Apart from two light frosts in October, the weather has been mostly quite mild here in southeastern Pennsylvania, but we’re getting a taste of Novembery chill today. Knowing that the bad weather was coming, I took advantage of lingering blooms and fall-colored leaves a few days ago to have fun with some scans. But first, some odds and ends.
The Sweet Potato Experiment
Back in the spring, I bought slips of two kinds of edible sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) without thinking about where I was going put them. I ended up sticking them in some containers. The boys enjoyed snacking on the vine tips I trimmed off for them through the summer, so it was worth having the plants even if they hadn’t produced anything. I did find some decent roots when I dumped the containers this week, though. The ‘Beauregard’ vines produced surprisingly well, considering that there were three plants in a relatively small (1′ x 1′ x 2′ deep) container.
The two containers of ‘All Purple’ yielded what looked more like a harvest of entrails than of sweet potatoes!
Fortunately, the cut roots are pretty, and they really do live up to their name. I microwaved and fork-smashed a few of the smaller ones, and unlike many purple veggies, their color was even richer after cooking.
I didn’t care much for their flavor, but Duncan and Daniel like them, so they’ll be getting more sweet potatoes than carrots for their bedtime snacks this winter. Other gardeners seem to enjoy ‘All Purple’, so I’d say it’s worth giving them a try at least once. I bought mine from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (they’re not listed now but may be again next spring).
Does anyone remember sending me seeds of this pepper?
It looks like a really hot one, but the relatively small (roughly plum-sized), thin-walled fruits are sweet enough to eat right off the plant.
I received three seeds in a brightly colored packet that I’d have sworn was in Italian, so I wrote only “Lantern pepper?” on the label. The person that I thought sent them won’t accept the credit for the gift, though, and I wish I knew who to thank, because it was tastier and far more productive than any other sweet pepper I’ve grown here. Failing that, if anyone has an idea of what the true identity might be, I’d appreciate any ideas. I managed to get three fruits ripened, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to grow it again next year.
Black Cotton Seeds
The early October frost nipped my black cotton (Gossypium herbaceum ‘Nigra’ or ‘Nigrum’) plants before the seed ripened, but fortunately, I’d already scored ripe seeds for next year, from a new-to-me source: Cotton Acres. They’re selling it as ‘Black Beautiful’. They offer another dark-leaved one as well, which they call ‘Red Beauty’.
I look forward to comparing the two strains next year. It’s really hard to find black-leaved cotton seeds for sale, so if you’re looking to get some, I’d suggest ordering now. They have some cool-looking brown and green-fibered cottons too. It’s not clear if they ship outside of the U.S. and Canada, but you could ask or try ordering if you’re interested.
Went to Mow a Meadow
As much as I’d like to enjoy all of my plants’ seedheads and skeletons through the winter, the voles have already moved into the garden and are busily tunneling into and under the bark-mulch paths on their way to the inner borders.
So, I decided I’d better get an early start on mowing the meadow areas that are closest to the garden. There’s one big advantage to mowing in mid- to late October: being able to spot the fall-colored tree and shrub seedlings, so I can avoid mowing them.
Are you familiar with the Robert Frost poem “The Tuft of Flowers”? A man went to turn the cut hay in a mown meadow, and the flight of a butterfly drew his attention to a clump of flowers that the mower had spared from his scythe. An excerpt:
And once I marked his flight go round and round,As where some flower lay withering on the ground.And then he flew as far as eye could see,And then on tremulous wing came back to me.I thought of questions that have no reply,And would have turned to toss the grass to dry;But he turned first, and led my eye to lookAt a tall tuft of flowers beside a brook,A leaping tongue of bloom the scythe had sparedBeside a reedy brook the scythe had bared.I left my place to know them by their name,Finding them butterfly weed when I came.The mower in the dew had loved them thus,By leaving them to flourish, not for us,Nor yet to draw one thought of ours to him.But from sheer morning gladness at the brim.
Using a brush mower creates a much noisier setting, but the result is somewhat the same as I can envision from the poem: a relatively neatly mown meadow with tufts of stems left here and there, marking the location of plants I wanted to spare from the blade.
I’ll need to get out there again soon to clip around the tiny trees-to-be so the voles don’t nest in the tall grass around them. It’s worth the effort, though. This flowering dogwood is a seedling that I spared maybe 10 years ago. Here it is in 2007:
…in spring of 2011…
…and last month.
Not bad for a free tree!
Three Neat Links (plus one)
Some miscellaneous links I thought you might enjoy:
- Really cool MRI images of flowers and veggies: Inside Insides.
- Absolutely breathtaking pictures of amazing natural wonders: Dusky’s Wonder Site. Be prepared to spend a lot of time scrolling through these collected images!
- While you’re stuck indoors this winter, expand your horticultural education through the many free webinars available on the Seed Savers Exchange site: Seed Savers Webinar Archive. Check out the entire playlist for the full range of topics, including collecting seeds, saving seeds, germination testing, starting seeds, and even garden photography. Also, everyone can now browse through all of the vegetable, fruit, grain, herb, and flower seed listings from SSE members, at SSE Seed Listings. (You still need to be a member to order, though.)
For Pennsylvania Gardeners
Those of you who also live in Pennsylvania might be interested to know that there’s an updated version of the Pennsylvania Gardener’s Guide. The just-released, all-new version–Pennsylvania Getting Started Garden Guide–written by PA garden writer and designer George Weigel, is now available on his website and on Amazon.
Bits and Pieces
And finally, some of the scans I created with the last of this season’s garden gems. I hope you enjoy them.