Usually mid-September is time to start cool weather gardening tasks- harvesting, seed collecting, dividing, maintenance. But the summer heat and rain keeps rolling on and so does the growing season. The peppers and herbs are drinking it in, and the new front gardens are a riot of blooms. Even the strawberries are putting on a fresh round of fruits.
No time for complacency though, soon enough the frosts will come. But before then we can reflect on a fruitful season.
Lush is the best way to describe the herbs this summer. Lots of heat. Plenty of late season rain. Deadheading after the early summer blooms and a follow up prune keeps the Sage (Salvia officinalis) plants bushy and full. The lemongrass is spectacular as usual. It’s too bad it’s an annual here, it makes a wonderful screening plant. But it’s easy to start from seed and grows like a weed.
I re-potted the White Sage (Salvia apiana) in June and it’s rebounded nicely. I also potted up four new seedlings. The trick will be keeping them happy over the winter. Before the frosts hit we’ll harvest them for smudge bundles.
These snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus) overwintered in the basement last year for an early spring plant out and they gave us a spectacular season.
I managed to plant the garden beds this year and a keep them fairly tidy and productive. We planted broccoli, beets, onions, leeks, chard, and peppers and got okay to good results. Our soybeans were the real standout- productive and delicious. With self-seeding Dill, Calendula, Catnip, and Amaranth interspersed. The biggest issue this year was the soil quality- our heavy clay soil was rock hard. A good blend of manure, bio-char, and sand should help. A dose of greensand would help, too. I’m going to fall plant another round of onion sets for a spring crop, so I’ll need to at least partially amend one of the beds ASAP.
The rest of the patio container garden also fared well. We got a nice continuous crop of tomatoes, some peppers, and lots of flowers. I also keep our tender succulents, the coffee tree, and a variety of other houseplants outside during the summer. They greatly appreciate the warmth and moisture, but I have to keep an eye out for bugs, especially once I bring them back inside. This year I also tried keeping some of my orchids on the patio. So far they are thriving, but I really need to make space on the indoor orchid tables very, very soon. The mini greenhouse is handy, but ugly- especially right next to the door in prime position. I need to wrangle this area next year.
Brian Johnson is a Des Moines based woodworker, specializing in woodturning. It’s this spirit of rescuing wood otherwise destined for a wood chipper that provides the inspiration for current work. His dedication to local materials remains – most of it harvested from brush piles, windfall, and pruning.
Brian’s art is characterized by natural colors and finishes and feature inlaid twigs, stems, and leaves.When people see and touch what can be made from the overlooked resources in their own backyard it gives a greater appreciation for the value of the trees growing outside their door, and hopefully the natural world in general.
Brian Johnson attended Iowa State University and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering. Creating and crafting has always been a part of his life.