It's hard to believe that summer is nearly over, and the consistently warm and sunny weather belies what the calendar is telling me. The growing season still has another good seven weeks or so before we can expect a true frost, but as we turn into the home stretch I'm inclined to look back on this whirlwind summer and what lessons it's imparted.
1. It's the mulch, stupid!
This is rather embarrassing to admit, but I didn't mulch the vegetable bed this year and that was a major oversight! As someone who uses mulch quasi-religiously on the ornamental beds, and who has recommended the use of said mulch in multiple magazine articles, I really dropped the ball here! The lack of mulch contributed to tomato cracking and blossom end rot on some bell peppers, since the moisture level fluctuated rather wildly thanks to my frequent trips out of town and our periodic drought conditions. I guess I fooled myself into thinking mulch would be unnecessary and/or cumbersome because the bed is so small. However, I got a great suggestion from Garden Girl in a comment on a previous post about using leaf mold as a mulch, and I intend to give it a try next year.
2. Grow more hot peppers.
I have been scalding myself on a regular basis, and judging by the looks of these chili peppers it's set to continue. The habaneros are coming along beautifully too. I can't guarantee that next year will have the hot, sunny weather that this year has had, which is perfect for these peppers, but it's certainly worth another try!
3. Abject neglect will kill a container garden.
Before my week-and-a-half excursion away from home:
The 'Diamond Frost' euphorbia is making a valiant effort to keep this container going, but the 'Ready to Wear' calibrachoa from Hort Couture and the 'Red Plume' celosia just couldn't handle the abuse.
4. Abject neglect will not necessarily kill a container garden.
This pot is in the shade, which undoubtedly helped its survival while I was gone. It's simple but I've been enjoying this container all season. Look at the nice crinkly texture of the 'Blackberry Waffle' hemigraphis, also from Hort Couture.
5. Abject neglect will kill a tree.
No photos of this involuntary arboricide. Let's just leave it at this: I bought a darling dwarf Canadian hemlock 'Pendula' that I was nursing along in a container with the intention of planting it in my problematic north border this fall. But I let it get too dry (I think), then I tried to overcompensate with too much water (I think), but I couldn't stop the downward spiral. I'm still not quite sure exactly how it happened, but I have officially killed a tree. Dark days.
6. Squashes need tons of sun.
I have gotten a whopping three cucumbers this year, and my four varieties of squash have produced exactly zero. The lush foliar growth and abundant flowers tells me there is hope for squashes here, but more sun would probably be a good idea. I expect to move the trellis next year, plant solely vining varieties to maximize sunlight exposure, and just generally lay out the veggie bed better next year.
7. Phlox paniculata and purple hyssop make a great combo.
OK, so I don't actually have many pictures of this combo because I mostly observed it in the frenzied weeks of late as I ran from the front door to the car, and later jumped from the car and ran back to the house, thinking as I streamed past the front garden, "Wow, those really look nice. Maybe I should take a picture. Maybe I should get more of them..." and then a thousand other things happened before I actually got the camera. But trust me, these 'David' phloxes and the hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) have anchored the front border since late July, and I like the textural contrast between the spiky hyssops and rounded, delicate phloxes.
So what did you learn this summer? Was it a good summer vacation, or are you ready for fall?
FTC Disclaimer: I got the calibrachoa and hemigraphis complimentary from Hort Couture, but as you should be able to see from this post, I am not predisposed to solely praise them.