was the first day of real gardening this week.  I worked on Monday and then it rained for two days.  So today, I made up for it by overdoing things.  Today was the day for dividing perennials and putting some aside for the garden club plant sale.  I attached the pulmonaria, the evening primrose, the beard-tongue, and the coral bells.  But I also took time to notice that the Jacob's ladder is blooming, as are the yellow trillium lutea.  Something ate the tops off the purple trillium last night.  The apple and pear trees are a mass of blooms and the jack-in-the-pulpits are popping up all over the woods.  It's May and the world is right.

May 3 - 149 Growing Degree Days, Soil Temperature 50 F,  .94" of rain in the last two weeks

April 2006