Tag Archives: garden

Tales of a Pumpkin Grower

I was surprised to realize recently that I have been growing pumpkins for almost thirty years!  And it all started by accident.  One early summer afternoon, when I lived in Connecticut, I was sitting  in my yard under some shady trees with a friend, when I noticed we had these big orange flowers growing in the composting area.  I had no clue what they were.  When I asked my friend, she said they looked like squash flowers-but I hadn’t planted any squash seeds.  Yang was away in China visiting his family, but when he checked in with me by phone, he said those were probably from the Halloween pumpkins we’d put in with the compost last fall.  He told me to check for a bump under some of the flowers, which I sure enough found:  embryos on the female flowers.  I even learned how to pollinate the female with male flowers.  Happily, we ended up with some giant pumpkins for Halloween that fall. My pumpkin growing with Yang was off to a successful start!
Eventually, we had to re-purpose that area, but we created another pumpkin garden next to the house.  They loved it there!  We had gourds, pumpkins, decorative squash and even hulu!  You can see how the vines spread out and took over. The land was so rich we had the best of luck growing.  You can also see that in my thirties, I was a natural blonde-just saying.

When we moved to Auburn, we had a lot of land, but not all of it was good for growing vegetables.  Still, after the first year, we did get some nice pumpkins and gourds, as well as other veggies (peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, soy beans, corn).  However, the earth in the first garden we had started to wear out after almost twenty years.  About three years ago, we got NO pumpkins or gourds.  Yang decided to do something.
He developed a circular garden in the middle of our large lawn, filling it with lots of good earth and cow manure.  Last year, we got plenty of veggies and some outstanding pumpkins and gourds.  One white pumpkin is still whole and unrotted over a whole year later.  Of course, Yang also circled the garden with a fence and chicken wire at the bottom to keep out the critters.  This year he expanded the garden and replaced about six inches of bad earth with cow manure and good soil.  Boy did we do well with eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, and PUMPKINS!

 

Here’s Number 1 Son, the first pumpkin to get fertilized (thanks to me), as well as the first pumpkin to be picked.  He’s not the biggest, but your first born is always special.  He came off the vine of some seedlings that we bought.

 

 

 

We also have a sister to last year’s big white pumpkin.  I think this one might even grow to be bigger than last year’s.  This pumpkin grew from seeds that I saved from an early pumpkin.  When I buy pumpkins for decoration, I always look for good “breeding stock” from which I save the seeds for growing the next generation.

 

I’m not sure what the heck this one is.  It’s green with stripes.  I don’t remember buying seeds or saving any that looked like this one, so it’s probably some kind of hybrid.  If anyone recognizes the type, please let me know.  Maybe it’s part squash?

 

 

We bought a bunch of pumpkin seedlings from Howe’s in Paxton, and I also planted seeds from previous years’ pumpkins of a similar variety.  I did plant the seedlings and the seeds in different quadrants, but the vines just went wild, so it’s hard to tell which is the source for these beautiful orange pumpkins.  this one, I can trace back to a seedling, but the others are hard to tell.
Some of the plants are more adventurous than others.  This guy snaked through the fence and is now growing wild and free (and subject to rabbits and ground hogs) in the yard.  What a rebel!

 

 

 

As you may have noticed, we have some sunflowers in this garden.  I successfully planted delphinium and bachelor buttons, then said, “What the hey!” and dropped in two sunflower seeds.  We’d had a mammoth sunflower that I bought last year, towering about seven feet.  Well, one of my seeds (either from a package or that sunflower) has shot way up.  Here it is next to me (I’m 5’3″) for scale.  So, I hope your growing season this year, despite the drought, was as successful as ours!

 

Touring the Gardens and Meeting the Animals at Chez Yang

So, summer is here and all the flora and fauna is out in full force at chez Yang.  We have plenty of avian visitors, as well as furry beasts.  The flowers are coming along nicely – or were until the insects and fungi started to stage their voracious assaults.  Anyway, lets take a tour!
Yang and I were joking that we have about 14 gardens spread around our property.  He set out to improve some of them this year.  We had a triangle of standing flox, dianthus, balloon flowers, and black caps, with a delphinium and two fox gloves returning from last year – all overrun with God knows what.  Yang cleared out what we didn’t want, and we added new delphinium and foxgloves, transplanted some more delphinium, and rounded things out with asters and ageratum.   Above is how the plot looked initially.
Now, the foxglove in the foreground is literally (and I know what the word actually means) taller than I am.  The delphinium from last year has also shot up.  The other foxglove from last year is also doing well, despite a slow start (left of big foxglove).  The black caps are ready for harvest – I’ve already had black cap and walnut scones and black caps with ice cream.  There are more to be plucked.  Sorry, I didn’t take the pictures earlier, so that you could see the flowers in full bloom.  Here’s a close up of the tip of the tallest foxglove, where the flowers remain.  The bees love this garden!
This is the peony garden on the other side of the house, named for – you guessed it! – pink peonies given us by Rosemary Adams years ago.  You’ll notice that there is chicken wire around this garden. Why?  That gets us to the fauna flourishing this year.   We’ve been sighting innumerable rabbits around our property and that of the neighbors on either side of us.  Apparently, they believe delphiniums are delicious!  Especially, the expensive ones you send away for in the mail.  Grrrr! Anyway, here you see one of the wonder bunnies taking a sun bath alongside a Flicker hunting for her dinner in my neighbor’s yard, right next to my fish pond.  Sociable little devil, isn’t s/he?  Some days, I look out in the backyard and see one of the rabbits, some birds, and a chipmunk or two amicably chomping away on clover and seeds or bouncing about under the bird feeder there.  It’s like living in a Disney movie.
 
Speaking of chipmunks, we’ve got quite a few digging holes and taunting my cats in the yard, especially when the girls are looking out the window.  Natasha is particularly in  Ahab mode, sitting patiently outside a hole or drain spout in the yard, waiting for the munk to make a fatal mistake.  She nabbed one once, but we managed to get it free of her.  Our reward will be more holes, devoured sunflower shoots, and gnawed planks on our porch.  Behold what Natasha calls Nemesis.

With all these evil fur balls waiting to decimate everything we’ve planted, Yang created a larger central vegetable garden, fortified by a wire fence and chicken wire.  We’ve got pumpkins, peppers, eggplants, bachelor buttons and delphinium growing in here – yes, we know we can’t eat the last two.  We even have some volunteer tomatoes growing from last year.  This fence is DEFINITELY necessary.  Several times, I looked out to see a rabit sitting outside the fence and staring in.  Another time, I found a big pile of rabbit scat directly outside the gate (which is tight to the fence and flush to the ground).  I know wascally wabbits when I see them.  I’ll keep an eye out for heavy equipment deliveries from ACME.

The birds are less destructive visitors, and they enjoy the gardens – especially the ones with feeders.  Here is an oriole feasting on orange halves.  I haven’t seen any in a few weeks or even heard any in the woods.  Perhaps they have moved on to their next migratory stop.  The catbird loves our suet feeder, and loves to hang out on various perches around the gardens.  We caught him in is ablutions.  You can enjoy a commentary from me and Natalie Wood in Inside Daisy Clover.
We also have window boxes filled with lovely color combinations of flowers. Some flowers have passed now, but the pots and window boxes, on the whole, most are still a pleasure to see.

 

 

 

Our roses have done nicely as well.  Years ago, I bought about four sea-rose bushes and now they have spread to create a slope of beautiful scent and sight behind our house.

 

 

 

One of my favorites is a single yellow rose given us by my mother-in-law about twenty years ago.  Every year we get at least one bloom. Lately, it has only been the single bloom.  However, this year, that single bloom was the biggest I’ve ever seen on the bush.  Beautiful, isn’t it?

 

Happy Gardening!

Summer Bounty, Autumn Harvest

.
This summer and autumn we had great luck with our vegetables!  In the older garden, we followed the advice of our friends Peter and Eric and put dried grass over the ground around our tomato, pepper, and eggplant seedlings.  They grew tall and strong and gave us plenty of fruit!
Then, as an experiment, Yang created a new garden in the center of our yard where there was abundant sunlight and Yang laid down lots of cow manure and rich soil.I admit the area does look shaded here, but it’s mostly sunny. I also had him sow soy beans in the big patch we used to have for pumpkins in the old garden.  I know that soy beans revitalize the soil, so I’m hoping a few seasons of them will enrich that plot so it can support pumpkins once more.
As a result, between the two gardens, we ended up with multiple servings of peppers, egg plant (still a few left), tomatoes, and soy beans!  We also got several nice gourds and pumpkins from Yang’s garden as well.  We might have had more, but we ended up planting late.  Anyway, we can’t wait for next year to  set up our new gardens, expanded and improved!

We also did much better than expected with our sunflowers, which generally had been brutally assaulted by squirrels, birds, and bugs.  I bough one seedling for Yang’s garden that shot up to over seven feet!  These seeds that I planted managed to dodge predators and provided a beautiful glow in the sunset. I’ll be experimenting with buying seedlings and planting my own seeds again next year.  The birds have since finished off the seeds from these flowers.

 

 

 

I hope you enjoyed the show!

 

Birds, Beasts, and Flora

 

 We’ve been enjoying nature quite a bit this summer, between our own yard and our peregrinations about the Northeast.  Several of my friends have been posting images of their luscious vegetable gardens, so I thought I’d show how well our plants are doing this season.  We’ve planted one patch with  tomatoes, yellow beans, egg plants, and peppers.  As you can see they are growing beautifully!

 

 

 

 

We have tomatoes growing apace and even eggplants developing. The plants are so much taller than in years past, probably because we have had so much rain and sunshine this year. I’m looking forward to harvesting the tomatoes and making salads and sandwiches with them – or just slicing them up and snacking on them with either a little salt or some of my homegrown basil – which also is doing nicely!  Some evil insect has been gnawing on my dill, but I have still grown enough to season my cucumber sandwiches and a mackerel pie (It’s like salmon pie, except you accidentally grab a can of mackerel rather than salmon – tastes almost the same.).  Fortunately, we also have lots of sprouts of dill that have reseeded themselves from last year.

The soy beans are also coming along splendidly.  We actually have two patches.  Homegrown ones are  a little crunchier that what you get from the store.  Yum.  The pumpkins are also going great guns now, as well. When the embryos become visible, or even get fertilized, I’ll take some more photos of them.  The plants have actually grown thicker and are starting to travel now, since I’ve taken this photo.  I have all different sorts:  little orange pumpkins (Jack Be Little), little white ones, big orange ones, large white ones, and various types of gourds.  Some are commercial seeds and some are saved from the pumpkins that I bought last year.  So far, the older home-collected seeds aren’t doing so well, but the newer ones are growing.  The commercial ones are doing pretty well for the most part.  What’s really interesting is that seeds that didn’t germinate from last year seem to be taking off this year.  Odd, isn’t it?

It’s a good thing that we have fencing up around our vegetable garden, because we are not alone.!  This is one of the rabbits that we’ve seen in our yard.  He’s the smaller one.  One night, Natasha saw him and chased him, though Yang’s hold on her leash prevented a disaster.  I think he might have come back armed (the rabbit, not Yang), because the next evening, ‘Tasha saw him and went skulking back to the house, whimpering.  Of course, I probably shouldn’t embarrass  her this way.  She might have just seen Monty Python’s The Holy Grail.  Scary looking bunny, isn’t he?  He was also quite the little stinker.  Seconds after we took this picture, he sat up, snipped off the stem of the purple flower in the picture and then spit the whole thing out!  Here he is, giving us a Nyah-Nyah look right before he strikes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Herr Hare isn’t the only visitor to our yard.  One afternoon, when I went out to feed the fish in our little pond, I was startled as I came around the house to see this enormous visitor!  We’ve had lots of turkey sightings all over the Worcester area (and Boston, Rhode Island,  the Cape, New York state), even on our street.  However, this is the first guy I found in our yard.  I was surprised he wasn’t in a flock, even a small one, as most of the turkeys I’ve sighted have been.  He returned for several days, coming out of the woods behind our house at around 8:00 in the morning or 6:00 in the evening, but I haven’t seen him in awhile. We started calling him Raymond Burrd – I’ve been watching reruns of Ironside; what can I say?

 

Another neighbor’s cat tried to stalk the turkey a couple of times and was ignored at first.  Then he made a charge and that bird just did one arched extension of the wings – Clover took off.  My cats enjoyed watching that, since Clover was on their turf.  Anyway, I haven’t seen him in some days.  I guess he found some more fruitful scratching grounds.  The birds on my feeders apparently weren’t dropping enough seed for him.  We did see three adults and several chicks the other day about a mile or so from our house.  Unfortunately, by the time we turned our car around to go back and take a picture, the birds were deep into someone’s yard, and we didn’t want to trespass – even if the turkeys weren’t so particular.

 

 

 

 

 

I haven’t seen my friend the Fox, whom I call Mulder, around lately.  Maybe it’s fortunate for the rabbit.  I think the turkey might be a little much for him.  However, on a bicycle trail in Fairhaven, MA.  Yang and I got a good look at a beautiful black fox kit!  He came out of the woods next to the road, looked us over, ran to the middle of the road, gave a little hopping prance, then ran back the way he’d come and disappeared into the woods.  From his size and leanness, he looked much like pictures of black fox kits that I found on line.  Apparently, though black foxes are rare in England (see this cool article), they are not so uncommon here in North America.  Darn it all!  he was gone before I could get out my camera!  But here are some shots from the web that perfectly match the neat little guy that we saw.  Here’s a Youtube video of a Fox hunting mice, for your edification.

 

 

 

 

Black Fox photo #1 https://www.pinterest.com/pin/85779567874103887/

Balck Fox Photo #2 Source no longer available