Sunday, August 8, 2010

August Harvest and General Notes

August is one of my favorite months in my High Desert Garden. The mornings are staying cooler all the way up to 9 am as the 60*F by 6 am, 70*F by 7 am, 80*F by 8 am and 90* by 9 am pattern breaks up. During August, the temps may still be below 80 by 10 am. These cooler temps spur the garden veggies into accelerated growth and production - bringing the first of the autumn harvests.

Sunflowers have been blooming for nearly a month, but their seeds are not yet ripened. So, for the fall harvest, yellow crook neck summer squash is the first to produce something edible. Above is one of my plants with a co-joined twin squash. I've never had a squash like that before. Also, note, I think the ants are my primary pollinator here. Of course, I also hand pollinate when I have time - but I don't always have time to help Mother Nature out. Probably the ants are good for Mother Nature's purposes - she merely wishes to produce a goodly amount of seed for next year's plants. Me, I want enough to eat and feed chickies. That requires additional pollination here in the desert.

The last of the sunflower buds have committed to pointing East, so I know they will be blooming soon. Blooms staggered over two months - that is about the same as years past. I mix types and when birds eat seedlings, I plant another seed - so one never knows what type one will get.

I am convinced that if you grow it, they will come. And that includes birds, insects, lizards and spiders. Here, a grey black widow patrols one of the ripening sunflower seed heads.
Although I planted Mammoth sunflowers, none of the plants were taller than 3 feet this year. Looking around the roadsides, it seems that none of the wild or cultivated sunflowers attained much height this year. I can tell which are the Mammoth sunflowers, however, as their flowers were still more than eight inches in diameter.
General Notes
First Frost Dates from Years Past
  • 2005-10-15 Light Frost
  • 2006-10-26 Killing Frost
  • 2007-10-18 Light Frost
  • 2007-10-20 Killing Frost
  • 2008 - not recorded
  • 2009 - not recorded
Bed No. One
  • Bearded Irises - starting to fade; tips are browning and some of the leaves are dying down. Although only the blue and white ones bloomed this year, it appears that all varieties actually survived and sent up leaves for the summer. Hopefully they will all bloom next year.
  • Rosemary - Looking very healthy. It has doubled in size from last year (which is double in size from the year before). It was a 97 cent Walmart unknown cultivar of rosemary. It was not rated for negative 10 degree winters and I fully expect it to die each winter. But here it is, several years later, and it is taking over. Need to harvest the nice young leaves, coat in olive oil and freeze.
  • Unknown Day Lilies - 3 out of 6 survive. One had one bloom before the temperatures became scorching. It was a burnt orange color, and while lovely, was certainly not the bright pink of the cultivar New Toy. Still, if it survives winter, I will be more than happy to keep it!
  • Oregano - harvested a few zip lock bags full before the summer heat made the plants get leggy and slightly bitter. I cut it back until it was only 6 inches tall, so it is not as bushy as it could normally be by this time. Still, I am thinking there will be a flush of new growth as the weather cools, so I may get a small second harvest.
  • Sweet Marjoram - is Oregano's wilder sister, generally having a milder flavor than oregano, and having a more open growth pattern. In the Spring, when growth is young, you can't easily tell them apart - but later in the season, you will see Sweet Marjoram becoming leggy, and growing tall spikes of small white flowers that arch over and sway gracefully in the breeze.
  • Desert Mallow - bright orange and somewhat weedy looking, this one has come back year after year. Her blooms are pretty stinky, but the attract pollinators by the droves. And, though stinky, the bright orange blooms are lovely and prolific. I cut her back after she matured a set of seed pods, and she is blooming again, although a little less than the first bloom set. I have scattered her seed pods around, hoping I can get a few more to personalise in the garden.
  • Lemon Balm - Does not like the heat of summer. The plant grows leggy and the edges of the leaves that are not shaded by the Oregano become small and burnt on the edges. Definitely need to harvest this one in the early Spring when it is sending out large, pretty leaves by the bunches. It self-sowed quite happily this year, so I doubt I will ever have to plant more, even though this is the second year the original two plants have come back.

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