Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Last Ichi Ki Kei Jiro Harvest

I just (11/14) harvested my last 5 Asian persimmons! Despite frost and two hard freezes, they are still firm and sweet.  Please read my blog entry on this wonderful plant for details (find it through my loooong index that I will be cleaning up soon).  Wonder how they will taste on the Thanksgiving table in my "famous" wild and black rice salad? Sorry this blog is so short today- I teach at a local university, and am in the "grading paper after paper" season! Plus it is post-holiday!
Happy gardening!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Heat Sinks

The photo above is of an "urban heat sink" I walk by often at work.  It is also called a microclimate.  Heat sinks can be anywhere, but what are they and what causes them?  First off, this heat sink often has blooming summer flowers in December (I am a teacher and don't work over winter break, so don't know how long into December actually lasts).  The same flowers and plants in my garden, 8 miles north, have been zapped by late October or early November, when this urban garden is still going strong. Now, probably really tender annuals, like basil, might not survive even in this microclimate, but others do (see the petunias spilling out on the low wall?)

A heat sink is caused by the angle of the sun (the heat sink area usually needs as direct sunlight as it can get in winter) and hardscaping that soaks in heat during the day and radiates it at night.  As you can see by this photo, there are plenty of heat soaking materials that surround this garden: asphalt roads, brick sidewalks, brick house, low concrete wall, and even the black metal fencing retains heat.  This seems to me to be a super heat sink!

Are there heat sinks in your yard?  First, look where the sun hits in winter. This area is prime for a heat sink. Brick, stone or concrete block walls (especially the latter painted in a dark color, not white) can create microclimates where you can even grow plants that are usually too cold intolerant for your USDA growing zone.  Brick walks, structures, dark stones, can also do the trick.

Of course, you can also have heat sinks in summer, and this can cause colder-zone plants to fry in the hot summer sun.  Again, look for where full summer sun hits and avoid planting more heat sensitive and shade loving plants there.  Morning sun is weaker than afternoon sun, so this can also create a microclime in your yard.

Can you create a heat sink?  Yes, if you are building a substantial wall or structure in an area that gets late winter sun, use brick, create a heat sink, and experiment with tender plants!

Happy gardening!  And have a joyful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wednesday Lagniappe: Gardener's Glossary- NOT!

I am reading a book of garden essays (Thomas Cooper, The Roots of My Obsession) in which famous gardeners describe why they garden.  It is fun and resonates a lot with me.  And here is a word from one essay:

"Yardening": Being "driven by a desire to keep a tidy landscape or to one-up their neighbors" (Ken Druse "Island Life," p. 77, in the above book).  It is not why Druse nor I garden, but it is so true!

Happy Gardening!  Not Yardening!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Vole War II

Last year I planted some gorgeous, tall, Asiatic lilies.  At least I think they would have been gorgeous,  but they were completely consumed by evil voles.  Don't have voles? Consider yourself lucky. Have an enemy? Curse them with voles.  These voles not only ate my lily bulbs, but they had dessert of the roots of my tea camellia.  I went out one day and saw the camellia looked dry. I touched it and it toppled over, no more roots. I've asked around and the horticulturalists I've spoken to say they have never heard of voles eating camellia roots.

What are voles?  These are small rodents that resemble mice and are even called "meadow mice."  They live underground, eating roots and tubers.  I even once saw a hosta moving in still air, being eaten from below by a vole.  I pulled the hosta leaves up, it had no roots and the telltale vole tunnel was there. (For a photo of a vole versus a mole: http://www.evergreenofjohnsoncity.com/Moles%20&%20Voles%20Info.htm   )

I reordered the lilies this summer and bought another tea camellia. This year, I have a plan.  As you can see by the above photos, I planted both in hardware cloth cages, surrounded by daffodil bulbs (voles hate daffodils) and sprinkled with a good heaping of mole and vole repellent.  I topped the bulb cage with a wider mesh hardware cloth, so the lily stems could easily get through (shown in the middle photo before I fixed it to the bottom of the cage with wire), though the camellia cage is not topped to allow the trunk to widen.  An third repellent I did not use is small, sharp gravel, but if I had some today.....

Happy gardening!  (By the way, this is late because I have been sick, but I am on the mend!)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wednesday Lagniappe: Post- Halloween Surprise?

Photo used with permission of Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, http://www.lewisginter.org/  Brian Vick, photographer.

This is a photo of the large, and dreaded, tomato hornworm, which sucks the lifeblood out of your tomatoes and eats their leaves.  But wait, it is even more ghoulish yet!  See the white things attached to the caterpillar?  Those are the eggs of a parasitic wasp that will hatch, burrow into the hornworm and...read no more if you are squeamish... devour it from the inside out!  A post-Halloween surprise indeed!  If you see such a hornworm in your garden, leave it alone, so those fiendishly helpful wasps can grow into many many more wasps!
Happy (?) gardening!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Autumn Sage: Salvi greggii

I should probably stop using this blog to confess my deep, dark garden lusts.  I think I have mentioned my college friend, Bunny (yes, that is what she preferred to be called) who, whenever a song played at a party, shouted "that's my favorite song!"  I know I am very much like Bunny (and weirdly, my family nickname is Duckie) in that I have many "favorite" plants.  This salvia, however, is a real charmer among a group of charming plants. It is hardy, blooms reliably in the late summer and fall, and is a good food source for hummingbirds during their autumnal migration.  The flower, though small, is brightly colored, a hot,deep pink, it pumps them out more and more as the weather cools and is a good accent in floral arrangements. It produces color in the flower garden when little is is still blooming.  It is somewhat evergreen, though is not at its best in deep winter. The plant has been really easy for me to grow and I keep its sprawling habit in check by pruning and staking.  It has some natural dieback in cold winters and I just prune the dead branches off.  It can get a little woody and you might want to replace it every 10 years or so if a hard cutting back does not refresh it.
Happy Gardening!