From floods to drought

We have gone from flood to drought with heat. A lot of people showed up Sunday for the Tiffin Historic Trust garden tour and I began by showing them the big cracks in my Tiffin clay soil. Our soil just dries out and cracks open. Tired of fighting that soil I went to raised beds filed with compost from the waste water treatment plant (available Oct. 1), the downside of soil that drains beautifully in the flood is soil that needs to be watered in drought. To help hold the water I’ve mulched several beds with bagged leaves from the neighbors, the mulch also keeps down weeds. You never know what will catch people’s interest but the three plants this year were the current bushes, breadseed poppy and asparagus.

There are three current bushes, two red and one black, near the house. I’ve been apologizing to them for planting them too near a flowering crab which has grown larger with time, until I read that they like a bit of shade. They are easy to grow and several people commented on a current sauce and mustard BBQ sauce. I make current muffins and have tried to make a current jelly.

The breadseed poppy is a first this year. There are regular red poppies in my front yard that bloom about Memorial Day that either self-seed or are perennial since they come back every year even though I mow them. These new poppies are purple with pale green leaves and produce huge capsules/seed pods. The seeds are used in baking poppyseed bread, rolls, etc. They are real poppies so you can test positive for opiods if tested after eating something with poppyseeds. Since I don’t know yet if they will self-seed, they are in a corner.

Some people do not recognize asparagus once it bolts. The asparagus you buy in the store is just the first stage of new stems emerging in the spring, they can be harvested for about a month, then you let them grow up (six feet), get green, and recharge the root system. Later in the summer they will flower and produce some red berries. The feathery foliage is attractive and can be added to flower arrangements.

Several people shared plant losses due to our strange winter of alternating cold and rain, but no sustained cold. Some have also noticed a change in insect activity. Usually by now there are lots of white cabbage moths in my garden, not this year. Knock wood, but I’ve only seen one Japanese beetle. They may just be late or they may have taken a hit with the winter too.

The houseplants on the deck are needing watering twice a day with the heat we are having. Also, if you have recent transplants, they will not have the root system yet to go deep enough to get water so will need extra attention. I moved a hickory to the back this spring and now need to haul water back there to keep it alive (the reason we plant woody things in the fall and not the spring). It’s summer, enjoy your gardens, the flowers are great and summer vegetables are available. Made the first batch of chocolate zucchini muffins yesterday.

Susan Carty is a local gardener and a professor emerita of biology at Heidelberg University.

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