Garden Report: August 27

The rest of the country thinks of this as the dog days of August, or possibly even back-to-school season (San Francisco went back on Monday). But in our garden late August is Schlepping Compost season.

Today I shoveled a barrow full of finished compost out of the chicken yard, to be spread around the various fruits trees. Liza helped me out by eating all the worms that foolishly stayed near the surface of the compost.

Liza eating worms from the compost

I had all the chickens in the chicken yard today; the little chickens are still getting beaten up a lot by the bigs, so I have been bringing them in at night (or leaving them in all day when I don't have any time to monitor happenings). But pretty soon they'll be big enough to be outside full time. Here we have (clockwise from lower left) Dolly, Cher, and Janis.

Dolly, Cher, and Janis in the yard

Apart from heavy lifting in the compost, most of the garden has reached that stage of summer where it's too dry for much weed activity to go on. And the real stars are coming out, which is to say the drought-loving flowers.

For example, this is Penstemon hartwegii, blooming for the first time (I admit, I bought it last fall and was late to put it in the ground, so that it survived at all is a miracle). Quite a looker, and doesn't need deadheading, either. (I rarely deadhead anything, so this is a bonus, not a time-saver.)

Penstemon hartwegii

And for reasons not entirely clear to me, the hollyhock also loves this time of year. I get that it likes heat, but you'd think it might complain now and again about not getting any water at all. It's possible, though, that the neighbor on the other side of the fence waters her beds there enough to water my hollyhock, as well. Those are her invasive ferns I'm always pulling out from the beds along the fence.

Hollyhock in bloom

And my happy little miniature creeping thyme is in bloom, too. I'm going to need to make some divisions of this guy because we had a bit of an accident this weekend, in which the wooly thyme walk out front was accidentally removed to clean off the brick path underneath it. That thyme may come back (or more likely, the Bermuda grass will take the opportunity to take over some more), but if it doesn't I'll be using some of this to fill in.

Miniature thyme is one of those plants I love to look at closely. The little purple flowers with the darker purple streaks inside, the little bunches of leaves. It's a really pretty plant.

Thyme minimus

Another interesting plant to look at is Aeonium spathulatum var. cruentum, which balls its petals up during times of drought. I've taken to giving it a little water when I water the blueberries, so it's starting to open up a bit. But I actually am not all that fond of how it looks in flower, so if this is as far as it gets before winter, I'm OK with that.

Aeonium spathulatum var. cruentum

On the food front, this squash of some sort has started really growing in the last few days. I had planted a bunch of squash seeds under the fava beans, but they mostly got accidentally mowed in the spring and I thought they would not come back. Well, this one seems to be doing something, though whether it will do anything substantive (like produce a squash of some sort) remains to be seen.

Random squash decides to grow

Less tentative are the tomatoes, which are finally going well (I hesitate to say gangbusters because I've definitely had better years for the tomato crop). The Romas are sprawling everywhere, safe from marauding dogs and obnoxious chickens. And we stand a good chance of a crop large enough to make decent amounts of sauce.

Roma tomatoes

And I had to put this picture of ripening quince up. It seems like the quince has had a really bad year: trimming off the fireblight reduced its size to 1/3 of its former glory (and I left one afflicted branch on because I wanted more than four quinces). But it soldiers on. Honestly, is there a more amazing tree? Sure, quince are hard as rocks and taste somewhat like flavoured wood, but they are gorgeous, and the tree just goes and goes.

Ripening quinces

We've had such a strange year for weather that this month we've had a bunch of ripe apples. Today the dogs and I shared a couple of Pink Surprises that had had some assaults on their dignity from some kind of pest. I admit to planting this tree because the pink flesh is fun, but it also has that sweet-crisp-tartness that I love in an apple.

Pink Surprise insides

Speaking of apples, I noticed this branch yesterday. Somehow I missed that massive cluster of apples while thinning. It's a ways up in the air, so this year it gets a pass. Those are White Winter Pearmain, and this is the first year it's given a real crop. Jonathan is right behind it in numbers, but Jonathan got thoroughly thinned, so that's almost like an unfair advantage..

Brace of apples up high

Lastly, the Asian pears. The Hosui are all eaten up, and now we're waiting on Shinko:

Shinko asian pear

We didn't get as much fruit from Shinko this year, in part because I wasn't aggressive enough with the winter pruning. That's a lesson for you: you don't do anybody any favours by having a light hand with the pruners.

Around the same time I expect we'll get some Nijiseiki, also called 20th Century.

Nijiseki asian pear

Nijiseiki's usual role is pollinator to the other three, but it produces very tasty fruit of its own. This year production is down because last year it went so crazy making fruit that it bent itself in half. After a year like that you pretty much should expect a leaner year.

(I showed that just to prove that not all our fruit is perfectly photogenic.)

Lastly, the subtly sweet and floral Shinseiki. I love how this looks like an apple. We don't get many of these, but each one is prized.

Shinseiki asian pear

So as it's getting towards autumn, I'm making lists of trees to order for this winter. We're getting Noel a Thai lime, adding a couple of mandarins in pots, and I think a Pommelo. I would like to squeeze a plum in if I could just figure out where. And the sour cherry needs replacing (I swear I will never bury another pet right under a tree). I love how totally unrealistic I can be while drawing up plans and lists like this. Eventually I have to have a splash of reality, but not yet.

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posted by ayse on 08/27/09