Friday, October 28, 2011

Fall Delights

As the leaves change color all around Seattle, I look for similar inspiration in my fall veggie garden.

Easy punches of color can be found in Swiss chard 'Bright Lights' and many kale varieties. One favorite is 'Red Bor' that intensifies as the temperature drops.

I tried out 'Ruby Streaks' mustard last fall and was disappointed. It started out wimpy and didn't have the deep purple foliage I hoped for. Before I wrote it off as a poor performer, I decided to collect the seed anyway and try it again.

This year is a different story. The purple color looks great and really stands out against the Yucca 'Color Guard.' I'm not sure what made a difference this year. Possibly they were planted a little earlier, giving them some more time in the warm soil and adequately adjust to the gradually cooling temperatures.

I'll keep you posted on the other fall veggies I planted around the garden: escarole, tah tsai (go away slugs!), and even red lettuce.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Out with the pond. In with the blueberries

I was conflicted for a long time about removing our bog. Though a lovely feature in the spring and summer, it came apparent this year that I needed to fill it in. Too many mosquitoes, the sharp cyperus-like plants, and the constant worry a toddler might fall in. The main reason why I dragged my feat in removing it was: What would take its place?

I gave it a lot of thought. Since the pond form would stay--I couldn't imagine digging up the whole thing--it would serve great as a place to grow potatoes. I could contain them in one spot and not worry about them escaping into the rest of the garden.

But, potatoes. Are they really that nice to look at during the growing season? Sure they put out some white flowers, but then you have to wait for them to turn yellow before harvesting them.

Another problem I had this year was my Top Hat blueberry plant outgrew its corner. The bed is way to shallow where it was planted. Plus, a few days of no water during a hot spell, the poor thing got scorched. And I had a couple of newly planted North Sky blueberries I picked up from Raintree Nursery at this year's Northwest Flower and Garden Show. The small 4" plants were being overrun by the other veggies in the bed. I also acquired yet another Top Hat from City People's this fall. It was a nice looking plant and on sale. I couldn't resist!

Even though it hasn't rained that much, removing the soggy plants was quite a feat. The roots had even engulfed large rocks making the load even heavier. I had to piecemeal it into two yard waste carts, fearing the collectors would think it was too heavy to take away.

With the pond empty, it was now time to fill it with soil. Could I get away with just filling it in? The form has two levels: a deeper middle section and a ledge around the perimeter. I filled in the middle section as much as I could. It rained the following day and was a soupy mess. The blueberries would probably like a little more drainage. I couldn't get away without having drainage holes. Better do it now, rather than realizing after completely filling it in and fully planted out.

I love starting conversations with my husband like this: "Do we have an old quarter-inch drill bit you don't mind going through plastic, soil and rock?" Luckily we had exactly what I asked for. In about 15 minutes, I was able to drill all the holes.

Here's a look at the middle filled in and the ledge drilled out.

I was fortunate to have fair amount of extra soil in an adjacent bed. Last year, I installed a small eco-turf lawn and ended up with twice as much soil delivered than what I asked for. I threw it into the veggie beds and thought, "Well, as least I can grow some really long carrots!" The extra soil was perfect for filling in this space.

I couldn't wait to get planting once I finished my last shovels of soil. Here's a shot of all four plants. The Top Hats are on the ends and the two North Sky in the middle.

Here's a detail shot of the lovely fall color already showing on the North Sky.

These plants should be happy in their new location: plenty of sun and good acidic soil. The cool rains have started. I'm going to enjoy their colorful fall show and dream of a fruitful harvest for next summer.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Edibles in Front

This is the second year I've planted my heat-loving tomatoes in the front garden and the first I included eggplant.

Last year, despite our minimal summer, I enjoyed a fair amount of tomatoes from my south-facing front yard. I decided it wasn't worth trying to grow them in the back yard this year. Even with my west facing beds, I have much more space in front for them.

We had another cool summer this year, but with the little heat we did get, I had a great crop of cherry tomatoes. Remember, I'm not growing big, beefy heirlooms like Purple Cherokee. I choose varieties that have less than 85 days to mature.

Look at these gorgeous Black Cherry tomatoes!

If wonderfully vine-ripened tomatoes are your goal, then you may want to consider changing your aesthetic perspective. I find tomato towers a nice accent to my perennials. Check it out. Wow! cherry tomatoes growing behind my Cape Fuchsia and Symphytum 'Axminster Gold.'

You can see the Symphytum again behind my 'Kyoto Egg' eggplant. Both types of eggplant thrived here.

Breaking the rules and norms can lead to beautiful veggies AND a beautiful garden. Get out there and try something new!