Of Mice, Disease, To Grow, and Not To Grow
Despite rain, some snow, and temperatures that dipped below 10°F, the whole bed of endive was lush and green. A low tunnel of porous, light fabric and clear plastic held aloft by wire hoops kept the worst of the weather at bay. As I reached in to harvest a head, no knife was necessary; the head lifted, unattached, off the ground. Mice have been at work again!
If it’s not one thing, it’s another. A timely sowing of endive seeds (early July) gave sturdy seedlings that were transplanted (early August) into compost enriched soil to present (by September) a beautiful bed of wall to wall greenery. The beds were covered for cold protection in November.
What a cozy home that bed became for mice. The tunnel provided not only food and lodging but also cover from the hungry eyes of local hawks. The mice ignored endive’s leaves, instead devouring the stout, fleshy portions of root and stem at the base of almost every plant.
Note to myself: Next fall pre-empt mice by getting a supplemental cat or two and/or setting traps within wooden boxes having mouse-sized entry doors.
Rip Out the Clem’s, Plant New Ones
Another note to myself: Replant clematis.
Over the years I’ve accumulated a number of varieties of clematis. The vines barrel up and over fences and trellises clothing them in sumptuous blooms. Blossoming has diminished over the years, the culprit being clematis wilt, a fungal disease that turns leaves and stems black. It doesn’t usually kill the plant but a clematis without flowers and with blackened leaves and stems is not a pretty site.
Clematis and I are not finished. In the next few weeks I must sit down and seek out sources for native clematis species and their hybrids. Their flowers are smaller but they are resistant to wilt. Scarlet Clematis (Clematis texensis) is definitely on my list, as is Rock Clematis (C. columbiana, sometimes listed as C. occidentalis var. columbiana), and the hybrids Betty Corning and Étoile Violette. The choices don’t stop there because two breeders on the other side of the Atlantic have come up with a whole series of wilt-resistant clematis, known as Evison-Poulsen series.
To Grow or Not To Grow, That is the Question(s)
More notes to myself on plants to grow and not to grow next year.
My zinnias looked a little unusual this year, unusually pretty, each flower with a single row of yellow petals radiating from a brown eye. Also unusual in being very compact, long lasting, and not marred by the powdery mildew of most zinnias. Last year I had just a few of these hybrid Zahara Yellow Improved zinnias in the vegetable garden; next year I’m planning for enough to make a bold, yellow line along each edge of the main path.
It was a great year for peppers, and the greatest, for flavor and production, were Carmen, Sweet Italia, and Pepperocini. Great for production but not so great for flavor was King of the North, which won’t be invited back. In its place, I’ll be inviting Bridge to Paris pepper, recommended by a knowledgable friend.
Cardoon, the variety Hunchback of Nice, was better than expected but not good enough to justify the growing again of last season’s 10 plants. Each plant is bold and striking with upright, to 3 feet or more, blue-green leaves, so my plan is to grow only 2 or 3 as ornamentals from which I’ll steal occasional leaves for eating.
Meserve holly bushes that I planted many years ago have grown large to create a solid wall of lustrous, spiny leaves. That’s nice. Even nicer would be red berries against that verdant backdrop. Close inspection of the flowers last spring indicated that all the plants, contrary to what was ordered, are females. One male, which I will order, can sire them all so that in a few (very few, I hope) years, red berries will liven up the scene in winter.
I completely forgot to plant ginger this year. Yes, ginger, that tropical plant which has captured the interest of many small farmers. I could never understand the big deal about ginger until I experienced the tenderness of freshly harvested, red blushed baby ginger. Not that mature ginger could anyway be harvested in the short growing season this far north. My plan is to buy a ginger root in March, divide it up and pot up each section, then keep the pots warm and moist to give the roots an early start for a good harvest of baby ginger.
Brussels Sprouts, the variety Gusto, were a rousing success, perhaps too rousing because we still have 6 stalks perched in a bucket in the cool mud room and awaiting dinners. Four to six plants will be plenty for next year.
Not every vegetable needs to be loved by everyone. Next year, and in years hence until I forget what they taste like, I will not be growing broccoli or beets.