Thursday, September 8, 2011

Summer's End in Seattle - the NW report

By Sue Shecket, Webmaster and NW trial gardener
September has arrived with a sense of humor here in Seattle -- teasing us with sunny 80 degree days and the bright sunny skies that were denied us much of these past few "summer" months. And my garden has behaved in just as mischevious a manner, with spring flowers still blooming happily together with mid-summer flowers way past their usual lifespan. My front flower bed, for instance, has sunflowers, sweet peas, larkspur, nasturtiums, shasta daisies, shirley poppies and dahlias all hanging out together in a very surprising combination.
An improbable mix of spring and summer flowers blooming simulateously on my east facing deck
The vegetable beds responded to the lack of warm weather by growing thick foliage - I got great lettuce and greens, but my "Asian Trio" eggplant is more of an ornamental than an edible this year, with loads of lovely purple flowers, but no "eggs". In the last few weeks, the "Heirloom Lemon" cucumber vines went nuts, and have created a jungle in their raised bed alongside those lush but empty eggplants.
"Heirloom Lemon" cucumbers are overwhelming the "Asian Trio" eggplant
The "Romanesco" zucchini, while last out of the starting gate, has once again proven to be a winner, much to the delight of my neighbors and friends. My favorite "Musica" beans were delicious while they lasted, but although they came on strong for a short while, they quit quite early. Most tomato varieties didn't get enough heat around here this year, and those that did manage to color up don't have much flavor. Fortunately that was not the case with my favorite "Sungold" cherry tomatoes. I started them indoors and couldn't put them into the ground until June, due to those lingering cold nights. I helped them along by covering their bed with black plastic, made slits for placing each plant, and then tucked the plastic back around the stem. I gave them very little water over the summer, which encouraged deep strong roots, and we have been gorging on big bowlfuls of tangy/sweet fruit every day for the past few weeks.
Sungold tomatoes came though with delicious fruit despite the long cold wet spring
My containers did fare better than I expected, and I am just about to make a batch of scented vinegars with my "Scented Trio" basils, "French Perfume" lavender, and herbs. I follow Renee's recommendation in her article "Herbal Teas and Vinegars". I have also enjoyed playing around with making my own potions and lotions described in "Making Your Own Herbal Cosmetics" - great fun, good gifts, and economical as well.
I keep my various pots of herbs right outside of my kitchen door on the deck
Container "French Perfume" lavender
My neighbors are all crazy about the bed of "Watercolor Silks" dahlias that I planted alongside the sidewalk for them to enjoy. I keep them blooming by regularly patrolling with my scissors, cutting off all the spent pods which stimulates more flowering (also especially important for Sweet Peas). It's a very therapeutic thing to do in the evenings. To my delight, the lovely "Chantilly" snapdragons wintered over in their pots. I also cut them back when the flowers drop off leaving little balls along the stems, and they re-bloom continually all season.
"Watercolor Silks" dahlias bloom their first year from seed
"Chantilly" snapdragons by my front door
This gift of great weather has gotten my fall plantings of lettuces, greens, carrots, beets and peas off to a roaring start, so I do hope Mother Nature keeps smiling on Seattle for a while longer.
Happy gardening, and our best wishes and sympathies to all those whose gardens suffered from the extreme weather and terrible storms this year!
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