If I had only one season in which to plant a vegetable garden, it would be fall. No doubt about it. And the reason is simple: vegetables harvested in the fall taste better. No doubt about that either. And just what will I be planting, you ask?
Twenty years ago, I spotted a sign on a variety of sedum called ‘Autumn Joy’ that claimed the plant would “thrive on neglect.” Convinced the phrase was nothing more than marketing blather, I took one home, stuck it in a one-gallon terra cotta pot, and vowed never to water it, fertilize it, or intervene in its life in any way. I figured it might last a year, maybe two. I was wrong.
Ever heard of a Gallant Soldier, Fat Hen, or Good King Henry? Although they could pass for the names of British pubs, they are in fact common names of plants. And like most common names, they typically require some explanation. Take, for example, the tomato known as ‘Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter.’
I get asked so many questions about ants that some days I just want to scream, “Uncle!” So let me just say right off the top that most ants aren’t bad. In fact, most ants are enormously important little critters. And rather than seeing them as pests in the garden, I suggest you think of them as partners. Here’s why.
Bermuda grass isn’t from Bermuda. Jerusalem artichokes aren’t from Jerusalem (they aren’t even artichokes!) The eastern red cedar seen throughout Green Country isn’t a cedar at all. And cauliflower has been described as “cabbage with a college education.” Oh, how I love the wacky work of gardening. But wait…there’s more!
Recent rains were a nice respite, but now it looks as though we’re heading into an extended period of hot weather, with heat indices climbing well into the 100s and few chances for additional rain. That’s hardly surprising, given that it’s officially summer. And with that in mind, here are the two most important words to keep in mind – mulch and water.
This is a time of transition in the vegetable garden, and I face it with mixed emotions. I’m forced to rip out lettuce, spinach, and other greens (no more fresh salads!) that have bolted due to the heat, but I look forward to harvesting tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and the like. And here’s what I’m doing now to make sure all goes according to plan.
Pollinator gardens are all the rage these days, thanks largely to the concern over the future of honeybees and Monarch butterflies, whose populations have been in decline in recent years. That’s made them the poster children for the pollinator movement, and that’s a good thing. But there are lots of other critters that pollinate our gardens, and they deserve attention too.
When my daughter was 12 or 13, she commented on how pretty a particular tree was as we strolled through the garden. “What’s it called?” she asked. “It’s Acer japonicum aconitifolium,” I said. She then repeated those three words three times, and now nearly 15 years later she can still pronounce the Latin name of the Full Moon Japanese maple perfectly. But why didn’t I just call it that in the first place?