I am blissfully alone this week. My menfolk are yucking it up at Scout Camp and I'm thoroughly enjoying my breather from the Men's Club. Don't get me wrong, I love them to death and all that, but a girl truly can die (at least on the inside, anyway) from environmental testosterone poisoning. A break from one another is always a good thing. Just not too long of a break.
Anyway, I'm refreshing my soul by taking care of a lot of garden chores. It's that time of year in my Pennsylvania garden that some things are bloomed out, going to seed or looking generally raggedy. I was feeling especially ruthless and experimental and gave my stella d'oro lilies, salvia, oregano and lemon balm a proper beheading.
I would normally painstakingly sift through my lilies and remove all spent stems and brown foliage, but frankly, I really don't even like these lilies all that much. I wanted to see if they'd come back on their own. I think it's impossible to kill lemon balm. It's got those impervious mint-y genes.
My oregano is a friendly monster that has endured many amputations and only seems invigorated by the challenge. We have a healthy respect for one another. He flavors my Lemon Chicken, I promise not to dig him up entirely and chuck him in the burn pile even though he grows eighteen times his size every month.
I felt a bit guilty though. I normally can't bear to part with blooms that the bees are thoroughly needing and enjoying. The oregano and white salvia were still blooming. I would usually wait a week til they were done, out of respect for the bumblers' food supply. I felt no such compassion yesterday. I'm sure it had a bit to do with the aforementioned testosterone poisoning. I have lots of other things in my garden the bees love, so they're not starving.
In my vegetable garden, I hosed my tomato plants up and down to wash off aphids. I've always heard that tip and have done it before, but I never knew that the aphids won't climb back up on the plant. (Thanks for that tidbit, Dad. As well as all the other garden wisdom with which you've enriched me over the years.)
I've got 16 tomato plants this year. (For my little garden and family of four with only three tomato eaters, that's a lot.) They are gorgeous and lush and beginning to fruit very well. (Remind me of this loving statement in a month when I've made myself crazy with too many 'maters to deal with.) I did plant them a bit too close to one another. So far, they don't mind.
Trying to hose them off was a bit like sending myself through a tomato-planty automatic car wash, though. As it is, I tend to walk through the rows very carefully, sometimes with my arms in the air, so as not to break off any stems. I came out of the tomato wringer soaking wet smeared with green plant stains and many of those aphids clinging to me for dear life.
My peppers are coming along beautifully, especially the home grown plants. Dad gave me two bells, two Mucho Nacho jalepenos and two Volcanos. I grew sweet bells. They are all big and fat with healthy little peppers coming on.
My purchased hot banana peppers (from a local greenhouse) are tiny plants, loaded with more peppers than it looks like the plants can support. My sweet banana's are tall and spindly, but all healthy. Next year, I'll grow my own banana peppers.
Today, all the peppers got a thorough spraying with Epsom salts. They love the magnesium as they set fruit. I also put some of the salts in the hole at planting time. Works beautifully. Just ask my Dad, he knows everything.
I've been encouraging my Dad to write a book, "Everything Pappa Knows About Your Garden" or somesuch title. So far, he's not digging it.
As far as weather goes, we've had a cool-ish summer. No rain for at least 10 days, though and we're parched. There's a chance tomorrow, crossing fingers. My rain barrels are almost empty. I've heavily mulched my vegetables with compost and straw, so they are hanging in there. I water when really needed.
My other chore with which I have a love/hate relationship is my daily collection of Japanese beetles. They are eating my precious Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate's to lace. I'm out there several times a day, butter tub of soapy water in hand, bumping them to their watery deaths. It's especially satisfying when I successfully interrupt, via murder, a flourishing orgy on one leaf. If I do this after a glass of wine, I find myself giggling like a gleeful child as I watch them drown. (Oh come on, you hate 'em, too!)
But I must say, I fear the super-mutant huge green ones that buzz my head like an F-15. I find myself cowering amongst my corn plants when they're circling above. I think they come from eggs laid too close to the power plant.
Can anyone supply me with the address of the moron who brought Japanese beetles to this country? I have a small friend (in the form of an old rubber hose - actually given to me by my Dad, wise man that he is) and we'd like to have a chat with him. He's probably the same knucklehead who thought kudzu was a good idea.
Realizing that I sound like a maniac, let me say that I really am a compassionate gardener. I collect ladybug larvae and deposit them on plants with aphids (they'll help the plant and have much more to eat than what's available on the front porch,) I let the big wasps that make small nests have at it under the shutters and I have even been known to collect a tomato horn worm and relocate him in the woods.
Back to the garden I go for a little more zen therapy...