2 September 2009
In The Garden With the Fluvanna Master Gardeners
By Irene C. Burke - Fluvanna Master Gardener
Fluvanna County Extension Office: 434.591.1950
As the summer growing season closes, another opens so now is the time to take stock and make adjustments.
Houseplants - Our orchids fared better on the front porchs northwest side; theyll claim that spot next year. The Christmas cactus remained dark green and lush beneath a dense India Hawthorne (Raphiolepis indica 'Eleanor Tabor').
Of the factors most critical to vigor, light is number one. Temperature, water and critter intrusions, including insects, are challenging but easily addressed using the same care provided indoors. The Virginia "tropics" suited many exotics for a few bright months.
Just as you hardened off your tender tropicals to the outside, so too you must gradually acclimate them to the shadier, drier indoors. Gently wash insects from the foliage; hold each pot in a bucket of filtered water until bubbles subside, drain, then resume your customary watering practices.
Vegetables - Except for late July and all of August, cool wet nights and cloudy days delayed tomato ripening, as warm daytime showers spurred vining veggies. Melons, cucumbers and squash flourished. They continue pumping out blossoms for salads and stir-fry, unlikely to produce mature fruit late into the season, though sweet baby corn could be ready by a late frost. Sow seeds this week for a delicate autumn harvest. Pick within 5 days after silking.
Beans, garlic, leeks, lettuces, onions, peppers, potatoes, rhubarb, shallots and tomatoes prospered with few pests, no blight. However, rapacious critters that share the bounty have motivated us to secure a plot in the community garden where protection from their hearty appetites is assured.
Herbs - Among the herbs that crave a Mediterranean climate, thick moist air continued the rot begun by winter snows, especially in the English lavender. Next spring theyll move to even drier and sunnier plots. For now, the mildew has been excised. While most are drought tolerant, they do enjoy the warmth, the thunderstorms, and the sultry summer sunshine.
Annuals and perennials - Many excelled in the heat and rain, though some locations were better than others, with eight hours direct sun, essential to success. Their earthen beds will welcome the seasonal dose of compost, cooking along in three sweet-smelling piles, topped by aged wood chips, a lovely soil sandwich.
Daffodils, browned by an early succession of warming and freezing, now lie beneath six additional inches of shredded leaves. Zinnias and hollyhocks that did unusually well, will replace asters and daisies that melted with mold.
The deadened mint, undermined by a rabbits nest, left room for the Santolina chamaecyparissus and Grosso lavender. Who knew rabbits were mint killers? Four hellebores species birthed thirty seedlings. Theyre being pampered in 4-inch pots for spring planting, another good reason to avoid sterile hybrids.
Trees and shrubs - Despite springs heavy rains, some ornamentals established this year and last, are still thirsty. Keep watering. To be conservative, three years is the rule for setting out new shrubs and trees, otherwise one risks losing valuable plants, squandering all that sweat equity.
Green grass - Home turf management deserves its own column. Next week well deliver the latest, though you can download a pod cast of turf experts talking about this always hot topic at http://www.weblogs.cals.vt.edu/turf_garden/about/.
Tip of the Week
Extend the bloom season with hardy annuals that usually sulk during the Dog Days of summer. Try alyssum, cabbage, cornflower, Dianthus, foxglove, Johnny-jump-ups, kale, lobelia, nasturtium, pansy, phlox, snapdragon, stocks, and sweet peas.