Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fall Survivors

(Kale in late November)

I decided it was time to talk about the plants that are still surviving in our garden. This has been an above average November, so I'm sure things look better they would in other years. So far we have had most nights freezing, but only a few in the teens (F).

Above, the kale hasn't been phased yet by the cool weather. In fact, it is probably tasting it's best with nightly frosts.

Some common thyme we planted from seed seems to be alive above ground still. We will see if it can come back next year.

(Common thyme)

I was surprised this lavender plant was still alive. It didn't really get the best growing conditions and is very small. I will try to protect it and see if it will come back.

(Lavender Lady - Lavendula angustifolia)

The parsley always stays around into the late fall. This particular planting doesn't usually survive the winter, but our south side planting has come back this year and went to seed.

(Curled parsley)

Walking onions getting their last bit of sun before the winter sleep. I think next year we want to try some potato onions as well.

("Walking" onions)

Many leaves of strawberries are still hanging on. The plants on the north side have many red leaves -- a sure sign there have been hard frosts.

(Alpine strawberry)

Here are some parsnips we will leave in until spring. Also, in the lower right is a swiss chard that was a volunteer -- probably a dropped seed.


I have noticed a lot of seeds growing in this mild fall. I wonder how many will actually survive and how many were just fooled.

I like the fact that the heuchera never looses its color. Even with the leaves are dead and dried it will look like this.


There are even a couple flowers still blooming. This viola waited until the canopy of dill died before spreading its own leaves. (Actually you might spot the dill seedlings in the photo.)

Not sure what these little flowers are, but they are hardy -- probably a weed in someone's book. For us it is in a wildflower bed.

We still have green grass, but the vegetable beds are ready for winter.

A number of plants are done for the winter like this rhubarb.


A (late) Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Our Sunchokes

This past week has brought us some cold days. Our first frost, a hard frost, snow, and low temperature down around 17 F. There are rumors of some warm weather on the weekend -- maybe a chance to do some clean-up. At least the snow didn't stay yet.

This post is really a year-end review of our sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes / Helianthus tuberosus). This is our first year with this plant of the sunflower genus. We planted tubers in mid-May as soon as we got them. Over the season they grew 9 feet tall, provided wonderful flowers, and have yielded an abundance of edible tubers. On to the details...

We planted 1 lb of tubers on 5/13/2009; cut into sections to make five plants.

(Helianthus tuberosus: sunchoke seed tubers)

A suitable site was found away from other beds -- just in case they spread. The first shoots appeared early June after about 25 days. Next year they should be much earlier as the native stands (in the ground since last fall) seem to have emerged a month sooner.

(A 5x2' bed; First sprouts June 7)

It was a cool spring, but the plants grew to 1' after 40 days.
(Growing up June 22)

Early July the plants where a foot taller...reaching Dakota dog height.

(Sunchokes at least 2' by July 10)

By August they were forming a nice screen at 4 feet. They were as tall as our chain-link fence.

(Climbing to 4' - August 9)

Two more feet were gained by September (5-6' total).

(Sunchokes - September 5)

Early to mid-September flower buds were forming at about 115 days. I was excited that we would have a chance for flowers. The sunchokes in the park were already in full bloom.

(Buds on September 13)

Mid-September the plants were towering at 7-8 feet. That shade was a favorite resting spot for Dakota...

(Sunchokes 8' - 9/13/2009)

In fact, she decided to dig a little and exposed some tubers near the surface under the grass mulch.

(Sunchoke tubers near the surface)

Later in September the plants peaked in height ranging from 7.5 to 9 feet tall. They finally began to flower after 131 days. Again, I expect next year they will flower a month sooner.

(Sunchoke flowers - September 26)

We had a great display of the plants in near full bloom at the start of October. The plants shut down after a hard frost around 10/10/2009. I'll have to post a picture of the plants after hard this hard freeze.

(October 6)

After the frost I harvested 2 of 5 plants. We will save the others a little longer and come up with some storage options. We will place a few tubers right back in for next years crop. I did notice that maybe our ground was a bit too hard as the tubers were in a very tight block. Conveniently contained, but hard to separate. We will see next year if this was due to soil or the variety (after digging the soil should be much looser next year).

(Sunchokes lifted from ground - 10/11/2009)

Those 2 plants gave 9 lb 13.2 oz of tubers....that's a yield ratio of 24.56:1 based on 1 lb planted! Compare that with our 5 lb of potatoes that yielded 31.31 lb for a ratio of 6.26:1. That's also not considering that the sunchokes took maybe half the space of the potatoes and no additional water or maintenance.

(Half bucket of sunchoke tubers)

As a food, the tubers have tasted great so far. They have a similar number of calories as potatoes from what I could find. We haven't been too creative yet...tried boiled, microwaved, and baked and fairly plain with just some butter and salt they have a potato-like flavor. I tried baking some as chips and noticed that the skin seems to have more sugar than potatoes and can caramelize and burn (didn't taste so good). So for chips I still like the potatoes, but we have a lot more to experiment with.

(Clean tuber)

That's it. A fun experiment for the year and a plant we will keep forever in the garden....not that we likely have a choice :-)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Evening Show

I took some time this evening to view some of nature's fireworks. Just as the sun set I noticed the common evening-primrose flowers opening up. I guess in the past I never actually watched it happen. It took about 3-minutes for the flowers to open fully.

The show wasn't done...

I spotted some white-lined sphinx hummingbird moths. I have seen them in past years and it is always an interesting show. They aren't too shy as long as I wait patiently.

I think that the colors are so interesting -- especially in the fast fading twilight. Hummingbird moth is an apt name as they really appear as hummingbirds. I thought I saw a hummingbird in the daylight a few days ago, but I guess it was one of these.

(White-lined Sphinx Hummingbird Moth at Primrose)

I also see these moths out as well. Not sure if they are the same or just related and like the same flowers.

Taking time out in the fading hours really gives a new view on the gardens.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Home for Bees

Our friendly bees help so much in the garden and they don't ask for much. A few flowers all season for food and maybe some place to build a home.

This Spring I decided to try making a bee house. If you search, there are many sites with plans and instructions. Basically, these holes in wood are where many solitary bees will place their eggs for the next generation. I made a few different blocks, but this one turned out be busy.

Lots of foliage near by for the leaf cutters.

It was interesting to check every few days to spot activity. Here, in late June looks like leaf cutters were moving in.

A month later a few more hole were filled, and some were hatched.

At the end of the season, this house is pretty full. I have another double block next to this one, but only one space was filled.

I have really enjoyed the bees in the garden this year. Seems like a large number of bumble bees around. But there were also many smaller ones. I was very happy when some decided to use the house I made. The spot is protected under the eastern overhang of a shed roof -- next a mixed "wildflower" bed.

I hope to see the other homes fill in next year.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Still Here

(above: sunchokes in the park)

Okay, I'm not even going to try to catch up on what was missed since my last post! At least I beat the 3-month mark....This season has actually been quite exciting with new things in the garden. I'm sorry that I haven't been able to share it all. Maybe I will get to some of that over the winter.

So, onward... This is a stand of sunchokes or Jerusalem artichokes in a park we walk through. They do put on an impressive display. You can see a tired Dakota in the foreground (we took a long walk that day). I took the opportunity to smell the flowers and it is true, they do smell a bit like chocolate. Too bad the ones in our yard are not flowering -- they are quite tall though. Maybe I should sneak some of this variety.

(above: sunchokes in the park)

This caterpillar was hanging on the back door. I carefully put it on the ground for a quick photo-op. Is this what they call a "woolly bear"? It sure moved pretty fast. I left it on the kale to make its escape. We have had a large mix of insects in the yard this year.

(above: caterpillar)

(above: caterpillar on kale)

I guess the Monarchs are mostly moving south, but we saw a couple too tired to go anywhere. We were careful not to touch the wings of this one. It few off to the tree tops after a couple photos.

(above: tired Monarch butterfly)

(above: tired Monarch butterfly)

This seems to have been a year for dragonflies -- more to eat the mosquitoes. Here are a couple found resting in the yard. Overhead in the evenings are busy airways with much zig-zagging.

(above: black/blue dragonfly)

(above: red dragonfly)

Finally, I cannot forget our wonderful bees! There have been so many. I think that a few have begun to hibernate near or in the yard, which may explain the increase in activity this year. I also built a bee condo/house and have had many occupants. They sure do love certain flowers. Echinacea seems one favorite, but sunflowers and raspberries have attracted the largest groups.

(above: bumblebee on echinacea)

Well, we are still here in ND and the garden has grown this year. The season is not done and I am hoping to get some vegetables before the fall frosts come.