Stacking Functions Garden


1 Comment

In the Fall Garden

The fall garden: it’s all about greens fading into blues and grays, then contrasting with bright oranges and yellows. Lush, soft textures contrast with dry, brown twigs and leaves. In short: it’s gorgeous. Why “clean it up”? Most of this stuff will stay in place until the spring in order to shelter overwintering insects for next year.

Here’s a photo tour of what’s happening outside my door, right now.

IMG_7502

Okra plants are approximately six feet tall.

IMG_7504

Meyer lemons—I’ve never had any get this big. For some reason the squirrels aren’t interested in them this year. I am trying to come up with a strategy to make the coming winter happier for this plant without breaking the bank.

IMG_7508

Who needs mums, anyway? Fall asters are gorgeous AND beneficial.

IMG_7517

Two thirds of this composition is serendipity. I only planted the purple dome aster; the calendula and brown-eyed susans reseeded from other areas of the garden.

IMG_7526

My showy goldenrod has been covered in bumblebees—during a warm spell last week they were positively frantic.

IMG_7531

Blanketflower—slowly reseeding and reblooming all summer long.

IMG_7532

Who’s this little bug trying to hide in a calendula blossom?

IMG_7537

Zig zag goldenrod, a favorite for shade. Great hosta alternative.

IMG_7540

The spent blossoms of the big-leaved asters are taking on a puffball quality.

IMG_7543

The prairie boulevard in autumn captures that quality I was trying to describe—contrasts of color and texture that are unique to this season.

IMG_7561

Blue false indigo leaves, their black seed pods, and more brown eyed susans in the background.

IMG_7566

Zinnias are a little obviously non-native at this point, but so pretty.

IMG_7569

Magnolia leaves starting to give it up.

IMG_7570

Fall is parsley’s time to shine. It’s very cold-hardy so I’ll keep picking it until it’s covered by snow.

IMG_7594

I love the giant spiders of September. This one’s right outside our dining room window.

IMG_7598

Bull’s Blood beets, grown for their incredibly nutritious and beautiful leaves. They’re also very cold-hardy so I don’t need to rush to get them picked and eaten.

IMG_7601

In order of cold-hardiness: collards, chard and kale. Kale withstands light frosts easily so I’m prioritizing eating up the collards and chard right now. We’re not expecting frost for at least a couple more weeks—early- to mid-October has become the norm now for first frost in the Twin Cities.

IMG_7606

A new-to-me vegetable for 2019: malabar spinach! I’ll definitely grow this again. It was so easy and (unlike so many other things) it thrived in the heat and humidity.

IMG_7613

I have several Autumn Joy Sedums in my yard, one of the few non-natives that I keep. They used to get covered in bees in the fall, but this year very few bees are showing interest, due to the large numbers of goldenrod I now provide. Sedums provide nectar, but lack certain vitamins and minerals that bees need to survive the long winter. Goldenrod > Autumn Joy Sedum. That’s really the bottom line. If these die out, I won’t fuss. For now they’re occupying a space that’s otherwise been difficult to fill in right next to my A/C unit.

IMG_7617

Anneke’s Japanese-style fairy garden had a rough summer, but still has some nice textures going on. I’ll have to bring this jade in for the winter.

IMG_7621

Jalapeños are still going strong.

IMG_7624

Comfrey. Plant comfrey only if you really truly intend to use it—it’s a great compost pile activator, and makes a potent compost tea. I can pull this entire plant out at the root two or three times each summer and it always comes roaring back. I will pull it out a final time in the coming weeks and use it for a winter mulch in the vegetable garden.

Fall is such a busy and stressful time of year, and it was a lovely break for me to spend my morning in the garden, taking these photos to share with you. Thanks for looking.


Leave a comment

Progress and change

We’re going through lots of changes here in south Minneapolis. Some are seasonal—it’s going to freeze tomorrow. Others feel more substantial.

Blake the dog

We said goodbye to our old friend Blake on Saturday, September 10. Adam and I adopted him as a puppy in May of 2001; he was 15 years old. Rowan and Anneke have never experienced life without him until now—I caught Rowan sitting quietly with him several times in the week leading up to his final vet appointment. We’ll get another dog someday. But I don’t know that I’ll ever love another animal as much as I loved Blake—my dog baby before I had human babies.

All I do is laundry

Our other major life change is that Adam went back to full-time employment this fall after years of being part-time. As a result, our weekends have become something of a race to do ALL the laundry, housework, gardening, shopping, and everything else. We’re not ready to give up yet, though—with several major household appliances and a car all over the age of 15, we need to build savings.

Garden Shed, 2016

Here’s a more pleasant “life” update, or what feels like a life update, anyway. The garden shed that Adam started building five—yes, FIVE—years ago is finally complete. He nearly finished in 2011, but ran out of cedar shakes around halfway up the sides. It took 5 years of diligent Craigslist searching to find someone willing to sell such a small number of shakes needed to finish the job. I’ve been using the garden shed these 5 years, but it’s nice that it finally also looks done on the outside.

Garden shed, 2011

For comparison purposes, here are Adam and the kids working on it in 2011, when they were four. I think Rowan has more than doubled in height. His hair’s a bit longer too. Ah, tweens.

Pollinators of Native Plants

I’ve been making progress on my reading list this year. I recently finished Pollinators of Native Plants: Attract, Observe and Identify Pollinators and Beneficial Insects with Native Plants, by Twin Cities author Heather Holm. As a graphic designer, I found the layout of the book to be a little bit distracting, but in the end the content overcame the layout. This is a fantastic resource; I bought it so that I can have it on hand every time the kids see some new bug in the garden.

I’ve read so much about native plants, but so little about insects, and what a world there is to discover. For example, I never knew how tiny most native bees are—I thought they were all variations on bumblebees, but most are so tiny you most likely never even notice them unless you’re really looking. The other surprising thing was the great variety in shapes and sizes of the various wasps, syrphid flies, and other pollinators native to the midwest.

Thread waist wasp on goldenrod, via The New Home Economics

I was immediately able to identify the wasp on the left as a thread-waist wasp on my goldenrod thanks to this book. On the right, most likely a bumblebee, but it could also be one of several bumblebee mimics. I’m no longer certain!

Learning about our great variety of pollinators drives home the realization that the number of native midwestern insects that we fear because of stinging is such a very small part of the whole population. I have killed nests of yellowjackets in my yard before, but to lump all bees and wasps together with them really does the larger number of them a major disservice. It’s truly becoming one of my life’s missions to help people understand the difference between bees and wasps, and now also between different types of wasps! Because let’s face it: wasps are beneficial, too. How could they not be, when they evolved with our ecosystem right alongside bees, flowers, and everything else?

Trees and Shrubs of Minnesota

I also just finished Trees and Shrubs of Minnesota, by Welby R. Smith. This is also a wonderful resource—especially if you own land or live in the country and want to try and identify the plants growing on your property. It contains general information, distribution, and specific identifying characteristics to help you distinguish even between different types of, for example, currants. I had no idea how many different types of wild currants we have in our state. With four distinct biomes, there’s a lot to cover. This book would not be appropriate for bringing along on a hike; it’s way too big and heavy. This is on my official Christmas list for 2016.

Elephants Ears

With the frost coming tomorrow, several important chores needed to happen this past weekend. Chief on Anneke’s mind was potting up her elephant’s ears and bringing them in for the winter. I’m not sure how this happened, but my kid has become obsessed with tropical plants. And the elephants ears keep multiplying—this started as one plant only 3 years ago. I composted a few of them when she wasn’t looking. She now has a large plant shelf in her room supporting new roommates for the winter, most of which she started from seed on her own: 5 elephants ears, 1 avocado tree, 4 grapefruit trees, and a venus fly trap. She “let” me keep my Meyer lemon in the living room. It’s a silly plant zoo around here.

Musquee de Provence pumpkins, via The New Home Economics

Our Musquee de Provence pumpkins also got hauled in from the community garden plot at Sabathani. There should be four more of these; we lost two to rotting and two to thievery. I was surprised at the thievery—this is the first time my garden has ever been hit. I just hope those thieves cook them up and eat them, because they are DELICIOUS. We made one into a pie on Sunday and it was brightest-orange colored pumpkin pie I’ve ever seen.

Milkweed bugs

Winter is coming. Quick, let’s have a milkweed bug swarm! I could spend all day, every day in my garden observing all the crazy things that go on there. As a proud Minnesotan I do appreciate the winter, though. Enjoy autumn, everyone.