I took a much-needed leave of absence for the last month or so. The hottest month of the year in Central Texas is August, so there was little I could do in the garden besides try to save a few plants that burned up in the hot, dry weather. Now that the hottest weather has passed, I’ve managed to get outside the last couple of weekends to survey the damage, pull up unwanted plants and do a little maintenance.
The veggie garden is all but finished for the summer, but I still have some peppers and tomatoes that should be producing through the fall. I have some broccoli in the ground now for the fall/winter garden. I do have plans yet to get spinach, carrots and lettuce in the ground as well. I can’t believe it’s that time of year again. Last spring we were lamenting the fact that we would have no more fresh spinach and lettuce for awhile and now it seems it’s come around so quickly that I’m a little behind.
yellow and green bell peppers and cayenne in the back (not visible)
I certainly intended to be ahead of the game at this point, and indeed I was a month ago. I sowed several broccoli and spinach seeds inside, but – due to neglect – they suffered and I decided to let them die off. I bought broccoli transplants instead. I made sure to put them in a different bed this season as it is recommended to plant them in the same place every three years. The spinach I’ll sow directly as soon as this week – the time is right now. The carrots will soon follow and then I’ll do successive plantings of lettuce through the winter. I can’t wait until I get them on my plate!
The herb garden suffered a bit through my neglecting it the past month. Then we received such a torrential downpour from the leftover tropical depression that the plants just looked downright ugly. I harvested what I wanted, then ripped up the remaining plants and threw them onto the compost pile. Fire ants had moved into the bed, no doubt relocating from some other spot due to all of the rain. Having the garden bare was a good time to kill them off using several pots of boiling water. I think I succeeded in killing most of them off, as is evident by the piles of red carcasses!
flat parsley, chives and oregano
In the meantime, I have more chives, parsley and oregano going, but I need to find some thyme as well. I don’t plan to grow any more sage in the herb garden, and instead have expanded on the chives and oregano – and hopefully thyme (all the local nurseries were out). I use those three herbs more than anything – well, those and rosemary, but I have the rosemary planted elsewhere. The basil plant grew so large due to my continuing to trim off the flowers that the weight of it finally tipped it over following the heavy rain. I pulled a good six cups of firmly packed leaves off of the one plant and made pesto. I have a tub of fresh pesto in the fridge that we’re eating on (we put it on some homemade pizza the other day and it was outstanding!) and another tub frozen in the freezer for later use. I still have so many dried basil and sage that I can seriously provide for our needs for the next year or two, provided they stay fresh.
The butterfly garden is not disappointing me. In early March I landscaped the area and dropped several plants in. Now they have taken over the spot and are putting on a good show. The verbena didn’t suffer at all through the summer and I’ve had to trim it several times to maintain a nice, compact bush. The Texas lantana is sprawling out everywhere, especially now that I’ve cut back all of the fennel (which, by the way, is now growing back!). The fall aster is gearing up for its fall show, with a beautiful display of lavender flowers. The black-eyed susans look like they’re done for the year, but I’m still hoping they’ll come back this fall. There are a couple of new flowers, but the foliage looks pretty bad. The trailing lantana continues to push outward across the gravel walkway and will need to be cut back … again! It has not stopped flowering since March. The far end of the butterfly garden is in desperate need of re-spacing. I’ll have to transplant the salvia greggii and the zexmenia, which has been overcome by the indigo spires and copper canyon daisies. I’ll most likely have to move the rosemary, as well. Since the tarragon didn’t make it through the summer, I now have room to move it over. I’ll wait another couple of weeks to do that.
blooming milkweed (from cuttings) and verbena
indigo spires salvia and copper canyon daisies (right)
trailing lantana and four-nerve daisies (foreground)
whirling butterfly gauras
fall aster staring its fall show
zexmenia with a couple of blooms
Texas lantana and fall aster
And the milkweed is doing well, too. The largest suffered through the heat and dropped most of its leaves, but it has since rebounded. The other cuttings are really flowering now. Those that I started from seed are getting larger. I was worried about them for awhile. I had to water them literally every day to keep them alive through August. The ground was so dry that a huge crack opened up along the entire length of the bed. I lost a handful of the forty plants I had because they fell into the crack! I put down some fresh dirt, mulched with compost and that seemed to work, but it wasn’t until all of the rain the past few weeks that the crack has filled in and the plants have taken off. It’s almost time for the monarch migration. I don’t know if they’re far enough along to generate much interest from them as they migrate, but there is always next year! I was shocked to discover a couple baby monarch cats on them today, … so, we’ll see! Despite my expectations, it looks like they ARE going to flower this year, even though they typically do not the first year from seed (which surprises me since I planted them in July!). I have also harvested a hundred or so seeds from the cuttings that produced pods. Perhaps I can get them going next spring …
milkweed bed grown from seed
the cluster at the top indicates they will bloom soon
baby Monarch caterpillar!
I also ripped out all of the spearmint. I wanted them to flower, which they did, and because of their invasive tendency, I decided to do away with them. I pulled them up a couple of weeks ago, which was no easy task – they’re roots and runners sprawled in all direction. Yet, after two weeks, there were no signs of them coming back to life, so I decided to plant a couple Turk’s Cap plants as well as Autumn Joy Sedum. We needed more red in the garden anyway.
Turk's Cap (rear) and Autumn Joy Sedum
That’s all the updating I have for now. I’m off to the nurseries to see what I can find, then I have a day cut out for me. I’ll be brewing some more compost tea and doing some transplanting and trimming. I’ll be back with some updates in the next few days, so thanks, in advance, for checking back. I’m sorry, once again, for my absence the last month or so!
If you don’t mind, leave me a comment and let me know what you’re up to in your garden!