Now it's time to turn my focus to the fall and winter garden. We're lucky in Sacramento that we're able to grow vegetables year round. While people in the rest of the nation are putting their gardens to sleep for the winter, I'm putting in broccoli, snap peas and onions. I'm also starting to get an idea of how our citrus season will be starting in December- like the first pummelo's (pictured above) that are already causing branches to break on the young tree.
Due to my laziness, all of my 20 or so basil plants are flowering. I'd like to say I'm doing it to allow them to produce seed, but that's not really the reason. Of course there are some ornamental basils that you WANT to flower- like 'African Blue', which the bee's absolutely love- or the 'Cardinal' basil pictured above. Cardinal is one that I've taken many cuttings from, it had a lovely basil scent to it yet strongly smelled of licorice. My research (ie, Google) has concluded that I can't save seed from it. My only complaint is the flowers are sooo heavy that the plant has a tendency to lay down. Next time I'll plant it between stronger plants that it can lean against for support.
I had a successful year with melons too. Cantaloupe (or Musk Melon like my husband calls it), Sugar Baby watermelon, Moon & Stars, and the cute individual sized Tigger melon- all made appearances in our garden this summer. Tigger was a large producer, I harvested lots of seeds from them and will happily grow it again next year. The Moon & Stars watermelon is pretty cool too- it literally has a moon and stars on the outside! It wasn't as sweet as I was expecting, but I wonder if its sweetness was affected by the abnormally cool summer we've had.
It's a good thing I have a large garden this year- because I had a large amount of caterpillars to go along with it. I'm a sucker for caterpillars and butterflies though- so I happily share my garden with them. We also had our first Monarch butterfly sighting in three years. It is very rare to see them here in Sacramento as we're not on their migration path. I planted a bunch of milkweed in the garden to help any that happened to be lost, and go figure, the one Monarch we got in the garden went straight to the milkweed.
Heading into winter I start to get scared about what plants aren't going to make it. Last year I lost my Pelargonium sidoides (pictured above) that I bought at the UC Davis Arboretum plant sale. I searched for months locally for a replacement with no luck. When my friend Chuck in the Bay Area found some at a nursery near him, I quickly put in my order for several plants. Hopefully at least one of them will survive......
Despite what it looks like in this picture, it was actually a bad year for tomatoes. Perhaps my biggest lesson was to not plant so many black and yellow tomatoes! The black tomatoes still remain my favorites for flavor, but color-wise they look kind of gross in salsa and tomato sauce. I think I even had one comment that my salsa "looked like puke". Gee, thanks. Next year I need to remember to do more red tomatoes! The biggest dissapointment I had was with the Black Pearl cherry tomato. It's a hybrid that I bought at a local nursery. I had hoped it was similar to the Black Cherry tomato, but it severly lacked in flavor. It was, however, a very prolific plant.
Salvia's still remain as an addiction for me. I believe I have about 15 different salvias- various colors, various bloom times, and various sizes. I lost a couple last winter to frost, this year I'm taking cuttings of my favorites just in case! I think my favorite purchase this year is the 'Peruvian Sage', but 'Wendy's Wish' is a close second. The Pineapple sage still remains my overall favorite though, and it's still a few weeks away from blooming. I love crushing the leaves in my hand and smelling that lovely pineapple scent. I have become a sucker for plants that smell good, even when they're not blooming.
Sunflowers did amazingly well this year. I usually lose them to squirrels, but investing in squirrel feeders has kept my squirrels out of the vegetable garden. I did learn the hard way to not buy the whole sunflower seeds for the bird and squirrel feeders- I ended up with a hundred or so sunflowers that I didn't even plant. It made the front yard garden look way overgrown and messy, but I couldn't bring myself to rip them out until last week. It's hard not to smile when you have a bunch of cheerful sunflowers staring at you. I also learned about feeding the squirrels whole peanuts (in shell), as I had several peanut plants pop up throughout the yard too. It's kind of sad really- I tried growing peanuts a few years ago with no luck- yet the squirrels seem to be pro's at it. Guess I'll keep them around.
We also added our first hops plant to the garden, and hopefully can harvest hops next year to use in making beer. I'd like to add a few different kinds if I can, but I need to build a better structure for them to climb. Add that to my long list of things to do.....
In the past I had tons of spring flowery plants, but no summer/fall bloomers. I purposely told myself that this year I'd only buy plants that flowered in the summer and fall- and it's nice to see my money has been well spent. Oodles of Gaillardia, rudbeckia, echinacia,sedum, salvias....they are still brightly showing their colors heading into fall. Most of them will b e providing our bird friends food as they pack up for their long trip into winter. Some of my favorite additions for this year have been the Leonotis menthifolia (also known as Lion's Tail, pictured above), and agastache 'Tutti Frutti' which has been a favorite for the hummingbirds. The hummingbird's are VERY protective of their agastache and practically dive bomb me every time I try to pull any weeds around it. Lucky for them I find it cute.
I've grown winter squash in previous years, but this is the first time I've had enough room for pumpkins. I put in 8 different kinds of pumpkins and only got.....two pumpkins. That's kind of disappointing. I dont think I fed them enough. I'm not giving up on them! To quote Walt Disney, "Keep Moving Forward", I just need to find out what makes them happy.
It was a good year for coneflowers, but I've learned the hard way about some of those fancy coneflowers like 'Tomato Soup' (pictured above) and 'Mac n' Cheese'- stick with your standard echinacea! This is the second grow season for my 'Tomato Soup' plant and it was a lot less red this year than it was last year. It was more of an orange color this year. The second year for my 'Double Decker' coneflowers was kinf of sad too- they just looked like standard coneflowers that had a bad case of bed head. Go figure. Just goes to show you don't need couture plants- stick with what is native to your area!
So my goal for Fall? ORGANIZE. I have lots of plants, and I love them all but I need to do a better job of pairing them with other plants that will compliment them. This fall I'll be spending a lot of time splitting plants up that did better than I expected (Gaillardia), moving plants around that didn't do as well as I thought (blueberries), and moving plants that flat out don't look good next to each other (wow- had no idea I planted so many yellow flowers!). Still, I'm so happy with the way the front yard garden is coming along and feel so blessed that my husband let me rip out half of our front yard. Life is good!