I’m Busy

No joke. It’s a busy time of year and I find myself getting more and more distracted.

The photo shows yesterday’s garden haul. Cucumbers and eggplant, peppers and cherry tomatoes. I gave away most everything. While I’m planning on making babaganoush one of these days, it won’t be today. The cukes and tomatoes I still have will go into dinner salads. I just have to run out and buy lettuce. Maybe tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the PitchWars submission starts a week from today. The Romance Writers of America contest submission will go in later that same week. I’m still waiting to hear from six agents and an e-publisher. I’m staying positive and Learning2bLucky about it all.

Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking–incessantly–about an old story I tried to write many years ago. Clones steal a human egg that’s earmarked to produce a genetically different leader for their world. And get caught. Can’t get it out of my mind. Keep writing notes. And frankly, I’m too busy for short-story writing at the moment.

I also have it mind to start some microgreens in the basement. That seems doable in October. Since I have zero experience, I’m eagerly asking for advice from the knowledgeable.

Here’s hoping for cooler temps as summer comes to an end this weekend. Happy Fall.

Finally, Watermelon

Short blog today. I’m running, with lots to do this month both writing and in the garden. It’s the start of fall, despite the sizzling September temperatures.

But here’s our success story for the week. We actually grew an edible watermelon.

Some years were too hot, too dry, or too wet at the wrong time. Most years, we picked it too soon or too late. Some years coyote or deer got to it first, destroying the fruit.

But this year, the heavens shone on us and we got one–maybe two–amazing, enormous, sweet and delicious melons.

Yay.

Cover Crop

Happy Labor Day and Welcome September!

The photo shows the bed I used this year for lettuce and beans, now sprouting red clover.

This year, I decided to try a cover crop in my raised beds–at least in some of them–instead of using black plastic bags as a weed preventer. Or discourager, since nothing prevents weeds.

The purpose of the cover crop–besides crowding out weeds–is to add nitrogen to the soil. And of course, nitrogen is one of the fertilizers that help plants grow.

I chose red clover, available at Amazon here, but probably available at your local nursery or farm supply store. If this is something for you to try, make sure you buy inoculated seed. Innoculation adds a bacterial rhizome, important when adding nitrogen to the soil. It’s the bacteria that converts nitrogen from the atmosphere into nitrogen the plants can use.

I’ve planted red clover before and the flowers are gorgeous. I’m leaving this bed alone for a full year–meaning I’m skipping a season of planting anything else here–to see how well the clover enriches the soil.

Meanwhile, while I’d like to say the daylily separation project proceeds apace, it’s really at a slow pace. The rainy weather has turned the yard and all the flower beds into mini-swamps. Not good for transplanting. I do have some yellow, orange, and pink divided and available to good homes.

Here’s to some dry, cooler weather. While September can be sizzling hot, all the signs point to an early fall. We’ll see.

Dividing Daylilies

Every three years, I divide daylilies. Since I have one-hundred-plus on the property, I’ve staggered the schedule so that in any one year, I’m working on about thirty.

And, since I don’t have one-hundred different varieties, I always have the option of tossing the duplicates. That might happen this year.

When the bloom season is over, a daylily resembles the above photo EXCEPT it also has woody stems from the year’s flowers. You can pull these off the plant easily unless they’re still green. Green stems need to be cut.

I trim the leaves with a sharp pruner.

I could let the lilies pictured here go another year. But I’ll have fewer flowers. Dividing is worth the trouble as it promotes more blooms.

When you buy a bare-root daylily, you’ll get a “fan.” Wish I knew how to create those neat, little fans and retain the roots. I think it requires a special tool that I don’t own. I use a sharpened shovel edge and end up with perfectly viable clumps.

These are clumps I replanted in an empty veg-bed about three weeks ago. Thanks to the rain and cooler temps, they’ve done well and have already begun to grow.

Sadly, I haven’t mapped which daylilies grow where. That’s a job for next year. This year, I’ve got orange and yellow in one bed; pinks, reds, and maroons in another. Maybe…

If you live in the area and want some daylilies (no guarantees), send me a DM through Face Book Messenger. We’ll set a date after Labor Day. Bring a shovel–needn’t be large–and a bucket or box. Otherwise, half of these divisions will end up on the burn pile.

Bagworms and Cottonwood Borers Begone

I stumbled on Environmental Tree and Pest Solutions via Next Door. Looking at their website, I especially liked their focus on protecting the planet.

Here is Lauren, spraying the cottonwoods for borers on a day with little wind, and therefore not a lot of overspray. She’ll be back later this evening to help with the evergreen bagworms–I have one tree affected. She’ll also be treating my apple trees for leaf rust.

Sadly, in the last storm, one of the Granny Smith trees fell over. When I looked at the roots I found it had virtually none. Something’s been eating it, and so onto the burn pile it went. It’s hard to give up on a two-year old tree, but in this case, I think it’s better to just start over.

Here’s hoping our pests are a thing of the past–or at least till next spring–with little impact on the birds and the bees.

Cottonwood Borers

Do I/don’t I have borers in this cottonwood tree?

According to my Google research, the cottonwood borer is a longhorn beetle, Plectrodera scalator found east of the Rocky Mountains. Well, that’s Kansas. Problem is, looking at the photos of this beetle, it’s both large (inch and a half long) and distinctive, having a white body with black striations. I’ve never seen one. Promise.

Meanwhile, between the caterpillar chewing on my sweet gum tree, this cottonwood, and a Eastern Red Cedar that looks to have bagworms, I’ve called in an expert tree pest person. Arriving Friday to give me a bid. So it’s another cliffhanger today.

But here’s the backstory on this cottonwood. Seven years ago, I planted five cotton-less cottonwood trees. I needed a nice-enough tree that was also a fast grower. And for the first five years, all was well.

And then, one dark and stormy night, a deer stomped through my yard, stopping to rub itself against the bark of one of the cottonwoods. Resulting in damage to the bark, shown in the following photo.

Wowzer. I think this damage gave invitation to the borers, a little like inviting a vampire into one’s home. Please come in and drink my blood, said the tree.

If I lose this cottonwood to borers, I’ll plant a slow-growing, hardwood tree instead. A white oak or a sawtooth oak. What’s the saying? Planting a tree is a gift to future generations.

What’s Been Eating My Sweet Gum Tree?

The sweet gum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua) was mature when we got here–a twenty-five or thirty year-old tree. Sixty feet tall and, until now, problem free.

But this year, the lower leaves are about chewed away. The good news: the leaves at the top of the tree seem to be intact.

Google to the rescue–only not this time. Google points to tent or bag worms. It names a few specific caterpillars that like to feast on sweet gums. But I can’t find signs of any of these. So what’s been eating my sweet gum? Still a mystery.

While I haven’t noticed any tents or bags, I have seen black cocoon-like structures dangling from the lower branches. We removed these and drowned them in soapy water. But it’s too late to save the lower leaves, which means it’s too late to spray for caterpillars. But guaranteed, I’ll look for caterpillars next spring.

All the articles say that wasps and hornets will eat caterpillars. This year, we haven’t seen as many wasps as usual. I think that’s a bad thing, another one of those soft signs that the climate is changing.

Pecan Trees–Who Knew?

About seven years ago, we planted two pecan trees. The catalog we ordered from promised cross-pollination. But here it is, year seven, and where are the nuts?

Research to the rescue. Soooo…two different kinds of pecan trees are needed to cross-pollinate. Oops.

And I should be fertilizing the trees every month from March to June. Double oops.

And there’s a spray with zinc sulfate I should be using. Ouch. Slap my face. I had no idea.

I called an online nursery to find out which trees I should plant for cross-pollination and learned of two varieties that will work, Cape Fear and Elliot. Both will grow in Zone 6–never mind that we had a Zone 5 winter last year. The rep I chatted with was nice enough to offer me free shipping.

Except. They’re out of both varieties of pecans, at least until spring.

So I’m off to find those trees elsewhere. For the same price or near enough. Probably without free shipping. Gosh darn it.

The Weedy-ness of Midsummer

I’m not going to actually air my weeds in public. So here is a photo of my favorite reading fairy, swimming in a sea of sedum and daylilies.

But trust me. I got weeds.

Today was a gift from the gardening gods–an inch of rain last night, sunny this morning and in the low 70’s (Fahrenheit) with a cool breeze straight out of the north. Yum.

But with the rain and cooler temps, here comes a whole new crop of weeds that must be hand-pulled.

I’m particularly dismayed by the horse nettle with it’s thorns and absolute delight when sprayed. Glyphosate? Horse nettle soaks it in and multiplies. Salt and vinegar and dish soap? Horse nettle chortles and cries, “More, gimme more.” I spent the morning with spade, pruners and tongs (as opposed to bell, book and candle), removing horse nettle by hand.

Weeds.

Signs of Fall

We got out early this morning to water the baby trees, and found cottonwood tree leaves in the lawn. Okay–let’s call it what passes for lawn at my house.

The cottonwoods lose about half their leaves between mid-July and mid-August. Maybe more if it’s been a dry year. For me, it’s the start of Autumn.

According to the “old” calendar, Autumn begins on August 2, cross-quarter between the Solstice (June 21) and the Equinox (September 21), when the days shorten perceptibly. Just as February 2 is the start of Spring, when the days lengthen perceptibly.

Of course, it depends on where you live.

And here, thriving in the ashes of the burn pile, are morning glories. Glorious this morning.

If you’re gardening today, I hope the weeds are few and the rain is just right.