Sunday Morning Garden Chat: At Home in the Midwest

From determined commentor Watergirl:

I really didn’t plan this other corner to be all purple, but I see that I have at least 4 different plants with various shades of purple in the other corner where the fox lives. Pretty sure you can tell that it’s not a real fox, but I fell in love with the fox and just had to have him.

I’m not a very good photographer, so I usually send close-ups. I mean, who can screw up a close-up shot of a beautiful flower? Not sure how successful I was, but this time I tried to get a bigger picture view. For next time, I will try again to use the panorama view on camera. Maybe third time’s the charm?…

Here are a couple of different views from the back porch I had built last year. As I said, not a great photographer. I was so busy trying to catch the view of the yard that I looked past the towel on the chair. (Can we just pretend that the towel isn’t there?) In any case, I am loving my porch!

I tried to catch a picture of some of the flowers along the back fence, and even got one that might give you some sense of what it looks like at night with the fence lights on…

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Sunday Morning Garden Chat: “A Field Farmed Only By Drones”

A little something for both the gardening and the geeking commentariat. Now, if only they can program the drones to do the weeding… Nicola Twilley, in the New Yorker:

Across the United Kingdom, the last of the spring barley has been brought in from the fields, the culmination of an agricultural calendar whose rhythm has remained unchanged for millennia. But when the nineteenth-century poet John Clare wrote, in his month-by-month description of the rural year, that in September “harvest’s busy hum declines,” it seems unlikely that he was imagining the particular buzz—akin to an amplified mosquito—of a drone.

“The drone barley snatch was actually the thing that made it for me,” Jonathan Gill, a robotics engineer at Harper Adams University, told me recently. Gill is one of three self-described “lads” behind a small, underfunded initiative called Hands Free Hectare. Earlier this month, he and his associates became the first people in the world to grow, tend, and harvest a crop without direct human intervention. The “snatch” occurred on a blustery Tuesday, when Gill piloted his heavy-duty octocopter out over the middle of a field, and, as the barley whipped from side to side in the propellers’ downdraft, used a clamshell dangling from the drone to take a grain sample, which would determine whether the crop was ready for harvesting. (It was.) “Essentially, it’s the grab-the-teddy-with-the-claw game on steroids,” Gill’s colleague, the agricultural engineer Kit Franklin, said. “But it had never been done before. And we did it.”

The idea for the project came about over a glass of barley’s best self: beer. Gill and Franklin were down the pub, lamenting the fact that, although big equipment manufacturers such as John Deere likely have all the technology they need to farm completely autonomously, none of them seem to actually be doing it. Gill knew that drones could be programmed, using open-source code, to move over a field on autopilot, changing altitude as needed. What if you could take the same software, he and Franklin wondered, and make it control off-the-shelf agricultural machinery? Together Gill, Franklin, and Martin Abell, a recent Harper Adams graduate, rustled up just over a quarter million dollars in grant money. Then they got hold of some basic equipment—a small Japanese tractor designed for use in rice paddies, a similarly undersized twenty-five-year-old combine harvester, a sprayer boom, and a seed drill—and connected the drone software to a series of motors, which, with a little tinkering, made it capable of turning the tractor’s steering wheel, switching the spray nozzles on and off, raising and lowering the drill, and choreographing the complex mechanized ballet of the combine…
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Sunday Morning Garden Chat: Report from the Midwest

From “long time reader, infrequent commenter” Misamericanthrope:

Guess it’s time for my annual garden review and thought I’d share with the community. I’d give my efforts this year a solid ‘B’ (an improvement over last year’s ‘C’!). I went over board again with the Coleus. Some years I don’t get many and I end up missing their fullness. Next year, the plan is to mix Coleus AND Dahlias.

My garden is a true urban one. I only have (2) 30’ x 2’ beds on each side of a parking bed behind my apartment building, but I have filled up the remaining spaces with concrete planters and planter boxes wherever I can fit them.

The first picture is of one of the early summer stars. A Salpiglossis (from the ‘Bolero’ mix).

#2 is a close-up of a Tassel Flower ‘Irish’s Poet’. Had never grown them before and am still enchanted by the purity of the orange shade (they were taller and more unruly than I expected, though).

#3 is a shot of one of my narrow beds. My Dwarf Joe Pye Weed was a star this year and attracted hoards of honeybees. The bed also includes Echinacea and Amsonia hubriichti (perhaps my favorite plant).

#4 is one of my arrays of concrete planters, with the Coleus dominating. Mask Flower and Alternathera are also in the mix.

#5 is a shot of my shade corner, under the porch stairs. My Rex Hybrid Begonia (‘Gryphon’) went crazy and contorted to reach towards the light. An unexpected, and somewhat hilarious, surprise. Will over-winter him indoors.

#6 is a shot near the rear entrance of my building, featuring Coleus ‘Campfire’ and Dorotheanthus (a recently discovered fave for spilling over the edge of a planter). Am attempting to propagate the Dorotheanthus indoors for next year’s garden.

And, last but not least, in an attempt to secure my “Urban Gardener” bona fides, a shot of my Morning Glory string trellis with a passing El train in the background!

I hope all the other gardeners in the Balloon Juice community enjoy this set and best of luck on plans for next year!


What’s going on in your garden(s) this week?

Sunday Garden Chat: “How to Make the Most of Gorgeous Late-Summer Tomatoes”

Since I’m out of garden pics, here’s a recipe for the use of gardeners. Mark Bittman, in NYMag:

We think of tomatoes as summer food, and they’re the best thing to eat right now. For the next couple of weeks, you can make the best late-summer pasta sauce there is, though it’s probably the most ingredient-dependent pasta sauce, too. That is, if you do this with supermarket ingredients, you’ll be rewarded with decent sauce. If you do it with Sun Gold cherry tomatoes; fresh-picked basil; strong, ultrasticky garlic; and top-notch olive oil (mine happened to be Californian), you’ll end up with something mind-blowing.

Getting the ingredients is the hardest part — the actual prep and cooking are simple. Let’s say for two servings you want 30 or 40 cherry tomatoes, cut in half. You want a couple of big cloves of garlic (or a few smaller ones), slivered, and, say, a quarter cup of oil — maybe a little more. A small fresh chile is not a bad addition.

As you start the water for the pasta, grab a medium pan and begin cooking the garlic in the oil very slowly (add the minced chile, if you’re using it). By the time the water boils, the garlic should have begun to color. Add the halved tomatoes to the garlic and crank the heat a bit. A minute or two later, start the pasta. I’d use long pasta for this if you have it, but I’m not slavish about shape. A decent serving size is 75 grams, but 60 is good for a snack, and 100 if you’re hungry.

When the tomatoes have broken down a bit, throw in a lot of roughly torn basil leaves — an entire supermarket-size bunch isn’t too much. Add salt and pepper, of course, and toss the whole thing together. It does not need cheese; a little shredded basil on top of it all is nice….

Bittman also includes a recipe for a tomato “galette/crostini/free-form tart”, for which you’ll have to click the link.

I’ve got a friend coming out from the midwest to sightsee, so my blog participation this week is liable to be spotty and unreliable. Good thing there are other front-pagers to take up the slack — here’s hoping for a slow news week…

What’s going on in your garden(s) this week?

Sunday Morning Garden Chat: Ozark Summer


The rest of talented photog & gardener Ozark Hillbilly‘s pics from last week…

At top: Dem Wascally Wabbits got most of the cosmos, this is one they happily missed. I do like cosmos.

I like the foliage on the catmint and it really took off. I’m gonna add some more next spring.

Call Him Art: I found this red cedar stump while mushroom hunting nearby. A lot of character in that face.


Oz, if your catmint is anything like our local variety, it will spread quite happily without any help from you. Here it’s a “weed” which comes back before almost any of the other annuals every spring, and it would try to take over the entire garden if left unchecked. I don’t give it as much freedom as that, but I always leave enough blooming (as early as February!) so that the first bumblebees have something to work with…

Apart from crossing fingers for our Floridian correspondents, what’s happening in your garden(s), this week?

Flutterbys4: Grow it, and they will come.

Sunday Morning Garden Chat: Butterfly Garden

From ace photographer and optimistic gardener Ozark Hillbilly:

Thought I’d share how the first step in the pollinators garden project has come along.

Step 2: Showing what I start with in any garden project

Step 3: With top soil

Top photo: How things were looking in mid July.

Grow it, and they will come.


What’s going on in your garden(s), this week?

I put in one flutterby bush in each of the back corners, it has done well.

Sunday Morning Garden Chat: OH! The Eclipse


From gifted commentor Marvel:

It’s difficult to describe what the eclipse totality was like — too dazzling for my small words. But I can describe one wonderful aspect of it:

When totality struck and the sun’s fiery ring was exposed, a ROAR rose up all over the Willamette Valley — thousands of peoples’ voices in unexpected unison, shouting out the pure wonder of it.

Then, after the height of the celestial show, as the sun was being restored by an ebbing moonshadow, we rambled around the yard, looking for those wonderful crescent-shaped representations of the eclipse provided by dappled, pin-hole sunlight shining through the trees.

We were awestruck throughout.

(This photo made the Spousal Unit very happy. He’d hoped for something similar here — as happened back in 1991 — but it turned out that 63% totality & slightly overcast wasn’t good enough.)

Here north of Boston, we are finally enjoying Peak Tomato Season, those lovely few weeks when my plants are ripening fruit faster than we can eat them fresh. Local professionals say it was this summer’s cool nights that delayed such bliss by several weeks past the usual mid-July days… but, tragically, they haven’t slowed down the blights. Since there’s no rain predicted before Wednesday, I hope to spend some time later today pruning dead leaves and spraying Serenade, in the hope that the least affected plants will continue to set fruit even if they look like lollipops…

What’s going on in your garden(s) this week?