In The Fall Garden

monarch2

monarch

ascelpias

We have only a single Ascelpias tuberosa plant, one of the many milkweed species that monarch butterflies feast on as caterpillars. I’m a little concerned these caterpillars won’t make it further south before winter, but I wonder if perhaps some might overwinter here in the Houston area. In south Florida there is a year-round population and we consistently had butterflies, caterpillars, and chrysalis on our plants. It was a butterfly wonderland! I’m hoping with the two passiflora vines we planted this year that next year they will be large enough to provide food for Gulf fritillaries. Sometimes I really miss the ruddy daggerwings but unfortunately they are not in our range here in Texas. (Ok a few sites report sightings, but I have yet to see one. I’d call them uncommon here.)

Butterflies aside, autumn has truly arrived, though perhaps not in the full force other areas of the nation get. We get continous spurts of fall intermingled with a reminder of summer, such as today. It was cool in the morning but by afternoon it was shorts and t-shirt weather once again with a tinge of humidity in the air. Oh, and don’t forget the mosquitoes that have not disappeared yet. The constant shooing of those pesky insects is routine as I pick the weeds coming up in the vegetable beds. We’re weeding because our compost wasn’t quite hot enough and now we’re enjoying the reprecussions of that by picking grass seedlings. Next year’s note is to make sure to get the compost hot enough for killing seeds!

This time of year is always a bit of a bummer as the light fades fast. I am consistently thinking it is much later than it truly is, the sun setting earlier by the day. In a month we’ll be scurrying to get what we can done in the yard before the sun is gone at 6pm.

Slowly, I have been cleaning up the flower beds from spent flower heads and stalks. Leaving some seeds for awhile to re-sow for next year, but eventually moving items over to the compost bed. We’ve planted a few winter annuals and in general I am not fond of annuals, but seeing some color in the beds in an otherwise empty space is nice.

I love fall, but I’m missing the fullness of the flowerbeds already. Chris has been working hard on getting our wildflower strip sown once again, the area in the right-of-way by the road. He mowed the grass short, put down compost and then spread the pound of wildflower seed we bought from Wildseed Farm. This will assist the seeds we put down last year and we’ll have to continue doing this for a few years until there’s enough wildflowers to sow themselves yearly. Thankfully we got several days of rain shortly after he spread the seeds and we’ve had a good germination success rate. Maybe next year will be a showstopper year for wildflowers!

We’re also working on planting several trees we’ve had stockpiled over the summer. One of our local nurseries had an anniversary sale in May which propelled us to buy a few more trees. May is *not* a good time to plant trees and so they sat in their pots the entire summer. Chris ran drip irrigation to them so they wouldn’t croak (hand watering wasn’t going to cut it) and we were able to plant one cypress this last weekend. We also bought a peach tree this weekend and planted it, a ‘Mid-Pride’ variety. On the 5-in-1 peach/necatarine tree we bought last winter that variety has done the best and we thought maybe another single tree of that variety would be good to plant. We still have another weeping cypress, a dogwood, a bur oak, and next weekend we’re picking up a Mexican white oak through our electric company (they were giving away a limited number of native trees) to plant. All in due time, of course.

In the vegetable patch we’re regularly eating arugula and I’ve thrown some mustard-spinach in my smoothies. I ripped out the raggedy tomatoes and left the stronger ones, hoping for a late crop of tomatoes. We’ll see if that is moot or not here soon. We’re dealing with fire ants all around the yard and have to find something ‘safe’ to put on some mounds that have appeared in the vegetable beds themselves. And something keeps digging and/or eating some of our fava beans. We have seen one dead mole and have seen evidence of other mole tunnels in the yard, so that could be the culprit. Or a curious bunny coming in for a midnight fava bean snack. Who knows.

Only a couple more weeks and we’ll be digging up sweet potatoes and replacing that bed with onions. I still need to plant chard, beeds, spinach, and kale and flip through our planting guide to see what else is coming up on the horizon.

Even though I’m teary-eyed at the loss of light in the evenings, I am looking forward to having more evening time to be creative…writing, art, and reading.

How is your fall garden?

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