1349 Gunbarrel Road, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37421

Friday, August 19, 2016

August Harvest and Late Bloomers

2016 Tennessee Area Drought Map,
2016 Tennessee Area Drought Map, origin:

According to the National Drought Mitigation Center, Hamilton County, Tennessee has endured extreme drought conditions this summer, presenting significant challenges to establishing our gardens surrounding St Francis Cottage.  As Shunryu Suzuki wrote, “A garden is never finished,” which is especially true with such limited rainfall.  So, we continue to plant, water, sow, and pray for rain. We are beginning to gear up for the fall planting season with hope for consistent rainfalls to enable spring bulbs, plants, shrubs and trees to bloom for our first guests to enjoy.  Fortunately, our first hard frost doesn’t hit until around mid-November, so we have time to plant once the summer heat subsides a bit.

Asian Pears, St Francis Cottage Chattanooga Tennessee
Asian Pears

Oriental Pears, St Francis Cottage Chattanooga Tennessee
Oriental Pears

Organic Peppers, St Francis Cottage Chattanooga Tennessee
Organic Peppers

Brown Turkey Figs.  What the birds don't get, we love to eat even right off the tree.  So sweet!
Brown Turkey Figs.  What the birds don't get, we love to eat even
right off the tree.  So sweet!

Even amidst the summer drought, we are thankful for the many pears, peppers, figs and potatoes that are currently ripe for the picking (or digging).  

Gogi Berries.  Our first small crop!
Gogi Berries.  Our first small crop!

And the Gogi bushes are lined with ripe berries, too!  Our fruit and vegetables are not particularly “picture perfect” since we use no herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilizers, however, it’s fun to pick and eat directly from the tree or bush, knowing that the fruit is chemical-free. 

Muscadine Grape, St Francis Cottage Chattanooga Tennessee
Muscadine Grape

Our last harvest for the summer will be Muscadine grapes from a 30-year old vine that continues to faithfully produce year-after-year.  A large tree fell on our grape arbor earlier this summer, and the thick, aged stalk narrowly escaped from being severed.  Another project was added to Wallace’s “Honey-Do” list, and I’m very grateful to be married to a man who can fix just about anything and who enjoys the challenge of doing so. We planted another Muscadine and a Concord vine although it will take a few years of nurturing them before harvesting grapes.

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), St Francis Cottage Chattanooga Tennessee
Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)

A favorite late-summer bloomer is Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), the national flower of South Korea, which attracts many native bees in our area.  With the U.S. bee population being devastated by excessive use of toxic pesticides, we want to promote healthy re-population by offering pure nectar to the bees. The colors on our bushes range from deep violet, to pink to white, and their vibrant blooms are always a welcome site this time of year. 

Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium)

My favorite late-summer bloomer is a native plant, Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium), a part of the daisy/aster family and a butterfly, hummingbird and bee magnet.  Joe Pye was a Native American (Algonquin) healer from New England who used this plant to heal fevers and other ailments.  We have 6 to 12-foot high plants that have just bloomed, and I love watching the butterflies and other insects feast on the nectar.  The plant is rabbit and dear-resistant, which is another plus for gardeners in the southeastern Tennessee region.
Giant "Volunteer" Sunflowers
Giant "Volunteer" Sunflowers (probably
a Maximillian) a gift from our bird feeder.
Purple flowers on right are Mexican Petunias,
a great late blooming perennial for warmer climates.
Finally, two volunteer sunflower plants have grown to about 13 feet with two-inch diameter stalks.  We love watching the bright yellow American Goldfinches pick out the seeds as summer winds down and the blooms dry. 

These late bloomers are all mentioned in Pass Along Plants, by Steve Bender and Felder Rushing. This informative, well written and hilarious book is a wonderful source of excellent perennials for Southern gardens in the hospitable tradition of plant sharing. (available at UNC Press and other retailers)

There’s always some activity going on in the gardens that causes us to stop and smell the roses.

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