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August- What's in Steve's Garden?

 

 

In My Garden (Zone 9-10)

Steve Asbell
Steve Asbell is an illustrator, the author of Plant by Numbers and blogger of The Rainforest Garden.

 

The wet season arrived here in Northeast Florida with a bang of thunder and almost four inches of rain in one evening, leaving my vegetables briefly inundated and my rain garden filled to the brim. But if there’s one thing in which I can take pride, it’s for solving the woes of a soggy, flooded backyard with a rain garden and dry creek bed to absorb and drain the runoff that would otherwise sit for days.

When it hasn’t been raining, it’s been way too hot to do anything other than pull weeds, mow the lawn and perform other routine tasks. The weeds have been outpacing my efforts, to be sure, but I’ll take care of them all at once before planting my warm-season vegetables. The tomato, squash and cucumber plants couldn’t take the heat, but the okra, yard-long beans and eggplants have been so prolific that no pests seem to faze them in the least. Every week I pick an armful to sautee for dinner.

Well, I lied. I did find time to finish planting the rain garden, but nearly passed out last night after sweating away fluids as just as quickly as I could drink them. Hacking up maple roots and pencil-thick St. Augustinegrass runners with a mattock is also quite a workout, even when there isn’t a heat index of 110 degrees. My efforts have been paying off though, and the serpentine river of sedges is very relaxing to gaze upon from the sliding glass door. My wife has grown accustomed to me running outside after the rain lets up so that I can enjoy the sounds of water over rocks and make sure that its running smoothly as planned.

Since the rain garden serves such an important function and is clearly visible from each of the windows along the back of our house, finishing the plantings has been the big priority for me. Maybe it’s just the restrained color palette or the massed groundcovers, but seeing my new garden from the window gives me a great deal of peace. Seeing it unfinished on the other hand, made me anxious.

My Thai edible garden is starting to fill in. The lemongrass plants are billowing out like enormous fountains and the sweet potato vines are sprawling out to make a dense groundcover. They won’t be ready to harvest for a few months, but they’re growing well enough to shade out the weeds… which was the main reason I planted them to begin with. Admittedly, I’ve been slacking on the annual and perennial flowers in my front yard garden. Well, I’m being too hard on myself. It’s been so hot and sunny out there that even the ‘full sun’ flowers find it too intense. However, the verbena and gomphrena are still thriving, and the daylilies have been blooming sporadically since spring. I’ll probably leave the gaps open until it’s time to plant cool season annuals – partly because I want to carefully choose a new plant palette and start from scratch, and partly because it’s hot out. Okay, mostly because it’s hot out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gardening Tip of the Day

  • Order spring bulbs now for the best selection. They will arrive at the correct planting time for your hardiness zone.
    If you have indeterminate type tomato plants that continue to grow until killed by a frost, cut off the tops of their main stems now to prevent them from flowering and setting any more new fruit. It will seldom ripen before a frost occurs and the energy is better invested in the green fruit already on the vines.
    Now is a good time to plant or transplant evergreens. Water them faithfully and mulch well to get them off to a good start. Do not fertilize until next year.
    Now is also a good time to order and plant pansies. They will bloom this fall, but will really put on a show next spring.