Monday, June 28, 2010

What a Difference a Vacation Makes

If you have an awesome neighbor who takes great care of your plants while you're away, then going away for a week can be an amazing experience. When you see your garden every day it can be hard to appreciate just how much is going on. The above image is of the garden when we left for Texas ten days before this next image.

The corn literally exploded while we were gone, going from about shin high to waist high. Having never grown corn before the growth is unreal for me to behold.

Here is another view of the corn from before...

...and after. I pulled back a little on this image to show how the tomatoes are also taking off. The hot weather has really been what the garden was waiting for. While I still haven't put the Solar Pod to any use aside from killing things, the Solar Cones did a great job of accelerating the various melon plants.

I've tried watermelon half-heartedly before and failed miserably at it. These three watermelon plants are already doing way better than anything I've grown before and it isn't even July yet. The early melon varieties are already flowering, though I failed to get a good picture of them. All in all I'm very pleased with how the cones helped them along through. the cool spring weather

I really like interplanting, but it occasionally goes horribly wrong when you're planting new varieties. I'll have to wait for fruit set to tell you which variety of squash I planted with my pole beans, but they are out of control. The saving grace is one of the vines can train through the corn, another through the garlic, and another through some empty space left by the failed parsnip bed. With the length of the vines already I have doubts as to my ability to keep them free of vine borers. I've killed two adults already that were tanking up on the nearby milk-weed flowers, but I know if I've killed two there are many many more laying eggs, which are damned hard to find.

The Earth Box tomatoes continue to do very well. The black cherries are taller than me now with the help of the box, and about as tall if you take the box away. I'm 6'5" so they're doing great for New England. Though I'm not sure how I'm going to support any additional growth. I'm holdining a harvest of snap peas. Oregon Sugar Pod II to be exact. I can't say enough good things about this variety of pea. They taste great even when you harvest them late, as I did since we were away. They're incredibly prolific, compact, and heat tolerant. While I'll keep trying new varieties this is a staple for me.

Here I am tucked in amongst the corn, with the Oregon Sugar Pod II Pea plants in the foreground.

The happy gardener has many peas!

Audubon and Cape Wind

Hey, this is good news! As of last Friday, the Massachusetts Audubon society supports the Cape Wind energy project. If I am not mistaken, the last real environmental hurdle the project faced was in demonstrating that it posed no significant hazard to birds. If the Audubon Society is happy, then wow, this project is a winner!

(And the rich folks who don't want their views spoiled by windmills can go stuff themselves. I'll gladly take one of those colossi in my backyard.)

We're back!

Sorry we vanished. Chris, Gabe, and I were down on the Gulf Coast of Texas at a family reunion. I had some vague thoughts about photographing gardens or wild spaces down there for the blog, but a tummy virus put a crimp in that plan. Bleah.

Otherwise, though, it was a wonderful trip. I have never seen so many pelicans. Neither had any of the other family members. We wonder if perhaps their numbers have been on the rise over the recent decades.

A floating mat of something out in the water initially struck terror into various family members, who mistook it for oil. I think we were all appreciating Galveston's wild spaces more with the threat of its destruction looming. But in this case, what we saw floating by was seaweed, teeming with shrimp and crabs. A construction machine drove along the beach early each morning, scooping up the seaweed and a little sand to build new dunes and clean the sand for tourists. I found that to be a nice compromise between environmental and human-use issues.

Since I have no photo to post, here, instead, is a link to an article about a woman who was arrested for clearing brush on the side of a highway. She meant well, but she was messing with property that wasn't her own, and was repeatedly told by a park maintenance supervisor to cease her unsanctioned volunteer work. Being a lawyer, she should be aware that you don't have to know the laws in order to violate them.

It's just another example of people failing to recognize the value or beauty of wild spaces and wanting to impose their own aesthetics as an "improvement", and a sad case of a misdirected desire to volunteer.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cactus in Massachusetts

Who would have thought that the most exciting plant in the yard would be cactus? This is Opuntia humifusa, prickly pear cactus, and it has been growing at an amazing rate. See that lower paddle with the spikes that all the new growth is coming from? That was what I stuck in the ground just a couple of months ago. It now has three new paddles (with sweet, soft nubbins instead of spines) and three - three! - great big flower buds.

I still have a hard time believing that this plant is native to Massachusetts, but it is.

This is just one of six potted plants that I bought from, and the quality of both their plants and shipping methods have been phenomenal. I highly recommend them as a mail-order source of native plants.

I'll have to write more about the desert flower bed later. . .

Loosestrife, the good kind.

My volunteer whorled loosestrifes (Lysimachia quadrifolia) are in bloom! If I were a traditional gardener, I would have yanked them all from the flower beds as "weeds". Instead, last year, I let them bloom where they grew, and then I used the Connecticut Botanical Society's fantastic wildflower gallery to identify them. This year, I moved them into various locations in my meadow.

This is a surprisingly tough little plant. Even the ones that were bare-rooted and then plunked in the most inhospitably dry, hot location and then barely watered did fine. Not even a droop!

I left a few growing in the flower beds as emergency backup, but given how well these are taking to their new home, I may transplant the remainder into the meadow soon.

Farmer Clay

Chris has been bemoaning the wire-worms that are eating his corn, but look at his perfect crop of lettuce!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Flowers of Open Spaces

Perhaps one of you readers could help me identify some flowers? These were all photographed last weekend at Franklin's Open Spaces park. The first three were all growing in the location pictured above: along a stream in full shade, in rather moist soil. The location itself looked like fairies should live there: a fallen tree over the intersection of path and trees made it an intimate space, and the yellow flowers encircled it.

These are the charming yellow flowers that encircled the stream area. I am guessing they are Pakera aurea, golden ragwort. I am particularly interested in this one because I brought home a few seeds. If (and only if) I have correctly identified this, I would like to get some growing in my own wetland.

Some of the same yellow flowers, past their prime - just look at that fantastic foliage!

No idea! This one was quite small and low-growing, and it occupied the same space as the yellow flowers.

Sorry for the not-so-great photo quality. I was holding my toddler while shooting these photos.

The photo is a bit over-exposed, hiding the delicate pink color of the flowers. Wild geranium, Geranium maculatum, perhaps?

Arrow-wood vibernum? (Vibernum paciflorum) Maple-leaf vibernum? (Vibernum acerifolium) Something else entirely?

Some sort of blackberry? If so, these are the largest blackberry blossoms I've ever seen.

Some sort of shrub with yellow flowers and glossy leaves. I've never seen anything like it. It resembles honeysuckle, but only distantly. Maybe northern bush-honeysuckle, Diervilla lonicera?

This wasn't in flower, but it was so cute: just some little leaves among the mosses. Some sort of rue, maybe?

Finally something I recognize! Wild sarsaparilla, Aralia nudicaulis, damaged by leaf miners, with fruit ripening.

Friday, June 4, 2010

At Open Spaces Park: American Chestnut?

At the Open Spaces park, I revisited what I had thought was an American chestnut tree last year. According to the identification page of the Massachusetts chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation, it looks like one. But given the small size of this one, it is likely just regrowth from a blight-infected tree, and of no use to the breeding program, because the blight will just kill the above-ground growth again before it reaches breeding size.

Nonetheless, it gives me goosebumps. I so want this tree brought back from the edge of extinction.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Open Spaces

There is a park called "Open Spaces" in our town. I haven't fully explored it yet, but it seems quite sizable, overgrown (not that I'm complaining), and quite underused. There are small trails there circling a series of ponds. Last year some moron dumped a pile of televisions in the small parking lot, but I have yet to see another person actually visiting the park.

In 2007 the town was trying to figure out what to do with the park's deteriorating dams. It looks like they decided to do nothing for now. Not surprising, considering that the town is rather desperate for funds.

My little naturalist. I had to carry him past a good deal of poison ivy.

We spotted a beaver in the water, in addition to gnawed trees. Chipmunks kept scolding us while we walked.

Gratuitous tree shot.

High water.

More high water, and lots of pollen.

The water mush have washed a giant pile of acorns here. These are all oak seedlings.

Gratuitous snake.

One of two very large, multi-trunked trees that flank the entrance path. Multi-trunks result from regrowth from stumps. The size of these trees indicates that they may have been the only trees on the hillside at some point.