Note: Small Space Gardening by Diane Dryden is a series of garden articles that will run the entire summer with information for both new and experienced gardeners. Every two weeks the articles will update as the gardening year progresses; from picking out a site up to harvest in the fall.
Small Space Gardening - Article #10
Ponds And Water Features, Wild Flowers, And Garden Update
June is one of the least busy months for gardeners. By now, your garden has all been planted. All of it should be up and growing nicely. Especially after some much-needed rain and much more heat.
For the seasoned gardener, this can be a dangerous time. Without anything to do but prune your flowering bushes like lilac, bridal wreath, forsythia, and mock orange, it's easy to look around and get crazy ideas. Like putting in a wildflower meadow/garden or maybe a pond.
Let me be the first to caution you about water features. Do you really want to have every animal, large and small, travel long distances just because they hear the sound of a small waterfall or fountain?
Deer may just drink out of the pond, but they often knock over things nearby. Or they help themselves to your vegetables or the roses or hostas nearby while in the yard.
In our first pond, we created a lovely waterfall and ensured the water depth was at least three feet deep to help keep the water cool for fish.
The night before the morning, I was taking the now much-grown fish to the pet shop to sell them; the raccoons made a call and ate every one of them.
I found some plastic look-alike goldfish and floated them in the empty pond. Sure enough, the following morning, the plastic ones had been dragged into the yard, some with their heads chewed off. One of the neighbors guessed these raccoons must have lost their mother before she had a chance to show them the ropes.
If we didn't live in Northern Wisconsin, where winter takes up most of the year, I'd try again for a large pond. But for the few short months of pond life, it's not worth the effort for me. Instead, I've recycled an old wash tub and some cement pieces and have constructed a small water feature right next to the house that has remained animal-free...so far.
If you would like to have a go on a pond, here are a few things I've learned.
Sun is not your friend. Even a few hours of daily sun heats the water, and the water then grows all sorts of green slime.
Certain pond plants, like water hyacinths, will take over in no time and completely block out any view of the water.
Goldfish are sitting ducks for several critters that visit during the night.
Other than that, have at it. I hear fountains sometimes work.
Now for your very own wildflower patch.
It's a bit of work but well worth it. Our wildflower meadow is two years old now, and I think its success is totally due to our following the instructions to the letter.
The instructions state the area is to be plowed up or rotor-tilled. Two weeks later, it has to be done again. That way, the majority of weeds will be eliminated. In theory, that is.
It's only been the last few years that wildflower seeds could be purchased in bulk that covers multiple sun and soil conditions.
Watch your sun patterns, and then buy the appropriate mix for sun or shade, sand or clay. Mix the seeds with at least twice as much sand and scatter-plant the area you want to be covered. Water well for the next few days. This should be the only time you'll ever need to water because these are native plants that survive on their own.
That's about it. Each year different plants will appear. The first photo is our initial attempt, and it came up mainly Brown-eyed Susan's, plus others.
The following year the area was filled with lupines, plus others.
Some experts say to mow the area in the fall. Some say to burn the site in the fall. We've just let the plants grow and reseed to their heart's content. Each year I add a small package of more seeds, but I really don't need to.
We are now fully into summer; the longest day was June 22. It's all downhill from here on, but thankfully only minutes at a time.
Your spuds should be blooming. We're waiting for the 120 days to be up before we harvest. That should be around the third week in August. I have noticed that between the three cat food bags we planted, the one with the whole potato seems to have two plants growing in it. The other two bags have only a half of a seed potato each. They seem more vigorous, with only one large happy plant each.
We've had a bumper crop of radishes, celery, and spinach this spring. Because it's turned so hot and dry, we've applied a healthy amount of straw between all the rows after watering thoroughly. Straw works so much better than hay. Hay comes with lots of seeds, and those you will have to weed out, over and over.
As for the Three Sisters garden, the first sister, corn, is up, and when it gets around 10 inches high, we'll plant the following two sisters. The first is climbing beans at the base of each corn stalk and several squash seeds in the middle of the patch. Then we wait until the corn and the beans have dried in the fall to harvest. The squash should be perfectly ripe then too.
If you are growing cucumbers, melons of all sorts, or squash, the first blossom to open on your vine crops is a male. The next one is a female, and so on down the line. So don't look for produce from every blossom. Somebody has to fertilize.
My two containers on the deck are doing well and producing like crazy. I have a gallon of parsley so far that I've dried in the oven, and there's lots more coming. It's one of those “cut and come again” crops like lettuce.
The spinach started to bolt due to the hot weather, so the container has now been moved to the shady side of the same deck.
Bolting is when a plant feels threatened, so it sends out a center stalk full of seeds, and the plant itself stops growing. You see rhubarb everywhere that's bolting now, and with this hot weather, the radishes will be doing it too. When the radishes 'go to seed,' it's time to pull them out, count your loss, and be grateful for the ones you got.
To get bolted spinach to continue to grow, keep cutting out the center stalk, and if you can, move or cover the plants to keep them cool. These, too, like the thinnings from the carrots, radishes, and lettuce, are eatable and really good in salads.
During this hot weather, all the plants are stressed. Even the trees. In prolonged heat, leaves roll or curl up to reduce their exposed leaf surface, so less moisture is lost. The peak bloom time is often shortened due to extremely hot weather. Some plants will drop flowers and fruit to conserve needed resources for the plant survival. This is common in peppers, squash, and cucumbers. Tomatoes flowers won't develop into fruit when the temperature increases and neither will peas or pea pods.
Several hot weather tricks you can try to reduce plant loss are:
- Mulch heavily.
- Provide shade with old sheets and shade cloth.
- Water in the early morning, and water deeply.
- Use a slow-release fertilizer like Milorganite. It will not burn the plants during high temperatures.
I hope you've already had some garden success because it will encourage you to grow a garden again next year.
Next time we're talking early tomato blight, bee hotels, mildew, and Epsom Salts.
Your questions, comments, and wisdom are always appreciated.
Previous Small Space Gardening Articles:
- Sun Patterns And Soil Types
- Learning How To Read Seed Catalogs And Packets And The Difference Between Perennials And Annuals
- Plot Planning, Bulb Starting, Crop Rotation, And Saving Toilet Paper Tubes
- Seed Starting Using Grow Lights, Heat Pads, And Toilet Paper Tubes
- Seed Starting, Determining How Much Of Each You'll Need, Soil Types
- Growing Herbs And Starting Potatoes
- Early Crops, Container Tips, And Creating A Successful Compost Pile
- 3 Sisters, Watching The Moon, And Finally, Planting Your Garden
- Garden Update, Berry Bugs, Annuals Vs. Perennials, And Trees