Saturday, August 22, 2009

Hummingbird update

I see her all over the yard now, and it's a thrill every time. (She's a female or a juvenile; no red throat.) Most frequently she's sampling the cardinal flowers, but I also see her perched on the blueberry plant or the privet, or exploring the rose-of-sharon. She's certainly skittish, but sometimes when she flies off it turns out she's only gone as far as the front yard.

I'm always looking when I pass the window or step outside, in case she's about. If I see her my instinct is still to grab the camera, but so far all I've recorded is the blur of tiny wings. I'm trying to remind myself just to watch and enjoy. And to reach for the binoculars - the up close view is sensational.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The driveway garden

The potted plants in the driveway are thriving. The squash plant has been putting forth beautiful blooms every day, and at last some little squash are starting to form. (You can just barely see one at the base of the flower in the picture.) Every day they have grown visibly, which is fun.

The tomatoes in pots are much happier than the few that I planted in the ground in the backyard. Planting tomatoes in pots wouldn't be my first choice, if I had more sun in back. But there are some advantages. It's fairly easy to make sure that they get a steady supply of moisture, which tomatoes like. And it's easy to provide good soil - I used half finished compost and half potting soil for mine. Fresh soil means there's less likelihood of fungal diseases that affect tomatoes. These can remain in regular garden soil over a period of several years, once tomato plants have been infected. The recommendation for in-ground gardens is to plant in different locations from year to year, but that can be hard to do with a small yard.

One downside of pots is that tomato plants get so big! They always sneak up on you too. One day they're well-behaved little things, and suddenly they're sprawling giants. Kind of like kids, I guess. I'm using tomato ladders to support mine, which is working fairly well. Next year maybe I'll test some more docile patio-sized plants to see if I can find some tasty varieties. But for now, I've got the real thing - 3 varieties of heirloom indeterminate tomatoes that keep growing like Jack's beanstalk!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hummingbirds visit

Lobelia cardinalis , or cardinal flower, really is a hummingbird magnet. This patch of cardinal flower came from a single plant I started indoors from seed several years ago. I planted my original seedling near a downspout, since cardinal flowers love water. They flower in their second year, after spending the first year as a rosette growing low to the ground.

My lone plant, when it bloomed, was unusually tall and robust - a small shrub. The next year, a few plants seeded themselves in the front yard. This year the original plant has been replaced by many offspring - a little jungle of cardinal flowers. It probably didn't hurt that I sprinkled seed from the parent plant liberally. Plus this year's plants must have loved our rainy spring.

Last week I had a brief sighting of a hummingbird on the cardinal flowers at the front of the house. Yesterday came the real payoff. A hummingbird landed on the top of my scarlet runner beans. He actually sat still for a few seconds, then flitted over to the black-eyed Susans, and on to the cardinal flowers, where I had the great treat of watching him sip nectar from blossom after blossom. After that he found the rose-of-sharon, where he blended in so beautifully it was impossible to track him further. I'm determined to get a picture of him, even if it means sitting quietly in wait for him with my camera in hand, while the mosquitoes feed on me.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Growing peppers indoors

Tonight John made one of our favorite dishes, beans and greens. We often include greens we grow in the garden - usually kale or collards. But this is the first time we have used peppers that we grew indoors! The Nardello peppers have done beautifully under lights. I harvested the largest ones, and left the smaller ones to mature.