Autumnal Equinox in the Garden

This summer I watched a free online gardening class by Stacey Murphy of BK Farmyards. She’s a wonderful teacher and gardener, and I took copious notes as I watched her 4 video lessons. I learned a lot! She opens up these classes every so often, and they are well worth waiting for! She also has a number of very helpful mini-lessons on YouTube. Check them out here.

One thing she discussed in her lessons was that planting in the right place is crucial to your success in growing vegetables and herbs. She suggested drawing a site map (bird’s eye view) of your garden site, and then “observing shadows” so that you can actually see how much sun and shade hits your growing area throughout the year. Her suggestion was to take photos of your garden 4 times a year — on the solstice and equinox days. Take the photos every three hours and then record the shadows on your site drawing using a different colored pencil for each time of year. At the end of the year, you will know exactly what the lighting conditions are of your chosen garden site, and then can choose the vegetables that would grow best in that amount of light. It’s a wonderful idea and an excellent way to help choose your garden site or get to know your existing garden.

So I started this learning process by taking photos of our garden at the Autumnal Equinox a few weeks ago. I used the panorama setting on my phone, and took the photos over 2 days because I wasn’t home all day on the equinox. I will do the same thing in December, and then March and June next year. It should be very interesting to see the actual amount of sunlight on our garden versus what I THINK is the amount of sunlight there. And you can probably tell from the photos below that the reason the last of my tomatoes are having a hard time ripening is because there’s not enough sunlight and warmth left for them!

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Garden Raider(s)

I’ve complained all summer long about the squirrels that own our yard and frequent our vegetable garden. I’ve blamed them for all the missing baby pumpkins, for picking my precious tomatoes and eating half before sauntering off to do something else, and for digging up pansies and other flowers  for some unknown reason. I’ve even chased them and thrown a rock or two their direction. But the other night, as we were returning home, we pulled into our driveway and spotted another critter in our garden! A skunk has also been raiding our garden at night! No wonder we didn’t get ANY pumpkins or squash this year. These critters have feasted all summer long, day and night! (I assure you, though, that I won’t chase the skunk or throw any rocks at it.)

Inspiration

I love Pinterest for garden inspiration and collecting ideas, but another favorite source of inspiration for me are the gardens I visit — botanical gardens, demonstration gardens, neighbors’ gardens! Last Fall, the hubby and I spent time going through the Master Gardener’s Learning Garden at the Jenkins Estate in Beaverton, Oregon. It was our first autumn visit to that small but delightful garden, and I fell in love with one plant that was in full bloom on that sunny afternoon. It was a huge clump of Lemon Queen Sunflowers. The bees also loved that plant! It was covered with them! So I decided I had to have some Lemon Queens in my garden for this year, so I sent away for one live plant and when it arrived, I planted  it in a tub that I could see from the kitchen window and waited throughout the winter to see if it would do anything. Indeed it did! That one plant has been a delight for all of the summer. It has bloomed and bloomed, and continues blooming today! A huge clump of them would be wonderful, so next spring I will plant more of them. The bees will be very happy.

Summer’s End

end-of-summer-garden

End-of-Summer garden

It’s been awhile since I last posted anything on this blog although I’ve taken many photos of the garden during the weeks away from writing and posting. I’d like to fill in that blogging gap with those photos and some stories of things that have happened in the garden, so I’ll be doing some catch-up posts today.

This morning, as I write, it is gray and rainy outside–very Fall-like. Summer is definitely over, but October always has many pretty days to enjoy, and I look forward to my fall activities in the garden. Reflecting on my summer in the garden… I learned a lot this growing season and enjoyed my gardening time! Among my successes was my Triangle Garden full of Zinnias. Many people passing by have stopped to tell me how much they’ve enjoyed it. One admirer was a little girl walking by with her mother. She got so excited when she saw all the flowers, and her excitement was the best compliment I could imagine, so I clipped a handful of zinnias for her to carry home. We were both thrilled!

Another success this summer was my tomato garden box. In April, I took a gardening class at Farmington Gardens on planting a vegetable garden. I put to use the things I learned in that class about tomatoes, and I had a much better tomato crop this year than last. I had to chuckle as I sat in class taking notes and realizing that I had done everything wrong last year with planting and caring for my tomatoes, which was why I had such a poor crop. But I still got tomatoes last year, so I was excited to try again, with my new knowledge, and see what happened. I wasn’t disappointed! There are still tomatoes on the vines, although they’re slower to ripen at this point because there’s not as much light and warmth, but we’ve enjoyed the variety of tomatoes and other veggies in our summer salads.

Saying goodbye to Summer was harder for me this year because it was such a nice summer! But I love Autumn, and will enjoy my seasonal gardening tasks of cleaning up, planting cover crops and fall veggies.

The Triangle Garden Revisited

Triangle1

Our driveway is at an angle from the street. When we decided to place our vegetable garden on the west side of our house (where we get the most sun), we made that angled driveway part of the design. Hubby built the nine 4 x 4 raised beds for the veggies and placed them in a grid pattern parallel to the house and the sidewalk, leaving plenty of walk space between them. That left a big triangle between the garden and the driveway.

This Spring I decided to honor the triangle by filling it with flowers. I ordered seeds for Zahara Zinnias after seeing a display of them at Farmington Gardens last Fall. They were so beautiful and different from zinnias I had seen before, so I planted masses of them…much closer together than the instructions on the seed packet said to do. Then I watered them and waited. I was not disappointed! They are quite beautiful, the bees like them, and they add a lot of color to our veggie garden!

On Loving Summer!

Our kitchen garden...

Our kitchen garden…

SUMMER! This summer our yard has lots of flowers blooming, tomatoes happening, yummy peppers to add to salads, little cucumbers promising! And I will say something that I’ve rarely said before: I am loving this Summer! That’s very unusual for me. I’ve always had a lot of trouble with the heat, so summer has never been my favorite season. But this summer is different!

Black&Blue Salvia

Black & Blue Salvia

There are two main reasons for this change in my attitude and enjoyment of SUMMER. One, is that Hubby and I planted a serious garden this year, and the old maxim is absolutely true: “one who plants a garden, plants happiness!”  I love making tomato sandwiches for lunch with our own homegrown tomatoes! I love picking sweet pea blooms and putting them in a little mug in our kitchen window. I love watching the hummingbirds that frequent our Black & Blue Salvia! But the other important reason that I am loving this summer is that I am now more physically able to spend time outside and better able to handle the heat challenges of the season.

At age 67, I am becoming an athlete.  Last year, when I became an official senior citizen, I signed up for an exercise program 3 days a week at the gym down the street.  That exercise class has been a life changer for me in that I am so much more active and fit than I’ve been in years and years.  2nd PlaceThen, 6 months ago I found a “running buddy.” Actually, my buddy runs and I walk fast. “Power walking,” I call it. I’m not trained as a true speed walker, but I’ve always enjoyed walking and I have long legs and can set a pretty fast pace. My running buddy is an 81 year old athlete and former marathon runner, and is a wonderful, inspiring mentor. We run/walk together 2 mornings a week, and it’s become a great partnership! We signed up for 5 different 5k races this summer, and our “training” for those races has been very successful. So when I describe myself as “becoming an athlete,”  I say that with a lot of pride and a growing sense of accomplishment at my efforts to become more fit.

So both gardening and exercise have brought a lot of happiness into my life this year and made this summer one of the nicest in years and years.

My running buddy and me!

My running buddy (on the right) and me!

 

Garden Reading: The Rose Girls

The Rose Girls

The first book of my summer reading was The Rose Girls, by Victoria Connelly. It was a sweet romance with a love of roses and gardening at the heart. It was a perfect book to take to the beach, or just enjoy on the front porch. The story is of three sisters who live in a crumbling old manor house in England. Raising and selling roses has been the family business for generations, but after the death of their very difficult mother, who suffered from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, the three young women are left to deal with the emotional trauma of their upbringing. At the same time, they are faced with insurmountable costs of fixing and maintaining the medieval manor house while trying to keep their rose business afloat. The three sisters redefine their relationship with each other and find the healing power of family.

It’s a sweet story, but my favorite parts of the book were all the references to roses! So here is a linked list of some of the roses that were mentioned. The links will take you to sites with photos and information on each rose.

“All thoughts of finances were forgotten as she gazed at the perfect bud. That was the effect roses had on you — they filled your head with beauty so that there was little room for anything else…”

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