Wandering Through Ideas

Working with meteorologists means I have a pretty good idea of local gardening conditions anytime. I also see conditions that I envy while others I'm glad I don't deal with at all.

I see worldwide forecasts and learn where terrible weather has occurred. When I first started this job, I was amazed at how often it happens. Looking at radar and satellite of tropical storms churning in the Pacific, I remind myself that the swirling white blur covering a few inches on the computer screen covers hundreds to thousands of miles in reality. The power in these systems is from hot water. Those beautiful tropical nights and warm sunny beaches in the Caribbean lead to this. Even paradise is raided by the most violent parts of nature.

With such massive power on the opposite end of the spectrum from the gentle breeze that moves through the delicate dill leaves in my quiet garden, a person might be excused for hyperbole and anthropomorphization, even a little excessively. I must say though that I don't understand how hurricanes were ever accepted with strictly feminine names. Maybe that's the result of growing up in a fairly free and, in most respects liberated, society. I have hit my head on a glass ceiling or two in my life though, and not because I own or worked in a greenhouse.

In pursuits that are traditionally feminine, (music, gardening, art), it is surprising that men are at the top of the field in notability and respect. The reverse, women in traditionally masculine pursuits (leadership, law enforcement, etc) , doesn't seem to be true so much.

Thankfully, that is changing. Please don't think that I lack appreciation for men at the top of traditionally feminine pursuits; I think it's great. I love P Allen Smith. I also love "Celtic Woman's" popularity. One day gender, like race and ethnicity, may not be an issue. Unfortunately, now sometimes it still is.

Considering the violence of nature and the violence men are capable of, the addition of masculine names for hurricanes was overdue.

Now for a total change, some humor:

Garden Work

Fall Is Here

It's the time of year to plant bulbs that will produce flowers, garlic, shallots, and other plants in spring of next year. Burpee has a selection of these on their site. I haven't grown garlic for use in cooking. I don't have the patience to deal with tiny cloves and the papery sleeves. I buy diced garlic in a jar. It's good to grow throughout the garden for pest deterrence. I may try elephant garlic, which would be easier to prepare in cooking.

The Bellefonte Garden Club does a lot to beautify its hometown. Do I have time to join them? Hmm. This time of year they are planting daffodil bulbs. I wonder if my landlord/rental manager would allow me to plant them around my apartment building. Daffodil Project

P Allen Smith has a page on his site titled "10 Spring Bulb Questions"


Frost Alert!

The chilly weather and frost that has already reached the Midwest will probably give the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast a chill with frost overnight tonight (Saturday). So, it starts again!

Clear skies make frost more likely. The reason is that clouds act as barriers to the loss of heat. Clear skies let heat go.

My containers are on my second-floor porch, so that will help protect my herbs and flowers there. Heat rises, and frost usually forms closer to the ground. I may still cover them.

My garden plot doesn't have the same protection. The wind or breeze can carry heat away horizontally with little interuption. Clear skies also allow heat to escape vertically.

Numerous types of frost can form: Heavy, light, scattered, killing, and so on. Even hoar frost that Robert Frost wrote of in verse. It's still early, so in most of the mid-Atlantic the frost will probably not be severe.

The susceptibility of plants should also be taken into consideration. This year was dry, making the plants more fragile. Some types of plants cannot handle a chill, let alone a mild frost.

I just reviewed a forecast for Sebring, Florida (at my job). Sebring's high Sunday will be 91, then a low of 71. Bellefonte's will be 67 for the high Sunday (not too bad). What follows is the undesirable part: a cold low of 41.

Frost Protection Advice:
P Allen Smith
Organic Gardening.com


Colors Always Change

Thursday early evening.

Mid-September usually isn't in the 70s here, but the sun is out and it's not bad unless the wind blows. Overnight the temperature has dropped to the 50s. I prefer summer, although the beauty of fall generates warmth of its own. I think of it as a time of orange, yellow and red; cinnamon, brown sugar, apples and allspice; hot cereal, steaming soup, corn bread, muffins and tea; brittle brown corn fields and grass after killing frost; glorious gold warmth and boldness becomes dark evergreens, gray days here and there, and eventually glassy silver and white of winter.

Bulbs snuggled in the ground will bear winter and spite it in the spring. Gourds, squash and tomatoes come from the harvest. Broccoli, spinach, peas and greens get a second chance. Mason and Ball jars are filled with preserved summer. The air is fresh and clean. The beach is cold and the surf is finally warm. Mountain hikes follow trails buried in colorful leaves, sometimes wet and slippery, other times dry and crunchy.

The simple freedom of shorts, sandals and sunshine cannot be overcome by bulky sweatshirts, closed-in shoes, thick socks, and perpetually cold hands stuffed in warm pockets. Without its beauty, autumn would be only a temporary end that must be endured.

Sun arrives later, leaves sooner, and gives up without attaining the glorious zenith it reached in June. It is as though it wants us to hibernate like a lot of nature does. How tempting!

Photo of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon from city data


Visual Presentation

I started moonflowers in a container. They germinated rapidly afer I had soaked them overnight. Last year when I tried to grow them, I only nicked the seed coat, and it didn't help much. So, I prefer soaking. It would have been better to put the seeds directly in the ground; the tiny seedlings aren't very sturdy and didn't survive transplantation.

Some of my lisianthus blooms in a vase.

The community garden is too large to get in one photo. My plot is on the right side of the path, starting after the rows of corn. The tall stalk with the dark bloom on top is one of my sunflowers.
The color is a blend of burgundy and rust. Some other sunflowers were yellow with rust or burgundy from the bottom of the petal to about halfway toward the tip. I hope to photograph some before the season ends.

These sunflowers are prolific, too. I've had stalks with so many blooms that the plant was bowing. They germinate quickly, attract a lot of bees and withstand a lot of dryness and heat. I think this link to Burpee is the type of seed I used, or at least is very similiar; however, mine are not pollen-free. I like to feed the bees and birds. When I work in the garden on sunny afternoons, I can often hear buzzing -- no humming -- of bees in the sunflowers. They also like the dill weed flowers.

So, I don't recommend growing only pollen-free varieties unless you don't won't to hear "busy" bees.


In an earlier entry this season, I wrote about the attack on my tender broccoli seedlings by cutworms. Flea beetles and Japanese beetles followed, but the plants that survived the cutworms were big enough to not be destroyed. However, most bolted because of the heat. What amazed me yesterday is that there is one very healthy plant and it's producing side shoots. The broccoli florets are a nice bluish-green that makes them so appetizing.

Some things I will and others I won't repeat next season. I will grown black beans, like I did last year. I will not plant them on the side of my raised beds (a slight incline). They grow quickly, need a little support. Those I planted on the side of a raised bed fell over and the main stem snapped near the ground. This photo shows the supports I have successfully used.

I will put lighter plants on the sides of raised beds. For instance, this year, I grew leeks. The book The Vegetable Gardener's Bible recommends growing them in a trench, so I did. Since leeks don't take up much space, I split the seedlings into 3 different plantings, each one slightly later and in a different place. I transplanted my lisianthus on the side of one planting. This worked well.

The benefit of this is run-off from the plant on the level area (leeks) goes to another desirable plant (lisianthus) instead of a weed. Since conditions were dry more than wet this summer and hand-watering is the only option in our community gardens, doubling the benefits of my watering efforts saves energy (my energy) and adds to efficiency of water use.

My garden had all of the lisianthus colors in the photo, plus dark blue that, like periwinkle, looks purple to me. My favorite is the peach with pink edges.

Growing Well

This aerial photo of the gardens was taken in mid-August. The barn in the upper right is now boarding horses. The current residents, two mares, are seen as one little white and one brown "dot" in the bottom right.

Below you see the result of my attempt to crop and sharpen the area where my plot is.

Here's an even tighter crop. Cropping really cuts the resolution and sharpness.