The Block Island Times

Gardening Times: Deer and carrots

By Fred Nelson | Nov 20, 2012
Photo by: Fred Nelson Red kousa dogwood.

The passing of Hurricane Sandy surely should mark the end of our long growing season here on the island, even though we haven’t experienced a killing frost as yet. By the way, that appears as frost on several trees along Ocean and Beach avenues is actually salt burn from Sandy.

Regardless, we did have some good fall color. Our pink kousa dogwood was in full red fall color right up until the hurricane. The white kousa is still in leaf but without any color. I have a sugar maple that had typical fall color and since it is located outside of our kitchen window, it was interesting to note the change in color from day to day. Currently it has lost about one half of its leaves.

One of the biggest trees that we have is a noble Norway maple that my father planted shortly after building our cottage back in the late 1950s. While it contributes nothing to fall color, the heavy green foliage changed gradually and had just started to lose its leaves when Sandy struck. What a blessing — through the constant heavy wind just about all of the leaves were not only blown off of the tree, but off of the property as well. This was indeed great timing and much appreciated.

As most gardeners know, spring flowering trees and shrubs set their flower buds in late summer through early fall. Our mountain andromeda shrubs (pieris floribunda) vividly shows upright flower bud clusters starting in September. They last until flowering in early spring. This evergreen shrub has two attributes: it is very hardy, and the deer never touch them. This is also true for the Japanese pieris, which is more upright in habit of growth, has drooping clusters of white flowers and the new growth following blossoming is an attractive pinkish-bronze in color.

On the opposite of spring flowering plants, one of the first trees that I planted was a sourwood (oxydendrum arboreum). This tree has glossy green leaves and that turn an outstanding vivid scarlet in the fall. It has small white, pendulous clusters of flowers that bloom in late summer.

Unfortunately, I have a confession to relate. As noted in my earlier columns, I didn’t get to plant too much of a garden this year as we were “held up” in Florida until late June. Of the few crops that I planted, one was a row of carrots that weren’t seeded until the middle of July. They grew well with a bit of tender loving care and watering. We had just started to pull a few of them in early October when I went out to the garden one morning and noted that the healthy green tops of the carrots had been cut down about halfway to the ground. Lesson learned: Don’t forget to close the gate to the garden before evening! The deer were just waiting for the opportunity. As if that wasn’t bad enough, when I went out after a few days of not visiting the garden to pull a few carrots, the whole row had disappeared — every last carrot right down to the tippy tip ends.

I vow that next year I shall not wait until fall to start a rat eradication program around the garden.

“Nothing in the garden is really difficult. Everything can be managed by an ordinary imbecile; indeed, that is why it is the greatest of all amusements.”

— Henry Mitchell “Henry Mitchell on Gardening” (1998)

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