Monday, August 15, 2016

Summer Swelter

I'm here, I'm here! I know I've been slacking here on my blog. But I think you'll find the same is true for many garden bloggers this time of year. Instead of talking about our gardens, we're actually out there enjoying them. But I have to admit, I might be shirking in that department also. You see, it's been a very hot and steamy summer, with no rain to cool off a weary gardener.

Yes, I know, I should get out into the garden early before it gets too hot. Perhaps I *should* do this, but it doesn't mean I will. I'm not much of a morning person, and it's very hard for me to be up early and motivated. I'd rather linger over the morning paper with my cup of tea by my side.

This means that weeds are taking advantage of the situation, and growing vigorously. Some of my garden plants may be stunted by the dry spell, but weeds could care less about a drought. I'm looking at you dandelions! Lawns are drying up, shrubs are fading, flowers are giving up. The garden hose and I are getting to be really good friends, as I spend time every day giving everything a good, long drink.

If this sounds an awful lot like last month's post, I apologize. The drought is even worse now, one month later. Some parts of the city have gotten rain here and there, but it always misses us here in Robin's Nest. The funny thing is that despite the dry weather, the humidity is through the roof. Working out in the yard is just not pleasant this summer. Perhaps I'm a fair weather gardener. Well, I own that title. You won't often find me outside working in this much humid heat. Still, something has got to be done about that mess out there!

Even the plants that don't get watered regularly are crying out for my help. The vegetable garden is fading fast, despite my supplemental watering. Luckily the tomatoes are still looking good and putting out plenty of fruit. We've had plenty of cucumbers, but now the plants are dying quickly. I just can't get a handle on the cucumber problem every summer. I've heard that floating row covers are the answer, and I'm not sure why I haven't tried it. I guess I just don't know enough about how it all works. How do floating row covers, which have to be removed for pollination, do me any good at this part of the summer? This is when the plants always die! And I call myself a master gardener. Ha!

To combat the gloom and doom of this garden report,  I'm highlighting photos of the spots that carry on despite the heat and dry weather. I just can't bear to photograph the rough spots.

Like last year, I've been raising a couple of monarch caterpillars. This time, I started from the beginning, with eggs found in my own garden, so it's extra special to me. I'll be sure to post more of them next time. I find it so thrilling, especially when it gets to the butterfly part.

I wrote all of the above yesterday, and last night we actually did get a good rain. What was shocking to me was that I slept right through it! I would have liked to see this wonderful thing. An inch and a quarter sounds wonderful, but I hear we are three inches below normal. Let's hope for more. Maybe that way, I can put up a more uplifting post next time around!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Summer Sights

Summer goes on. The days are long, hot, and sticky. Garden weeds run rampant in this weather. My main chore this time of year is trying to keep up with those crazy weeds. By the time I circle around all my garden beds, new weeds have already popped up in the first bed. Sometimes I finish one bed, turn my back on it, and when I turn back around, there will suddenly be one large weed sticking its tongue out at me. Okay, that part may be a slight exaggeration. But not much!

My hydrangeas are starting to bloom, as is the hardy hibiscus. These two particular plants please me immensely. Maybe it's the extra large size of their blossoms.

Container gardens often need a refresh by this time of year. I've had to switch out a few plants here and there. But that may be because I was out traveling, and they didn't get the water that they needed. My window boxes start off the year with pansies, but when the pansies start to fade, they are switched out for simple begonias. I have a new appreciation for this common flower. They seem to like this particular spot to grow, and reward me by filling in generously. Or maybe they're getting a boost from the organic fertilizer that I often sprinkle in them. The similar window box style planter, seen here at sunset on the side of the garage gets a little different treatment. It's sunnier and larger, so I do more varied plantings there. I'm pleased with this combination of plants, but did have to fill in a bare spot with petunias recently. I'm not happy at how quickly this planter wilts in the heat, so changes will be made next year. I'm not a fan of doing the garden hose rodeo every day, as you may know.

I also made an adjustment to my wine bottle art, which is a fancy name for my version of a bottle tree. When I installed it two summers ago, I used multi-color bottles. Since then I decided to transition over to the traditional blue bottles, forcing me to change the kind of wine that I usually drink in order to acquire the needed supplies. If you look closely, you'll see that I still need to drink one more blue bottle wine. It's a tough project, but I think I can muddle through...

My favorite annual is the zinnia, because it grows easily from seed and comes in so many varieties. Most people who follow my blog or on Facebook know that my absolute favorite is the Queen Red Lime zinnia. They're a little harder to come by than the others, but worth the trouble to me. I love their muted, antique coloring. They're just starting to bloom here and there. Soon I'll have many, many blooms to share! You see, I've had my best year ever for germination, and I have lots more plants than usual. Can't wait! Along with the Queen, I do like Tequila Lime zinnias a lot too. I also planted some of these two varieties in a pots this year, something I've never done before. I was worried they wouldn't bloom in such a small space, but they sure did.

I also planted a patch of Cut and Come Again zinnias in the vegetable garden, to serve as a cutting garden. Hubby built these wonderful raised beds for the veggies, and we now have additional space out there. That's why I claimed a little real estate for these. I actually did pick a bouquet, but as usual, I like them so much as is that it's hard for me to cut them. As you can see, I squeezed a ton of seeds into a tiny little spot. It looks fabulous, I say!

This time of year is when I see an uptick in the butterflies that visit Robin's Nest. Coincidentally, many of the favorite butterfly flowers come into bloom right about now. Butterflies and hummingbirds are two of my main priorities when gardening. So this is my favorite time of year in the garden!

The baby birds we found in the birdhouse have fledged by now, but I do believe there is another brood in the making. Many bird lovers don't appreciate house sparrows, but I'll leave them alone for now. I think in the winter I'll clean out the box and hope that they don't return next year. I read that they chase away the more desirable birds like bluebirds. The bluebird seen in my May post hasn't been spotted since then, even though I often put out mealworms for him. Needless to say, I'd love to see him again. Goldfinches are another story. I see them often here, and try to keep my finch sock filled with nyjer seeds. But it's hard to keep up with those hungry little guys! The mourning doves have learned to hang out beneath the finch sock in order to pick up any loose seed. Did you know that mourning doves have pink feet? Well, now you do!

And so summer goes in Robin's Nest. Most evenings you'll find me out on the patio with my camera around my neck, hoping to see more summer sights to share with you here.