Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Height of the Summer!

We’ve reached the height of the summer, and now that we've gotten a break from the high temps and humidity, it seems like the season is progressing well. Even with really high temperatures, the fact that we've gotten rainfall regularly makes a huge difference. I said to John that things were looking a little stressed in the gardens after the week of 90+ temps, but with rain and the cool-down, everything perked right back up. Many herbs like lavender, thyme, sage, rosemary, etc. love the heat. Others like parsley, mints, basils are OK with the heat, but need adequate moisture to thrive during the really hot spells.

One consequence of the heat may not show up until later. Many plants will not set flower buds above certain temperatures. So extended periods of high temps may delay bud formation, which will delay flowering for some end of the season plants. Last year, it happened with our hyacinth bean vines. They flowered late, when the beans should have been developing. Only a handful of beans developed and l didn’t gather any seeds. I know pineapple sage flowered really late, too.

l’ve been seeing some larger butterflies - monarchs and swallowtails, both black and yellow. l’ve seen swallowtail caterpillars on their host plants - dill, parsley, fennel and rue. No signs of monarch caterpillars on the swamp milkweed, but they could be feasting on all the common milkweed that‘s growing out back. This year, l'll be able to harvest seeds from swamp milkweed. Last year, I got no seeds. l purchased some and not a one germinated, so we had no plants for sale this spring. They should be back in the inventory next year.

Our vegetable garden is a jungle! We had a bumper crop of sugar peas. We never get ours in on St. Patrick's Day, like they say, so we often pick until July. But I never remember picking them until the end of July. In fact, we picked sugar peas and our first few tomatoes the same day. Sure that never happened before. The beans have been producing for awhile and our tomato plants are huge.

Part of the vegetable garden is devoted to flowers to dry for the shop, like globe amaranth, that look like clover heads and annual statice. I grow four colors of statice and the funny thing is that it always blooms in the same order - rose, white, lavender and dark blue. This has been true every year since I've grown it. It never ceases to amaze me the survival techniques that plants have developed.

With the lower humidity, it‘s much easier to finish off the flowers and herbs I've been drying. l had a great crop of chamomile flowers for tea. When l*m done harvesting that, I cut back all the old foliage to the ground and allow new foliage to develop. This technique works well on many perennials, herbal and ornamental. They look like they've had a bad haircut for a short time, but cutting back the old encourages the development of new foliage.

No more sightings of our wandering box turtle. The toads (at least two) are in and out of the greenhouse. There's one that spends most of the time in the dirt in the back corner - he seems most comfortable there. There must have been at least one couple, because l've come across a little toad outside. Also been seeing quite a few adolescent praying mantises on various plants, so some of the egg sacs we've come across have survived and been productive.

I have to laugh when l look at Lucy and think of the phrase, “dog days." During the hot weather, she's only active during the early morning and in the evening. In between, she sleeps. l wonder, why is she sleeping in the air conditioning while I'm out working?