Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Veggies Redux

     This cherry variety is my first tomato of the season. The photo was taken a few days ago, and Wan just picked it this morning. My friends in North Carolina are hooting with laughter.

      Of the warm weather crops only my hot chili peppers have become prolific.

     My cukes look great, but they are less than half way up the fence and are only now beginning to flower.

     The pole beans  look great, too -- but so far not a single flower, let alone a bean.

     I will get a ton of produce in a few weeks, but that is small comfort now.... and that is the reason I plant some of the crops I do.

     My spinach gave out several weeks ago after three decent crops. It really doesn't like full summer. But we are still harvesting broccoli, snow peas and sugar snap peas every other day. Out frig is jammed and we are stuffing our faces with Swiss chard, kale, and radicchio as well as peas.

     The broccoli will continue for the rest of the season, but both types of peas will give out soon. They still producing full blast, but you can see the first stalks beginning to yellow. Soon they will be done, and we will wait two weeks and then plant some more. We can watch them grow while living off green beans, tomatoes and cukes.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


'Soleil d'Or' hybrid tea rose.

     My grandmother never would have thought of a rose as a "garden workhorse." Roses were the prima donna's of the garden -- beautiful, but temperamental and demanding. Gardeners of that generation were constantly spraying and dusting and mulching and worrying about hideous-sounding diseases like "black-spot." Rose gardeners seemed only one step below orchid growers when it came to obsessive pampering and slavish devotion.

     In the last two decades nurseries and botanic gardens have made determined strides toward breeding rose cultivars more suitable for lazy gardeners like me. The new varieties are frequently patented or trademarked and you will see names like "Carefree" and "Flower Carpet" on many pot labels.

     The most recent and popular of these are the 'Knock Out' roses. These roses are cold hardy and have much better disease and insect resistance than traditional roses. I prune mine once a year around the first of March and I give them water when they need it. Otherwise I leave them alone. My wife Wan "dead-heads" (that is, cuts off spent blooms) periodically. This encourages more new blooms, but it is not essential. Knock Outs require significant, but not full sun.

The Knock Out patch at my front steps.

    For this relatively puny effort, my Knock Outs keep blooming from May until after Thanksgiving. When you compare this to the 2-3 weeks peonies are in their glory, you can see why I call them "work horses." It is hard to get more bang for the buck.

     When they first came out, the only problem with these beauties was that they came in only one color -- a kind of dark neon pink. With each passing year, however, more varieties appear. There are now double-blooms, pinks, light pinks, yellow/creams, and coral blooms with yellow centers. Now we can be lazy and picky at the same time.