Yard & gardens at Nottingham St.

Last years’ (1999) garden had many successes and some disappointments, and, as usual, I did lots of rethinking and reworking of my garden design.

The Vegetable Patch

In 2000, we had a cooler summer than usual (we’re right on the border of zones 6 and 7), and many gardeners here in northern Virginia complained that their tomatoes didn’t do too well. Mine did well enough. Perhaps since they are in a sunny spot, my tomato plants didn’t notice the cooler temperatures.

Gardening Culture

I use raised rows in my vegetable garden. I have 11 rows, each about 25′ long, running approximately north-south. The rows are about 2′ wide with 2′ paths between the rows. I have a fence at the “top” of the garden that I can grow climbing plants on (usually cucumbers).

I try to rotate the crops somewhat, although sun-loving plants tend to spend more time at the top end of the garden, since the sun lasts longer at that end of the patch.

Petunias and pepper plants

For the most part, I garden organically. I mix my own fertilizers from bone meal, blood meal, greensand, wood ash, and other natural ingredients. I sometimes supplement these plantfoods with commercial 5-10-10 and such, but rarely. My other aberration away from organic methods is that I use MiracleGro on my seedlings in the spring. (I bought a bucket of the stuff many years ago and it won’t run out!)

and snapdragons, salvia and “pepperseed” poppies.

We compost all our yard and garden waste and use the finished compost in the garden. We compost kitchen scraps (veggie only) when we can shred them right away. Several years back there were rats in the neighborhood and I don’t want to do anything that would encourage their return.

Garden Favorites from 2000

Datura, Belle Blanche — What a great plant! I thoroughly enjoyed watching this extravagant annual fill its spot in a mixed border. I started five plants indoors under grow lights in mid-March and planted them out in the garden in late April. Soon I found that the space I alotted for all five was filled by just two of these beautiful branching plants. I thinned out the stand so that two of the beauties would have a healthier season. The two Daturas filled a spot about six feet across and were about three and a half feet tall. And the large prickly seed pods that developed in the fall were amazing!

Our figs did fabulously in both 1999 and 2000. The winters were so mild that the plants did not die back at all. I finally cut back the trees in fall 2000 because they were taking over the side yard.

>I ordered the Datura seed from The Cook’s Garden in Londonderry, Vermont (1-800-457-9705). Here’s the description from their catalog: “Datura (Datura metel), Tender Annual. One of the most interesting of the fragrant flowers we grow. The rather coarse plants grow 3-4 feet tall in our garden, and just as wide. Huge upright white flowers appear from the first of July till frost and fill the afternoon and evening air with their sweet scent. Suitable for sun or shade, but Please Note: this poisonous plant is not suitable for a children’s garden.”

Hollyhock, Summer Carnival Mix — 2000 was the second season I grew this fabulous plant. These tall (over six feet!) charmers bloomed in July the first year I planted them and kept on blooming until late fall. And they are beautiful! The flowers are big fluffy-looking double blooms in pinks, reds, and yellows. The plants I started in 1999 overwintered and bloomed all season. Unfortunately, Japanese beetles love the flowers about as much as they love grape leaves. I had to pick the nasty bugs off the plants daily to keep them under control. I cut back the second-year plants late in the summer when the were beginning to look straggly and they sent up more buds and started blooming again. A must-have in my garden. A friend wanted me to save her some seed, but these Hollyhocks are hybrids. I am going to start a couiple for her this season. Last year I started the seed in early March (I better get on it!) and planted the seedlings out in late April.

I ordered my Summer Carnival Hollyhock seed from Park Seed Company in Greenwood, South Carolina (www.parkseed.com).

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