Sunday, September 25, 2011

Planting Fall Vegetables

I can't remember a September as nice as this one. It is usually blazing hot and dry, even into October. This year (and I hope this doesn't curse it), temperatures have stayed in the 70s and low 80s and we've had regular rain. And, best of all, no humidity. This is how Fall is supposed to be!

I've managed to get some fall crops in the ground at an appropriate time. The raised beds I have at my mother's house is 20 miles away so I can't tend to them like I should. Two weeks ago, I planted radish seeds and seedlings of lettuce, cabbage and onions. I think seedlings are the way to go. I planted lettuce seeds last year and I'm not good at thinning them out. We had plenty of lettuce but it was a crammed mess.

Other fall crops that can be planted now are carrots, collards, turnip greens and other greens. The cooler nights help them grow well and if a freeze should threaten, they can be covered to protect them.

I've also planted lettuce in containers in the small vegetable garden at our house since the tomatoes are still taking up most of the beds.

The summer vegetable garden was more successful than last years. The cantaloupe "Ambrosia" did well again although last year we were still getting cantaloupes up until late October and this year's vine is about done. I'm guessing the wetter weather has affected them since they prefer drier soil.

My last attempt at cucumbers was disastrous but this year was better. I also grew a row of okra and purple hull peas. Less successful was the eggplant - I think there were a total of 3 eggplants. Also, another failed attempt at squash, which promptly died. I also tried watermelon and got 2 melons but I think it about over too.

Radish seeds sprouting

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt TherapyText and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Monday, September 19, 2011

Margie's garden

Last week I discovered I had a Hot Plants article due for Alabama Gardener and was totally unprepared and had nothing in mind for it. I was talking to Margie Anderton, who I wrote a garden profile about a few years ago, and asked her if she had anything interesting in her garden right now. She said she had a celosia that was spectacular. I drove out there Friday evening after work to take a look.

This variety of Celosia is called "Flamingo Purple Feather" and Margie was right - it was impressive, standing about 7 feet tall, loaded with magenta blooms and swarming with hummingbirds. I was afraid I was going to be dive bombed while getting the photos. This is a plant I'd love to have in my garden. For more information, look for the plant profile in the Nov./Dec. issue of Alabama Gardener.

Here is a close-up of the blooms. They turn white from the bottom up as
they age which makes a striking contrast.
There were more interesting plants in her garden. This fleece flower shrub (Fallopia japonica 'Variegata') was spectacular and loaded with blooms. I had photographed this plant earlier but had never observed it this time of year.

She had lots of ornamental grasses. I don't know the variety of this one.
A white Angel's Trumpet (brugmansia) in her front entrance garden
This is the prettiest hyacinth bean vine (Lablab purpureus) I've seen this year. We have one but it only has a few blooms on it. Margie's was covered!
Angel Wing begonia (Begonia coccinea)

This is the Chinese Paper Bush (Edgeworthia chrysantha (E. papyrifera), a plant that I covet. I photographed the blooms last winter and, as you can see, the foliage and shape of the shrub is quite attractive.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Monday, September 12, 2011

On the cover!

A photo of our fall garden is on the cover of the October issue of Alabama Gardener. I don't have the issue yet but there should be a story inside about our fall garden.  I hope you will take a look. We usually receive our copy around the 15th and I'm not sure when the issues appear on the store shelves.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Grasshopper Pie


This recipe comes from the book "Classic Southern Desserts" by the editors of Southern Living.

Grasshopper Pie

30 cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 gallon mint chocolate chip ice cream, softened
1 (8 oz.) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Process cookies in a food processor or blender until ground; add butter, and process until blended. Reserve 1/2 cup crumb mixture. Firmly press remaining crumb mixture in an ungreased 13x9 inch pan. Chill 30 minutes.

2. Spoon ice cream over crust; cover and freeze 1 hour. Stir together whipped topping, powdered sugar, and vanilla; spread over ice cream layer. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup crumb mixture over whipped topping mixture. Cover and freeze at least 8 hours.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Waiting for the rain...

The waterfall area has to be watered almost daily because of the potted impatiens.

I don't give a hoot about football, which is all you hear about around here, but I am excited about one thing this weekend - rain is on the way! Tropical storm Lee is sending it this way and the weatherman says 6 - 7 inches can be expected in our area. Hooray! I was getting to the point where I don't think I could drag hoses around one day longer.

The only plant I've watered in this area is the potted geranium and it is sometimes days between watering since I'm not in this area often. It seems to like this and this is actually the first geranium I've ever grown succesfully.

I have been watering less this summer because our garden is just too large but overall, we have received regular rains up until August. I know it is a lot worse out in Texas and Oklahoma and I feel for gardeners out there. I've been keeping the containers watered (daily or at least every two days), the hydrangeas (every week, sometimes twice per week) and the vegetable garden. All other plants are on their own!

These impatiens out by our front gate require daily watering and even with that, they look like they are ready to throw in the towel. I have them on a soaker hose which makes it easier. Next year I'm going to try something different. Perhaps Vinca (Periwinkle), which I have planted next to your back entrance and doesn't seem to mind less water.

Even the poor rudbeckia hates this dry weather.

As this situation seems to be a regular thing every year, I seriously debate adding plants to the garden that are not drought tolerant and if and when we do retire to the country, I'm going to design a garden with drought in mind and only plant hydrangeas and such in close promixity to the house.

Hydangeas - I love them dearly but you water them one day and this is how they look the next. The wilting is partly a matter of the plant's natural reflexes against the heat so don't over-water them
Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena), one of my favorite annuals for pots. Daily watering is a must. This is near the back door so I'm better about it keeping it watered.

Some plants that don't mind the drought are the 'Adagio' ornamental grass and liriope.
Viburnums don't seem to fare well in drought but this one, the Leatherleaf Viburnum
(Viburnum rhytidophyllum), performs better than many of our others.
Cornus kousa "Wolf Eyes" dogwood, one of my favorite trees, droops
badly without water but manages to hang in there.

Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis terniflora) - a sign that fall is near -
let's hope it is not a dry one.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Chester's favorite spot

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy