Garden Journal - the Midsummer Update

~the good~

Cucumber blossoms!! This is the first time I've really tried seriously to grow pickling cucumbers - very important because making pickles is becoming a much-anticipated end of summer event.

How many plants can you identify in this picture? I just can't resist letting volunteers grow wherever they come up. The beans, sunflowers, and cucumbers I planted - but look! A volunteer tomato plant, some very healthy purslane, and a hollyhock are there in the middle. I know they will compete for space later, but they are such a gift, I can't say no.
Stepping back a bit, you can see the plan. I have a re-mesh trellis for the Red Noodle beans at the back, Moulin Rouge sunflowers in the middle, and cucumbers at the front. On the left are Maximillian Sunflowers, a great perennial type of sunflower that blooms only in October! And a nasty Siberian elm in the back right. Not sure how I'm going to get that out of there, maybe just wait until winter to dig it out. All silhouetted against our beautiful new fence! The old one was literally falling down.

The Texas Hill Country Red okra I got from the Edible Santa Fe - Native Seeds/SEARCH sale is going strong.

I planted several different varieties this year, including Red Spray, Emerald, and the old standby, Clemson Spineless. Also, there are tons of volunteer zinnias coming up all over this bed!

My herb garden is finally in good shape, with proper irrigation to each plant. I suppose it's hard to really see here, but clockwise from the top left I've got mint, horseradish (I know, we'll see how long before they take over), French sorrel in the middle, rosemary, pineapple sage, regular culinary sage in the bottom right, then rue, thyme, yarrow, and on the far left in the middle is this pretty little variegated lemon thyme.

Lavender is in full bloom, growing long and loose in the shade behind the lilac tree.

And lovage, one of my favorite obscure herbs. Finally back in what will hopefully be a good spot, next to the lilac by the new fence. It can grow to be 4-5 feet tall! It's in the celery family, so it has lots of tiny umbelliferous flowers that attract many beneficial insects. It tastes like celery but extra-strong.

My Gram in Illinois used to grow these purple "balloon flowers" - the buds grow with the petals attached together to form this little balloon, then split open to reveal these beautiful flowers. I was always fascinated by them and last year I was surprised to find them at Lowe's. It turns out they are actually some kind of Chinese medicinal herb.
This shrub I've had growing in the front yard for several years is a mystery I finally solved. I bought it at Plants of the Southwest, and completely forgot what it was. So a couple of weeks ago, I went back there and asked somebody, and was surprised to find out it's Aloysia wrightii or possibly Lippia graveolens, one of several plants commonly known as Oreganillo or Mexican Oregano. It has incredibly tiny flowers and leaves, and the whole plant smells wonderful. It also attracts many beneficial insects.

The gooseberry bush in the front yard is fruiting for the first time! There are only a few berries, but I hope this means it's happy.


The fig tree is hanging in there, finally planted in the ground on the south side of the house. I hope it will really take off this summer - it gets about eight gallons of water from a couple of emitters, once a week.

All seven tomato plants have tons of blossoms! This one is called Punta Banda, and it's a paste tomato from Native Seed/SEARCH that's supposed to be really well adapted to hot, dry conditions.

Some of them have even set fruit already - both Nichols, a Native Seeds/SEARCH heirloom cherry tomato from Tucson, and Ace, a more common heirloom variety!

The Navajo Red-Seeded watermelon seems to be doing well.

And the Peñasco cheese squash, another Native Seeds/SEARCH heirloom collected from Peñasco, New Mexico. Let's keep our fingers crossed that it doesn't get squash bugs!

And last but not least... it looks like we will have a decent pomegranate crop this year!! The bush died back to the ground a couple of years ago when we had a record low of -10°F, and this is the first time it has bloomed since then.

~the bad~

The Meyer lemon tree almost died from a nasty infestation of Soft Brown Scale, even though I tried to scrape them off every couple weeks while it was inside over the winter. They are these horrible little insects that latch onto leaves or stems and just live like that, immobile, while steadily sucking the plant's precious bodily fluids!

Now it's outside getting lots of sun and I've been hosing them off each week, so hopefully this summer we'll finally beat it. 
The apple trees have set quite a lot of fruit, but unfortunately I didn't spray for codling moth, so I bet almost all of them will be full of worms.

~the weird~

The bees are doing their thing again in the tree. It makes me nervous that the tree is hollow and could fall down, but it is pretty cool to have the bees there.


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