Experiments, observations, and lessons learned

digitS'

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@Phaedra , you may have to explain to Americans the difference between Swiss and non-Swiss chards.

@Zeedman , your experience with the benefits of plant and insect garden companions makes me think of growing flowers intended for drying in or near the vegetables. Xerochrysum bracteatum -- strawflowers. I believe the Europeans more commonly call them everlastings.

Perhaps not quite looking like a honey plant, they are and that is noted in Australia where they are a native. The honey bees love them.

Many insects search out nectar, even predatory ones. Bald-face and yellowjacket wasps feed on nectar. Entomologists note that lady bugs do as well and that jives with my observations.

Xerochrysum bracteatum attract these guys like crazy. Growing them close to the brassicas, with their aphid pests, have really seemed to benefit. Planting a nice row of strawflowers those seasons.

Learning by accident? Sure. I don't always come up with a good idea for what I'm doing ;). Fennel -- I like licorice and I'm having store-bought fennel seed in the tea kettle basket with some other herbs this morning :). When I grew it, it was absolutely covered with wasps when it bloomed. They must have been drunk on the nectar and were in such numbers that the honey bees were probably scared to be anywhere near those plants. Bulb fennel may be a better choice if one wanted to attract wasps to clean out cabbage loopers and aphids since they are a perennial and, I'm guessing, would bloom earlier in their second season. BTW -- the honey bees weren't the only ones scared to go near those other fennel plants during those late Summer weeks.

Steve :hide
 

flowerbug

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@Phaedra , you may have to explain to Americans the difference between Swiss and non-Swiss chards.

haha! :)

cosmos (the yellow, orange and reddish tipped ones) are great nectar sources in the later summer time.

russian sage is swarmed by all sorts of bees right now.

the thymes and mints are also loaded.

we have all those honey bee hives out back and they are contributing to the bee counts but i'm amazed by how many other bee species i'm seeing out there (and also relieved as i was seeing nobody else for most of those dry months).
 

Zeedman

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So, if they somehow overwinter successfully (let's say, growing under cover in the greenhouse) - they are likely to keep producing in the next growing season?
Will it keep producing? Yes... but since chard is a biennial, it will try to bolt to seed. If you want seed, that is a good thing; if not, just prune off the flower stalks as they appear.

When I lived in southern California, the ground never froze, and chard could over-winter. I would cut it back to the "trunk" in Spring, and it would sprout new growth much as yours did. I would trim that to the strongest 2-3 shoots, pruning off any other shoots that appeared. The leaves on those shoots were smaller than first year growth, but still bigger than spinach. Some of that chard survived for 3 years, and their "trunks" grew to about 12 inches (30 cm) tall. They were still alive when I moved.

And DD#1, who lives close to Lake Winnebago & is about one hardiness zone warmer than me, had her chard survive the winter. She got a lot of seed... much of which fell to the ground. So she doesn't have to plant chard now - just move the volunteers where she wants them.
 

Zeedman

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Eta: there has been some research done it looks like, at least in terms of cowpeas and wasps as pest management, apparently maruca vitrata is Africa's worst cowpea nemesis and it's wasps that control it...
Just noticed that post... I hope that moth doesn't find its way over here. :hide Given how widespread that moth is now, and how frequently invasives are being transferred from place to place, that is probably a vain hope. :(
 

Phaedra

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@Phaedra , you may have to explain to Americans the difference between Swiss and non-Swiss chards.
My bad, I just realized they should be the same thing. But the variety I chose is with colorful stem - people called them rainbow chard here. Compared with the white variety, the flavor is sweeter and less earthy.
 

flowerbug

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My bad, I just realized they should be the same thing. But the variety I chose is with colorful stem - people called them rainbow chard here. Compared with the white variety, the flavor is sweeter and less earthy.

i planted those years ago to try them out and found out that Mom did not like any of them so i did not repeat plant.

each color did seem to have a different flavor but i do recall that for the most part i like the red the best as that was what i was also used to eating from growing plenty of beets but also that i did like the more earthy and stronger flavor.

a few stragglers and stray seeds popped up again the next year, some overwintered (no mulch applied), one went to seed and i was able to have some of those sprouts survive for another year or two. i would eat some once in a while as i do like beet greens.

during the more vegetarian years long before i liked using the big leaves as wraps for egg salad or tuna salad. some people don't like the stems but i am fine with those when cooked enough, i just have to start cooking them earlier than the leaves.

my first exposure to eating swiss chard was in with some ham and cheese in a large crecent roll that was baked until done. i enjoyed that so from then on i was willing to buy and eat it from the grocery store. i liked that the larger leaves would last a bit longer in the fridge but it was rare they would be around very long.

for some reason i've never really gotten into lettuce though because i grew up eating iceberg lettuce and thought it was pretty much a waste of space in the bowl compared to cabbages, carrots, onions, garlic, fennels, or other things that had more flavor. my attempts to grow leaf lettuces were ok, but Mom does not like bitter things and almost all lettuces i grew of those types were too bitter and they weren't romaine lettuce which she will eat. the few romaine plants i was able to get going here were too bitter for her. our better lettuce growing soils are not fenced and the deer and rabbits took them out as fast as they would sprout.
 

Phaedra

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Cut back helps.

One lesson I learned this year is to cut back flowering perennials a bit earlier and a bit harsher. Then, the second flush will effectively extend the seasonal interests and delight. So far, Delphinium, Veronica, and Yarrow did very well.

I also tried with snapdragons and removed the stems with seedheads. Most of them will stay outdoors, and I do expect to see the second flush from them.
12405.jpg


Meanwhile, I also dug out two plants for relocating them inside the greenhouse later. They will stay with the chili plants that successfully overwintered last year - one of my winter projects this year.
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Other annuals I cut back - cosmos, marigold, calendula - but majorly for improving the growing conditions for the other plants in their surroundings.
 

digitS'

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The 2023 gardening season is drawing to a close. It should be time to look again at everything and reflect back on years past.

There is a lot of motivation towards a challenge but we all "shrug things off." If I was to say that there are people who have climbed all 48 mountains in New Hampshire that are above 4,000 feet elevation, you might think, "good for them." But also, you may think that doing so isn't a challenge that you will be taking up.

Gardening Challenges. Many of us have been gardening for years. Challenges, we can handle em 💪. Yeah well ... years ago, I read about gardeners in northern latitudes, growing fig trees. As Winter set in – they would cut roots on two sides of the small trees leaving only two roots attached. A trench was dug on one side and the tree was pulled down to horizontal with suitable insulating material piled over the branches and soil forming a mound above. There, the fig tree would be protected from the Winter cold.

I miss the little fig tree that stood beside the lawn gate to the side pasture at our southern Oregon home. Have I taken up that fig growing challenge? No. (Might I suggest it to @flowerbug , who has never eaten fresh figs? Oh, sure :D.)

Lots of food crops are grown in the US. Washington State has more apples grown than in any other state. Sure – grow some apples, easy as apple pie. And yet, the news just had an orchard guy on talking about the difficulties that occurred with Spring frosts lingering into the bloom season, how those frosts compromised production and delays the harvest now, months later. I'd never thought of that delay problem. We have had light August frost in the garden several times. Certainly, freezing in late September has to be expected. Could the state with 275 square miles of apple orchards have serious problems state-wide with producing a crop? Of course, it would only be logical.

What does this mean for a gardener with square feet of growing space? Tomatoes – America's #1 garden crop. It should be of no surprise that we sometimes have problems growing tomatoes . Even when variety choices are of consistent performers, 100% success is not guaranteed. "Performers" is an idea that I am in favor of – limits on the challenges. How's that for wimping out? Yes, it's true – I'm risk averse. My experiments are limited to a few each year. My challenges have largely been in growing a large garden. Only a few times did I have a small garden and, it wasn't often that I had no garden, at all. It may be an emotional "need."

Steve
 

Phaedra

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The thread @catjac1975 posted about growing onions indoors reminds me something I learned this year - cutting plants back - no matter it's temporarily indoors like seedlings, or permanent indoor plants. Plant size is an interesting topic to look into.

In the past, I used to change the pots when the plants became too big - but this is not always practical. I read about keeping the fruit trees shorter for easier management and also know that proper cutting back is helpful to redirect the energy back to the main trunks/canes and the root systems.

When we overwinter some plants, we will do the same, cutting them back.
Two Chili plants from year 2021 staying in the greenhouse - their stems are much thicker and more robust (I guess). Maybe gradually, this overwinter process might be taken as a kind of 'hardening off' for them and they can handle the lower temperature better than those sow in the spring.
14467.jpg


For young flowering plants, it's also a common practice to trim them back for stimulating more side shoots to grow for more flowers in the later stage, like Dahlias, MUMs, etc. But I just didn't connect this to other plants growing in the greenhouse/house.

This year, I cut back sweet osmanthus, maple, elderberry, Mexican orange blossom and ficus to control their size or reshape their forms. When I did the viability tests for my homesaved seeds, some (like sweet peas, honeyworts) grew pretty fast and not so easy to accommodate them in the limited space - cutting back also helps.

The sweet peas were transplanted eventually to the hoop tunnel (but I had no idea if they can survive the bad weather these two weeks, we have this morning -6C), and the honeywort looks nice to me (it stays in the unheated greenhouse, -1C but without danger from the frost ).
14465.jpg


When plants remain smaller, it seems that they have better chances to handle the coldness with proper hardening off. I didn't do this intentionally, just forgot to bring them indoors. They stay in the unheated greenhouse even now (outside is snow) and are pretty ok, even the very young geraniums(from cuttings) and lupines (from seeds).
14466.jpg


Those azaleas are amazing, too. I didn't expect they can do that well in the bonsai pots (so constraint!) when it is so cold. They are not just blossoming, new leaves are also bursting out from the stems.

14468.jpg


Flowers are still there in this unheated greenhouse. As it is a kind of extension and leans to our house, the main building 'shares' some heat, I guess. Well, but those plants are also much hardier than I thought.
14469.jpg
 

catjac1975

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The thread @catjac1975 posted about growing onions indoors reminds me something I learned this year - cutting plants back - no matter it's temporarily indoors like seedlings, or permanent indoor plants. Plant size is an interesting topic to look into.

In the past, I used to change the pots when the plants became too big - but this is not always practical. I read about keeping the fruit trees shorter for easier management and also know that proper cutting back is helpful to redirect the energy back to the main trunks/canes and the root systems.

When we overwinter some plants, we will do the same, cutting them back.
Two Chili plants from year 2021 staying in the greenhouse - their stems are much thicker and more robust (I guess). Maybe gradually, this overwinter process might be taken as a kind of 'hardening off' for them and they can handle the lower temperature better than those sow in the spring.
View attachment 62530

For young flowering plants, it's also a common practice to trim them back for stimulating more side shoots to grow for more flowers in the later stage, like Dahlias, MUMs, etc. But I just didn't connect this to other plants growing in the greenhouse/house.

This year, I cut back sweet osmanthus, maple, elderberry, Mexican orange blossom and ficus to control their size or reshape their forms. When I did the viability tests for my homesaved seeds, some (like sweet peas, honeyworts) grew pretty fast and not so easy to accommodate them in the limited space - cutting back also helps.

The sweet peas were transplanted eventually to the hoop tunnel (but I had no idea if they can survive the bad weather these two weeks, we have this morning -6C), and the honeywort looks nice to me (it stays in the unheated greenhouse, -1C but without danger from the frost ).
View attachment 62529

When plants remain smaller, it seems that they have better chances to handle the coldness with proper hardening off. I didn't do this intentionally, just forgot to bring them indoors. They stay in the unheated greenhouse even now (outside is snow) and are pretty ok, even the very young geraniums(from cuttings) and lupines (from seeds).
View attachment 62531

Those azaleas are amazing, too. I didn't expect they can do that well in the bonsai pots (so constraint!) when it is so cold. They are not just blossoming, new leaves are also bursting out from the stems.

View attachment 62532

Flowers are still there in this unheated greenhouse. As it is a kind of extension and leans to our house, the main building 'shares' some heat, I guess. Well, but those plants are also much hardier than I thought.
View attachment 62533
All so nice and healthy. I am a big proponent of pruning.
 
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