The Block Island Times
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Gardening Times

By Frederick H. Nelson | Sep 21, 2013
Photo by: Fred Nelson The blossoming of Autumn Clematis is a sure sign that fall is approaching.

It is always interesting to me how the weather seems to change from summer to fall around Labor Day. It certainly was a welcome relief from some of our recent suffering hot, humid days. Along with the change in the weather, the effect has also become evident in my vegetable garden. The squash vine borer, as usual, has taken out my summer and zucchini squash.

Predicting this annual event prompted me to start a second crop, which is now producing. However, with the cooler weather I don’t expect to see anything in production compared to the regular summer crop. This is somewhat a relief to Muriel who tends to become overburdened with produce from time to time.

In gatherings around the island, one of the main topics of conversation is, “How is your garden doing?” It’s interesting to note that almost everyone whom I have talked with has the same report with regards to the demise of our tomato crops. Tomatoes are subject to several diseases, any one of which is difficult to control during the season, but this year the diagnosis doesn’t seem to fit the normal diseases — Early Blight, Late Blight, Anthracnose, Fusarium or Verticillium Wilt.

From what I see it appears that mildew is more of a factor than anything else, since there is very little leaf spotting on the foliage. There is no foliage from the ground up to two feet or more. The new growth is very vibrant so my hope is that this will sustain the heavy crop of tomatoes that I hope will continue to develop into mature tomatoes. (Several friends are also hoping for continued production.)

I started a late crop of beets. I seeded a row, and once the plants were a couple of inches I transplanted them in orderly, spaced rows. I did the same practice with a late crop of lettuce. Both are doing exceedingly well. In the future I think that I shall transplant beets as a practice. Our first planting of carrots are now being harvested, and the second planting has been thinned for fall maturation.

It is always interesting to note from year to year the variation of production of my blueberries. This year we had a bumper crop, and I am still picking some from the late variety. Blueberries are a staple for our morning breakfast cereal. With the amount that Muriel has frozen, we may not have to buy any bananas until after December.

A couple of folks have stopped by our house to inquire what the bright pink flowering tree is next to our driveway. This is the Crape-myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) that I planted about five years ago. The variety is “Pink Velour.” Normally, this plant is associated with the southern states. This variety is supposed to be a hardy one and has shown not one bit of winter injury. The foliage is similar to privet but is an attractive reddish bronze. Another feature is the exfoliating bark that occurs as the tree matures. The blossoms of Crape-myrtle are borne on current year’s growth; it can be pruned in early spring to make it more compact. Like any blooming tree or shrub it should be planted in a sunny location. And, to date, the deer have expressed no desire to feed upon it.

Another one of my trials that I have reported on in the past is that of a “hardy” Camellia (Camellia japonica). This is a tree that is listed for Hardiness Zone 7. While I really don’t expect this to blossom, since the normal flowering time is listed from October through April, I would be happy to see flower buds develop. This year it has shown some growth vigor and is developing nicely. Currently, it is only a bit over three feet tall. The leaves resemble Mountain-laurel and are evergreen. There has been no sign of winter injury. A couple of extra long vegetative shoots appeared to have been tipped by nibbling from deer, but there has been no other sign of deer activity. This plant is in a partially shaded location under the outreach of a Pin Oak.

A sure sign of approaching fall is the prolific white blossoms of our Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis paniculata). It appears that this is starting to spread around the Island rather rapidly if my observations are correct. It certainly is one of the more attractive roadside flowering plants that we have. This is the most hardy of the Clematis family and although it is growing naturally here, it is also available from nurseries. If you keep vigilant, try to note how attractive the following “fruiting” stage appears. Truly one of our more notable “native” plants.

It would be worth while having a cultivated garden if only to see what Autumn does to it.” — Alfred Austin, The Garden That I Love (1894)

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