Authors Posts by Abigail Higgins

Abigail Higgins

Abigail Higgins
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Our eyes love color: Japanese maple becomes glowing focal point in monotone autumn landscape.

Last Thursday’s 1.4-inch rain was welcome; the gentle onset permitted maximum absorption. Deer are moving about as the rutting season is underway; be vigilant when driving at dusk and later. Adult deer ticks are prevalent just now, too. Strangling bittersweet vines hold onto their leaves later than surrounding vegetation, making them easier to spot and eliminate.

Color from small trees

Our eyes really seem to be addicted to color, by their physical structures and by our aesthetic preferences, and autumn gives it to us as a final, parting gift. In this northern temperate climate it is an extraordinary thing to be in a landscape becoming darker and more monotone daily, and yet to experience — just then — an entire shrub or tree that has transformed into a glowing focal point.

Inspired by an item in the Advice section of the October “The Garden,” I direct attention here to alternatives to the sensational but invasive “burning bush” (Euonymus alatus) to supply the color that our eyes crave. A small tree in the garden is a valuable addition, in some ways more so than a shrub.

Trees of small stature may be planted to anchor a bed and under-planted in the same space with compatible herbaceous plants; they may provide shade or strategic screening. Winter structure, bare of leaves, provides pleasing alternatives to leafed-out phases; several mentioned here feature interesting bark.

Small trees with differing forms may be chosen, such as single or multi-stemmed, weeping, columnar, and canopied. Habit many be single- or multi-stemmed. Colorful fruit could be an added bonus. For example, crab apples (Malus) are available in larger and smaller growing forms; red-, orange-, and gold-fruited; and weeping, spreading and columnar in habit; with bright yellow to blushed to orange fall foliage.

Cornus kousa ‘Satomi’ grows to about twelve feet with interesting form and excellent fall color. Sorbus species provide brilliant autumn color; “The Garden” item mentions ‘Joseph Rock’ and its sport ‘Autumn Spire,’ (although they may be harder to find in the US).

Maples (Acer) are automatically associated with splendid autumn color. Those of small stature include many Japanese maple species, cultivars, and grafted specimens, as well as the species maples A. ginnala; A. griseum; and A. maximowiczianum.

Falling somewhere between shrub and small tree are: Disanthus cercidifolia, a Joseph’s coat of pink-orange-burgundy; many cultivars of Lagerstroemia (crape myrtle) and our own two natives providing clear golden yellows: Chionanthus virginianum (fringetree), and Clethra alnifolia.

Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts are one of the best fall and winter vegetables, as are many other members of the large Brassica family. They are resistant to frost and actually sweeten up with it.

For a fall and winter crop, Brussels sprouts are direct-sown in seedbeds in June and planted out in rows where they are to grow. They do best in soils that are about neutral or slightly alkaline in pH and high in organic matter, and can be intercropped with salad greens for space saving. Tall-growing varieties may need staking against wind-rock by November.

According to DK’s “Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” spacing may be used to manipulate the results with Brussels sprouts. With close spacing of less than two feet in each direction, they can be grown to produce smaller sprouts of uniform maturity. Spaced two feet apart in the row with rows wider apart, grow them to produce larger sprouts to be picked in succession over a longer period.

Menu research is under way in many kitchens as the holidays near. Brussels sprouts are a fine, fall-garden harvest vegetable, but their drawback is that many, both children and growns, profess not to like them. Maybe this recipe is a mind-changer? It originally appeared in “Fine Cooking,” but I found it on the Internet and added my own twist.

For a family meal, use one pound of sprouts, and double all ingredients for a festive one. For the lemon flavoring I use a freezer-stored product that is a 24 karat culinary ingredient, frozen lemon powder:

Buy a nice organic lemon, wash and dry it, and place to freeze solid in your freezer. Then, using the food processor and the grating/shredding plate, grate the entire frozen lemon, skin and all. Store the frozen lemon powder in an airtight freezer container and measure out by the spoonful when bright lemon flavoring is called for.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

(with lemon powder and Parmesan)

1 pound Brussels sprouts

3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more if desired

1/2 tsp. salt

several grinds fresh black pepper

1-2 Tbsp. frozen lemon powder

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

optional: handful of rinsed, cooked garbanzo beans (chickpeas)

Preheat oven to 475F. Remove yellowed leaves and trim bases of sprouts. Halve lengthwise. In a large mixing bowl, toss the sprouts, salt, pepper, and olive oil together until well coated. Arrange cut side down on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silpat. Roast until tender and browned, 12-15 minutes.

Lift corners of silpat or parchment paper and dump hot roasted sprouts back into mixing bowl, add the frozen lemon powder, grated Parmesan, and garbanzo beans, and toss to combine. Adjust seasoning and add a little more olive oil if desired, and serve hot.

Seed garlic performs best if vernalized — being chilled for two weeks at 43 to 50°F before planting. Protective cloches are by Rob Phillips of the Glassworks in North Tisbury.

The Island’s autumn beauty is displayed in the deep-toned array of grass and foliage spread across the landscape, and magnificent skyscapes of gigantic grey-bottomed cloud foretell winter’s approach.

The 20th annual Barn Raisers’ Ball, celebrating the Agricultural Society’s historic barn raising, is Saturday night, 7:30–10 pm, at the Agricultural Hall, with Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish. Bring a dessert to share, admission is free.

Garlic culture

In matters culinary, Martha’s Vineyard has come a long way. Back in the day, the post-war “Joy of Cooking” open in front of me listed just ten “Italian” recipes, nothing East Asian, and just two under Garlic, one of which was garlic bread!

If one was planning an “exotic” dish, one had to go to Bangs Market, or one of the other S.S. Pierce emporia on the Island, for those little gourmet oddments such as capers and other condiments. (I am not sure we knew the term “gourmet,” then.) No longer is it sufficient, the way it used to be when garlic was considered to be a socially embarrassing seasoning, to go down to the store and pick up a little box containing two dried-up heads of generic garlic when a dish of something exotic is planned for the menu.

The general consensus is that garlic growing has increased in importance both among Island growers and cooks. Here, where planting garlic is one of the final chapters of the vegetable garden year, when to plant garlic is often debated.

Since there is a wide array of opinion on getting the best results with the culture of this plant, I decided to read up on it and pass along whatever of interest I could glean. I consulted three vegetable-growing books, but many specifics come from two different editions of the Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, Fall 2012 and Summer 2013.

In an MOF&G 2012 (Vol 40, no 3) article, Tom Vigue, a Maine garlic grower, says garlic does best when planted four weeks before the ground freezes, because root development begins in the fall. A critical humidity induces root growth, which typically begins one or two weeks after planting. Roots will grow for a couple of weeks more before soils freeze. If planting is too early, it may induce leaf sprouting; if sprouts emerge from the soil and are damaged by freezing, the plants receive a setback; loss of leaves reduces yields.

Vigne claims “the size of the seed bulb is many times more significant than the size of the seed clove in determining the eventual size of harvested bulbs.” Nevertheless, cloves from medium to medium-large bulbs make the best planting stock. Cloves from smaller bulbs will result in smaller, weaker plants, yielding smaller harvests; planting the largest cloves from the largest bulbs results in the greatest lack of uniformity in harvests. Vigue recommends planting three to four inches deep in cultivated and heavily composted soil; and then covering with six to eight inches of loose and fluffy mulch, with the expectation that it will compress under winter conditions.

The MOF&G’s 2013 (Vol 41, no 2) article offers comprehensive coverage of the garlic portion of MOFG Association’s spring growth conference. David Stern of the Garlic Seed Foundation recommends starting garlic culture by sowing oats at the end of August, in soils testing at pH 6.8-7. In October he mows and discs them, makes furrows, and plants and covers the garlic. Stern recommends placing the tip of the clove one and a half inches below the soil surface in furrows where soybean meal, supplying nitrogen (N), has first been laid. Oats reemerge with the first rain and later winterkill.

Growers experimenting with different spacing had differing results. Vigue prefers 5×8″ spacing. Slightly larger, 6×8,” produced slightly larger bulbs but total yield in pounds was lower. He found that scape removal produces larger bulbs and earlier sizing up, but he wonders about its effect on long-term storage. Stern prefers spacing of 6×6″ or 8×8″; closer spacing sacrifices quality. For row crop spacing, plant garlic 4 inches or more apart within rows, with 18 inches or more between rows. Double row planting involves two rows in a 6- x 6-inch grid, with 18 inches or more between the double rows.

Many additional factors are important in garlic culture, one of the foremost perhaps being storage qualities. It is desirable, obviously, for garlic to remain in good condition until planting and beyond, when the next crop is ready for use. About one pound of seed is needed to produce five pounds of harvest.

Hugelkultur: the ultimate raised bed

Springing from the permaculture movement, an interesting development is called “hugelkultur,” or mound culture. It is a wild and crazy composting, where there is no need to worry about layering, turning, and all those other bothersome details of scientific composting: just pile ‘er up and after a month, plant right into the pile.

Due to various ailments that Island trees have fallen prey to, and ensuing breakdown and rot, woodlots are producing piles of rotting wood unable to qualify as firewood. Well-publicized concerns about its fire hazards make finding a use for it a win-win situation, although rotting wood does not generally burn well.

In hugelkultur rotten logs are prized, the bigger the better: it is essentially making raised beds filled with rotten wood. A framework of rotting logs is laid on the ground where the mound is going to be sited. Brush, sticks, dirt, more logs, compostables of all descriptions — all are thrown onto the pile and covered with soil. Some settling occurs, but in a month it is plant-able. The mound is self-watering due to the hydroscopic qualities of the rotting wood, and carbon is sequestered. For more information, go to http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/.

Though putting a garden to bed should actually begin in August, British garden writer Monty Don says that "...October is my gardening new year...Time to take stock, plan, prepare, and start again."

Putting the garden to bed is actually a process that tugs in opposing directions. Sanitation is of great importance in vegetable gardens for disease and pest control. Wildlife support is the province of ornamental gardens. Many flower stalks are nowadays left for their seed value for birds (and other wildlife), to which gardeners owe a standing debt of gratitude for insect control. Whether you are a neat-freak or wildlife lover, it is your garden and you decide.

Cutdowns, starting with plants whose foliage ripens earliest

Putting the garden to bed actually starts in August when some annuals will be seen to have gone by and may be pulled to make room for other seasonal plant material. Debris removal and cutdowns are on-going: plants with foliage that yellows early or is diseased, for example, slug-damaged hostas; plants such as daylilies that will regenerate fresh basal leaves; clearing fallen leaves.

By mid- to late October

As the British garden writer Monty Don says of this season: “The beginning of October is my gardening new year…. Time to take stock, plan, prepare, and start again.” How you prepare now lays the foundation for success next year.

Much of the cutdowns have been done. Leave woody sub-shrubs, such as lavender, caryopteris, and perovskia, alone: cut them back in spring.

Eliminate unwanted plants, or transplant; divide overgrown perennials; find improved locations for plants that are too big or not doing well. Division is often the difference between, for instance, a Siberian iris loaded with bloom and one with scarcely any. This time of year normally you can move plants around with the expectation of autumn rains to keep them watered. Give beds a final weeding, and then top-dress with low-number soil food and layer over with compost or mulch.

Tuberous begonias and pelargoniums (geraniums) may be removed from pots and stored dry in a cool dark cellar. They are revived in spring by being brought into the light and repotted in new soil. Alternatively, take cuttings, using strong sprouts without flower buds, and root in fine, gritty potting mix.

Use a tarp or trash barrel to collect debris generated by clean-up, and remove it to the compost pile. If you have not previously composted, find a quiet corner of the garden, and bring everything there. Even if you do nothing, this will eventually turn into a soil-like product composed of your garden’s own elements, whose use improves whatever is grown with it.

Order spring bulbs and plant them. The various narcissi should be planted in October, ideally, but you may put off tulip planting until Thanksgiving or later on the Vineyard. Likewise, it is often well to naturalize narcissi, away from ornamental beds, unless their ripening foliage can be tolerated aesthetically, while tulips are best planted in beds.

Vegetable Plot

As with the ornamental garden, the vegetable garden starts acquiring its autumn character in early August (if not actually in July if one aims to continue production through the fall). Space left by harvested garlic and onions is freed for subsequent crops, which are direct-sown then. Some of these, such as carrots, beets, kales, and late leeks, may remain in the garden until the following spring when covered by some means of protection. Others, such as cabbage, greens and spinach, may also be finished with freezing weather.

By this time in October, it’s time to prepare the garlic bed: weed, cultivate, and fertilize. A quick cover crop such as buckwheat can be sown and forked in, if desired, as long as it has several weeks to break down before the garlic is planted. I aim to plant garlic in mid-November to early December.

As crop rows are harvested out, or as plants such as tomatoes and eggplant have finished producing, the debris is composted, open spaces or beds are weeded, and then sown with a cover crop. Cover crops are plants intentionally sown to add something to the soil, as green manure, and to protect the soil from wind and water erosion. Additionally they “cover the space” against seeding by weeds.

The harvesting of some crops, such as pumpkins, squash, and sweet potatoes, requires curing in a warm place for several weeks for optimum storage life of the vegetables. Likewise, dahlia tubers need to cure, although with them it is in the ground, for optimum storage quality. ID well and leave them for several weeks after frosting; then, cut them back, dig, and store wrapped in newspaper.

Manuring

Acquire and compost manure any time during the fall. Manure of cows, with their unique fermenting digestion, has special properties that manure of horses lacks. It is a source of weeds from their grain/hay diet, so avoid it raw; but compost it or age it, and it is the stuff of gardeners’ dreams. Stable muck — not mostly shavings — is a nutritious winter blanket for fruit trees, roses, asparagus, and rhubarb, and conditions any soil superbly. Protect orchard trees from winter rodent damage with tree guards, which you can buy or construct from wire fencing.

Walkways and Terraces

Weed and rake walkways and terraces; they will remain in a mainly weed-free condition until next spring’s weed seeds germinate. Clear out, sweep, and replace items in garden sheds, then stow pots, stakes, plant supports, and hoses drained, coiled, and tied off. Store “like with like” and consolidate these items. Clean and store tools, and, if you are truly conscientious, oil the blades and moving parts. Sort seed packets and store in a cool dry place.

Lawn Care

Using a spring rake, rake the lawn. This always has a revitalizing effect on grass and the amount of debris it pulls out is surprising. Mow and edge the lawn, leaving the blade at a higher setting. Repair lawn bare spots: scratch up (scarify) soil and sow grass seed, lightly covering (again, with the expectation of normal autumn rains). Harvest fallen leaves frequently and add to compost. If you want to be truly ahead of the game, perform maintenance on mowers and weed-whackers, or take them in to the shop. Clean jerry cans.

Soil Testing

Take soil tests for lawn, vegetable garden, and ornamental planting beds: each has different requirements, so one soil test for all is insufficient. Specify that you practice organic management and follow up on recommendations. Get information, download forms, and get mailing directions, at UMass website http://soiltest.umass.edu/.

The Martha's Vineyard Hospital roof garden provides a restful place to sit and look out over the Lagoon.

I learned of the recent death of James van Sweden, the renowned landscape architect, as I planned to visit the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital’s roof garden. Beginning in the 1970s, van Sweden, along with Wolfgang Oehme, partner in the landscape design firm Oehme, van Sweden & Associates, radically changed the look of American gardens. Abandoning fussy, constrained conventions then current, they used “broad sweeps of long, flowering perennials and ornamental grasses…. It [the firm's design idiom] presaged today’s emphasis in landscape architecture on naturalistic and ecologically sensitive design…” (obituary by Adrian Higgins, The Washington Post).

An entire generation of landscape architects, American and international, is esthetically indebted to the late partners’ work. They were game changers: gardens such as the beautiful second-floor one at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, designed by Horiuchi & Solien, reflect their influence.

The hospital’s quest to build its facility greener in every way possible led to the incorporation of a roof garden, in addition to many other features supporting its LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. Our hospital has achieved the highest LEED hospital rating in Massachusetts, according to Rachel Vanderhoop, who showed me around.

It is easy to appreciate how the garden could be by turns exhilarating or calming. With its fresh air, sunset exposure, and lofty panorama of the Lagoon and Vineyard Haven outer harbor, the roof garden is secluded and intended to support patients’ healing. However, it also supports the building’s heating and cooling processes and helps in the management of rainwater run-off. Altogether the garden area is 9,704 square feet and helps to extend the life of the roof membrane.

Reminiscent of Oehme, van Sweden’s work, the garden’s striking ribbon of white pavers, forming the hardscape, appears to meander and flow, a broad creek through a sweep of prairie. The plant palette and layout, too, is arranged to enhance the spacious, flowing feeling.

Now, with the floral aspect of the roof garden almost past, the blond swath of the feather reed grass backdrop, speckled by dark seed heads of rudbeckia, predominates. The grasses respond dynamically to the breezes off the water. The rest of the planting, deepened in tone and consisting of perovskia, rudbeckia, salvia, agastache, and several varieties of sedum, has gone dark, apart from some perovskia and agastache, but nonetheless retains interest.

The plants occupy clever pre-planted modular units, supplied by GreenGrid, square or rectangular, shallow or deep, according to plant type. They may be removed and entirely replaced for maintenance and are supplied with irrigation, but the species planted have all been chosen for their ability to flourish under challenging conditions.

Groupings of comfortable seating furnish hardscape spaces, both in the open and under a porch through which one enters the garden. Although the hospital rooftop is a secret garden, its patients and the entire Island community are its beneficiaries.

Autumn

Rich autumn color is erupting wherever one looks, and the native witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, is beginning to bloom. When buying a cultivar of this small native tree, for maximum impact look for one that sheds its leaves before flowering.

Now is when I overwhelmingly want to be in my own garden, there is so much to do, to think about, to start. It can be at times overwhelming when there are daily details to juggle; yet these garden tasks are emphatically calling too.

The decided lack of rain locally — soils are dry ten inches down — has put on hold some of the jobs one would like to be doing before dark, chilly November: for instance, transplanting biennial seedlings, such as hesperis and foxglove, and settling in perennial divisions.

Leaf harvest is ongoing and seemingly never-ending; acorn collection provides top-notch treats for hogs. Top-dressing with hydroscopic compost assists plants going into winter as it attracts moisture but needs screening out from rough piles. Thinking about bulb orders, placing bulb orders, and then planting bulb orders — energy-intensive creative work, hard to do on the fly.

Transplanted trees and shrubs need to be watered if “sky delivery” is not happening; if possible, put it off while it remains dry. Without a watering schedule the plants’ survival and subsequent good establishment is not assured.

There comes a time when imposing order on the garden takes precedence over some other factors, and one needs to be able to see what one is doing. Admittedly we often perform cutdowns just to get it done, especially when the plants are in need of division, even though plants’ leaves are clearly still photosynthesizing. Ideally, one would leave foliage of all herbaceous perennials until it was worn out, to insure that the crowns were as fortified as possible.

Oakleaf hydrangea

Thinking about plants my garden lacked, and to celebrate autumn more colorfully, several years ago I declared my intention in Garden Notes to plant oakleaf hydrangeas here at our place. This has now been accomplished, and three of the straight species H. quercifolia, one ‘Snow Queen’ and three ‘Amethyst,’ are ripening their foliage from deep green into shades of pink, red, and burgundy.

I have always found it surprising that I do not see more oakleaf hydrangeas in gardens. The plant seems well adapted to Island conditions, and with moisture-retentive soil is comfortable in sun or shade. Its coarse-textured foliage does indeed resemble large oak leaves and supplies welcome contrast to finer textured shrubs. The species grows to about eight feet by eight; compact forms are available.

Agricultural Hall

Homegrown, the vegetable gardeners’ collaborative, has its first meeting of the season October 20, 4–6 pm at Agricultural Hall. Meetings take place on the third Sunday of the winter months and during Eastern Standard Time, from 3 to 5 pm.

The West Tisbury Winter Farmers’ Market hours are 10 am to 1 pm. It will be held October 26th as well as three November and December Saturdays.

October glory: dahlias backed by regal asparagus foliage in Carol Brush’s West Tisbury garden.

As many Islanders have become aware, certain black oaks, Quercus velutina, are hosting a tiny insect that is proving to be highly destructive to numbers of these trees. The insect doing the damage is a tiny cynipid wasp, Bassettia ceropteroides. There is more information, with links, from Polly Hill Arboretum at pollyhillarboretum.org/science/cynipid-wasp-information/

I have been frequently asked my opinion about the black oak situation this year. As usual I have a slightly different, contrarian, pro-life perspective, which attempts to employ up-stream thinking and discern less-proximate causes.

According to Michael Dirr in the “Manual of Woody Landscape Plants,” Q. velutina “makes best growth on moist, rich, well-drained, acid soils but is often found on poor, dry, sandy, or heavy clay hillsides.” Do the latter sound like Island conditions?

Furthermore, this tree is an earlier-stage species in the deciduous forest succession, lacking the durable wood and hardiness of some other Island oaks. Taken together, these two factors add up to trees that come to the end of their life span after a relatively short cycle. They then fall prey to one or more pathologies; their fate paves the way for species in the next stage of forest succession, such as white oak, beech, and hickory.

The trees most damaged appear to me to have been stressed, in one way or another, mostly by age or unfortunate growing sites, often given an assist by human intervention. This includes mutilation for power-line trimming or compaction from roads and other activities. Many troubled trees have been carved out of their forest environment and turned instead into lawn trees, with their root runs deprived of their preferred cover of pucker brush, fallen leaves, and leaf mold, and fungal/bacterial balance altered to benefit lawn, not tree.

For trees absolutely critical to the landscape, there is an off-label use of a systemic pesticide that can be infused into the oak. It makes the entire tree toxic to the communities of life-forms that live off that tree, such as caterpillars, and consequently to the life-forms that live off the life-forms, such as birds. It is worth remembering that oaks as a group support more life-forms than almost any other genus, according to Douglas Tallamy, in his work, “Bringing Nature Home,” (Timber Press, 2009).

My opinion for landscape trees that are not critical is to relinquish them and plant two good replacement trees for each one lost. (My replacements here include oxydendrum, magnolia, and styrax.) Polly Hill Arboretum exists as a resource for those who would appreciate expert, site-specific advice for what to plant.

Gardening on slope

A technique that seems especially advantageous if your garden is blessed with sunny slope — where some of our black oaks used to be — is recommended by Gertrude Jekyll, the 20th-century British garden designer. (If my garden is “blessed,” it must be because practically our whole place is slope.) She recommended training later-blooming perennials forward, as arching sprays, to cover the remains of plants that have previously gone by in the border. Chrysanthemums, natural leaners, are known to be amenable to this sort of training, as many will know who have seen the displays of Japanese chrysanthemum cascades, a stunning art and flower show category of its own.

Other natural leaners to try on sloping sites might be platycodon, perovskia, and asters. Additional subjects well suited to slopes include those whose natural preference is for well-drained or even dry soil. Lavenders, stachys (anything with grey/silver leaves, for that matter), daylilies, agaves, sedums, salvias, nepeta, grasses, and all the rock garden plants, should do well, given sun and good drainage.

In the garden

Lawn repair is on the minds of many as cooler conditions and, we presume, more regular rainfall make scarifying and re-seeding timely. If the lawn is small, weed out and remove by hand any of the growths of crab grass that have smothered out the better stuff, leaving dead patches. The rakings that are produced from combing over the lawn are deluxe material for compost piles, producing heat and breaking down readily.

Dahlias in early fall are at their most beautiful and prolific. You may notice that many, which have been double all summer, now appear more single and show yellow pollen centers. Pollinators are avid for this stage and nighttime finds flowers with sleeping bumblebees still nuzzling them.

When frost hits, let the tubers remain in the ground for a while, as long as two weeks, to drive the energies down into them for good keeping qualities. “Tubers dug too early are still ‘green’ and will not store,” according to the folks at Swan Island Dahlias.

Further storage advice: Use a storage medium such as slightly dampened peat moss, sand, or sawdust/shavings. Tubers should be stored in crates or cardboard boxes. Line the containers with 10–12 sheets of newspaper, for which the MV Times is perfect. Start with the packing medium in the bottom and layer tubers and medium until the container is full. Store in a cool, dry area, 40–50°F.

Clean up and cut back in both vegetable and ornamental gardens. Compost is almost always in short supply and using it always seems to involve prioritizing: use on places/plants that need it most. Cover-crop open areas of the vegetable garden. Rake up leaves regularly and compost them. Mulch may be applied to portions of beds that are dormant or areas that need protection. My own preference is first to put down a layer of low-number organic soilfood (i.e. fertilizer) to assist the soil organisms that process the organic matter you plan to lay.

Coming up

Friday and Saturday, October 4 and 5: Living Local/Harvest Festival: Check the paper for details.

The Polly Hill Arboretum display garden features Lespedeza thunbergii ˜Gibraltar" with ornamental grasses, perennials and the dark-leaved ninebark, "Diabolo."

Late summer! Its last few days before the autumnal equinox contain a tension similar to that of New Year’s. One finds one’s thoughts flickering back and forth between the summer drawing to an end, its successes and disappointments, and the season to come, hoping always for better gardens, and much more, to take shape.

Impressive flocks of blackbirds have been visiting the oak woodlands nearby. When the flock moves overhead, or shifts from one set of trees to another, an accompanying murmuring of twittering birdcall, as if a strong wind had suddenly sprung up, enlivens the sound. The flocks appear to be composed mainly of grackles, however birds spotted with shorter tails must be starlings, and perhaps other “blackbirds,” such as cowbirds, join these migratory flights. I suppose, since the huckleberries have gone past, the objective must be gorging on the abundant crop of white oak acorns to gain fuel for migration.

Wood, field, and garden are stirring with spiders and caterpillars; or rather, the caterpillars are stirring and the spiders are mostly sitting in their webs, patient and still. I had an amusing encounter at the Fair in August with a girlhood friend. She recounted to me her seriously unpleasant episode with a stinging, bristly Lo caterpillar. She had identified it via the Internet, and did I know it?

Although I did not know the Lo caterpillar, from her vivid, unmistakable description — large, bristly, chartreuse — it quickly became apparent that my friend was speaking of the Io moth caterpillar. We had a good laugh over her misreading of the “I” for an “L.” (If we had been watching the cattle show instead of the horse pull, I might have reminded her of the Greek myth of Zeus and the nymph Io, turned into a heifer by jealous Hera.)

The Io caterpillar, whose beautiful moth is one of the Saturniidae (giant silkworm moths), is capable of causing a painful sting, akin to being burned with acid, should its setae brush against the skin; and it is not the only caterpillar of our woods and fields able to do so. Check clothing, and laundry coming in from the line, for random caterpillars that, unseen, drop down from out of nowhere.

Early holiday shopping

The UMass team produces an attractive, useful item with their UMass Garden Calendar. The 2014 edition is ready to order, with free shipping and handling for up to nine calendars on orders received before November 1. It is aptly designed and laid out, with “eye-candy” plant images for each month; each day’s space containing moon phases and time of sunrise and sunset; and daily gardening tips for Northeast growing conditions. Today’s tip, good to know, is “Ripe apples will snap off the tree if held in the hand and lifted upward.” To order, go to www.umassgardencalendar.org.

Plant of the moment

Experienced garden designers often suggest that each season in a garden should have a “bang” or high point. In late summer, the yellow, golden, and orange flowers are monarchs and rule the eye: species of rudbeckia, heliopsis, helianthus, goldenrod, tithonia, and zinnia, to name some. Where does this leave the yellow-free gardens, when these shades are not part of the color scheme? At a disadvantage.

Let me introduce you to the lespedezas, also known as bush peas. Take a drive to West Tisbury and, as you pass the Polly Hill Arboretum, take in the vision of rich, rosy red, billowing and spilling over the picket fence. This is the “bang” that lespedza can bring to season’s end in your garden.

Being leguminous and fixing their own nitrogen in soil, lespedezas prefer infertile, warm, well-drained sites — typical Vineyard sand plain conditions. No wonder then that rare, wild lespedeza species are found here: “The Flora of Martha’s Vineyard” lists 11 known or historical ones. According to the “Manual of Woody Plants,” (Michael Dirr, Stipes Publishing, Champaign, Ill.) the principal species of lespedeza for garden use however are L. bicolor and L. thunbergii.

L. bicolor includes three named selections: Li’l Buddy, compact, rose purple, three feet after four years; ‘Summer Beauty,’ rose mauve, extended bloom time, to five feet; ‘Yakushima,’ 12-18 inches, tight mounding form. The plants showcased in the Polly Hill border are L. thunbergii ‘Gibraltar.’

Other selections from L. thunbergii include ‘Albiflora,’ a white-flowered, more upright form; ‘Edo Shibori,’ rose-pink and white on a four- to six-foot shrub; and ‘Pink Fountain,’ gracefully arching, up to five feet. An introduced form of a Japanese species, L. liukiuensis, is sold as ‘Little Volcano.’ It is upright with cascading branches, to eight feet high and wide, with fuchsia/red flowers.

Unlike their leguminous cousins the brooms, which are mostly to be had in shades of primrose-to-mahogany in spring, the garden forms of lespedeza are mostly white to bicolor pink to deep rosy red and fit in well in late summer gardens where yellow is banished. Lespedezas harmonize well with dahlias, sedums, Michaelmas daisies, other species asters, and grasses, and they enjoy the same levels of light and attention from bumblebees.

Lespedezas display particularly well on slopes and make a magnificent backdrop to plants in the forefront of the border or garden. Allow for plenty of room unless planting a compact form. Although classed as shrubs, lespedezas may winterkill under some conditions and are generally cut right back to within four or five inches of the ground in early spring.

In the garden

The first to-do commandment is: be out in it and enjoy it, as much as time allows, for summer is coming to an end. Build up your reserves of vitamin D! The rest of the year contains plenty of opportunity for garden work and productive effort, but it is long and humdrum compared to the golden warmth and sunshine of late September.

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Sweet peas, a mix from Thompson & Morgan, prefer cool weather and are unexpected flowers at Labor Day.

Work now, and enjoy the results in next year’s garden. There is much to be done in early September, and throughout autumn, but the tasks lack glamour. Mostly, it is grunt work: digging, dividing, lugging. You will reap the results in 2014, however.

Digging in the border is hard, and there is always the danger of infringing on nearby plants, or slicing into a cache of “no-trace” plants, typically bulbs or spring ephemerals. Likewise, digging and screening compost to replace or augment soil when resetting the divisions is heavy lifting. Prying apart crowns of perennials, whether with back-to-back spading forks, taking a serrated knife to it, or chopping with shovel or ax, sounds violent and often is, accompanied by grimaces or expletives.

For those who like the reassurance of how-to-do-it books, I recommend “Tending Your Garden: a Year-round Guide to Garden Maintenance” (Norton, 2007) by the well-known garden designer and writer Gordon Hayward and his wife, Mary, which details what they and their assistants do to maintain their extensive Vermont gardens. It features a season-by-season, month-by-month breakdown of garden tasks accompanied by plenty of excellent color photographs illustrating the operations.

“The Complete Gardener’s Guide,” (DK , 2011) subtitled “Everything You Need to Know to Create and Care for Your Garden” is just that — answers for everything, on an encyclopedic scale.

When a perennial is ready for division, it may yield more crowns than there is space for. One large clump of phlox, hosta, or daylilies may split into eight or nine crowns with three-to-four stems. While you are deciding how to deploy this abundance, cut the divisions back and plant them up in plastic nursery pots — to be found as trash beside every Island road — water them, and store in a protected place to recuperate. They will do well and even over-winter, after which you can share them with friends or design new plantings to accommodate them.

Preparing and cleaning up the winter quarters of houseplants — and cleaning up the plants themselves — before frost is another tiresome, lousy chore and best not put off. Protracted, mild Island autumns can bewitch us into putting off today what could be done tomorrow, until frost threatens and all the work has to be done pell-mell with headlamps in the dark.

Holiday plants such as Schlumbergera, including formerly Zygocactus, and Hippeastrum (amaryllis) are often treated to a rest period of darkness and dryness to initiate bloom. Now would be the time to place them in unlit cellars or closets.

Unfortunately, dahlias store best when allowed to be frostbitten before they are dug, so this task must wait a while. Take the time to ID them before distinguishing characteristics are lost; unmarked tubers are relatively worthless when color and height are unknown.

Propagate plants, such as pelargoniums, ivies, and begonias that you plan to use next season.

As is well known, deer are fond of apples…. I sprayed the apple and pear trees with Liquid Fence, and while I was at it, anything else that might appeal to curious deer looking for a seasonal change in their menu.

Empty sections of vegetable gardens may be sown in cover crops. In November 2012 I used a combination of oats/field peas in some sections, which were supposed to winterkill. Safely blanketed by the persistent snow cover, the cover crop emerged green and growing in the spring, not what I had planned. I had to take the mower to it. If you must leave your Island garden soon, a fast-growing choice would be buckwheat, which will be killed by frost but remain as debris over the winter, keeping topsoil in place and discouraging weeds and erosion.

Autumn effort, spring reward

Place orders for fall-planted bulbs and seed garlic now, if you have not done so already: the choice is diminishing daily. As I make my way through this gardening life I find that “small and subtle” increasingly fits the bill. I am currently enjoying the miniscule show put on by hardy cyclamen, practically invisible among the Carex pensylvanica beneath an old white oak.

Another modest bulb I plan to add this year, recommended often for naturalizing by Ellen Biddle Shipman, as quoted in Judith B. Tankard’s masterful “The Gardens of Ellen Biddle Shipman” (Sagapress, 1998), is the old-fashioned Narcissus biflorus (now N. medioluteus). It is available, web only, from Old House Gardens, www.oldhousegardens.com, along with many other treasures that combine beauty and simplicity.

Inscrutable sweet peas

One of the traditional fall projects for gardeners in mild winter areas is the planting of sweet peas. It is hard to tell if we are mild winter gardeners now or not: we seem to fall somewhere in between. Sweet peas in my garden, which were sown indoors in February and planted out as seedlings, have taken their time to bloom. This has never before happened.

Far more usual is to find that these cool weather lovers collapse and shrivel away in July and August after a floriferous early summer show. Now, however, mine are finally covered with frilly flowers, which are fragrant and showy. An added curiosity is the early morning spectacle of hummingbirds picking off, one by one, the fat aphids that cluster on the flower stems. (Note: the whole plant is poisonous — do not use sweet peas as ‘edible’ anything.)

To keep the blooms coming one needs to deadhead the seedpods religiously. For seed saving, one needs seedpods, period. I have had two pods only — two! — so far. Small bumblebees cover the nearby raspberries, so they must not be the means of accomplishing pollination of sweet peas. One Internet source states that sweet peas self-pollinate before the flowers actually open.

Polly Hill Arboretum

Meadowscaping, with designer Theresa Sprague, Saturday, September 14, 1–2 pm.

Put some excitement in your garden’s life by redoing a portion of it. Plants are pink and white phlox, Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ and gloriosa daisies.”

As the year progresses and summer draws to its climax, the light shifts. In its annual solar cycle, Earth has tilted away from the sun and the wavelengths of sunlight reaching Earth have shifted towards the infrared. Observing backlit foliage, nature’s solar panels, gives the impression that there is a difference, a distinctive quality, to that sunlight: practically quivering and glowing, more interesting and vital — almost as if commanding, “photosynthesize, NOW.”

It is generally agreed that forests, one of Earth’s largest carbon sinks, are under increasing amounts of stress as a result of climate change. According to a BBC article, carbon sinks play a key role in the global carbon cycle and are promoted as a way to offset rising emissions.

All forests are facing conditions differing from those under which they evolved, although coniferous forests are particularly vulnerable. Now, the BBC article continues, a report has been released that purports to show that European forests’ ability to act as carbon sinks is slowing. Published in Nature Climate Change, it said this was a result of a declining volume of trees, deforestation, and the impact of natural disturbances.

The carbon cycle is the process by which carbon — essential for life on the planet — is transferred between the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and the atmosphere. Carbon sinks are where key components of the cycle store carbon, preventing it from being recycled.

Since the Industrial Revolution, human activity has modified the cycle as a result of burning fossil fuels and land-use change. Burning fossil fuels has resulted in vast amounts of carbon previously locked in the geosphere being released into the atmosphere. Land-use change, such as urbanization and deforestation, has reduced the size of the biosphere, which removes carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.

The conclusions of the researchers, based at Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands, appear to contradict an earlier 2011 report on the State of Europe’s Forests, which said that trees covered almost half of Europe’s land mass and absorbed about 10 percent of Europe’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. However, a sizeable proportion of forests were mature stands of trees, which were mainly planted in the early 20th century or post-World War II.

A spokesperson for the new report, co-author Gert-Jan Nabuurs, explained that these forests are now 70–80 years old and are beginning a phase in the life of a tree where the growth rate starts to come down. “So you have large areas of old forest and even if you add these relatively small areas of new forest, this does not compensate for the loss of growth rate in the old forests.”

Weighing the carbon sink value of younger forests against the biodiversity and wildlife/habitat value of older ones is an issue that also faces landowners and conservation organizations on Martha’s Vineyard.

I surmise that young, fast-growth trees such as locust, sassafras, red cedar (juniper), and pitch pine are critical carbon accumulators at that nurse stage of forestation, but are often disdained, however, for their invasive qualities when what is wanted is picturesque field and pasture, or stately woodland.

An Island tree, the black locust, Robinia pseudoacacia, which functions as a nurse tree for reforestation of other tree species and is known for fast growth (which equals greater carbon sequestration), appears to be in trouble. Furthermore, locusts are a rich source of bee forage and fragrant, delicious honey.

Wherever one looks, the locusts are defoliating and showing signs of dieback. It is normal for locust to die once the woods it has helped to nurture have engulfed it. However, many of the struggling trees are in open areas where they might have been expected to live for decades more.

According to Wikipedia, “In 1900 it was reported that the value of Robinia pseudoacacia was practically destroyed in nearly all parts of the United States, beyond the mountain forests which are its home, by locust borers which riddle the trunk and branches.

“Were it not for these insects, it would be one of the most valuable timber trees that could be planted in the northern and middle states. Young trees grow quickly and vigorously for a number of years, but soon become stunted and diseased, and rarely live long enough to attain any commercial value.”

Is this a banner cycle for locust borers, or is there a new, different affliction of these trees?

My home gardens are suffering from the presence of stately white oaks, seven of them, if “suffering” is the right word. It may be only myself that is suffering this Procrustean dilemma. Although ornamental gardens’ design can adapt and evolve through changing light conditions, the gardens are losing light, critical for vegetables. When I contemplate removing the seven white oaks, all of which must be between 90 and 125 years old, I feel as if I simply cannot do it. Then I look at my vegetable garden, sitting there, unable to ripen its crops properly.

In the Garden

Onions, harvested several weeks ago, have cured to the point where the stems are dry and almost non-existent. I use an old, discarded screen door on sawhorses in a ventilated shed, and lay them out on this to air dry. Now, the stems and remnants of roots can be cut off with kitchen shears.

Be choosy about what you plant. It is really laborious to get rid of something that has outstayed its welcome, such as adenophera. It invades all its neighbors, all of which must be lifted and cleansed of its roots, so I am working on “sanitizing” a portion of border. Every perennial in one section has been dug up and set aside. Contact me for divisions of Siberian and intermediate bearded iris.

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Phlox cultivars, such as 'Dodo Hanbury Forbes' bring scent and color to the August garden.

The Vineyard is fortunate to have the writer Michael Pollan as a “summer son.” He returns to the Farm Institute, Katama, tonight to share his most recent thinking on food and society, as set forth in his book, “Cooked: a Natural History of Transformation,” (Penguin, 2013).

Mr. Pollan’s influence on American attitudes to food and eating cannot be exaggerated. He is relaxed, engaging, and gregarious, especially so with an island audience. The Farm Institute, 7 p.m.: tickets $15 at TFI, ticketsmv.com, and the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore.

Change in the garden

Seasonal change is occurring and affecting everything under the sun. The Vineyard is resonant with “meadow song,” the combined chorus of cricket, cicada, and katydid. Apples acquire a blush, goldenrod glints beside the way, and the scent of clethra carries on the breeze: we know that summer is maturing and ripening.

During the high summer doldrums, what you are seeing in your garden is what you get — there are few thrilling surprises left in store, unlike spring and early summer. Then, each morning brings yet another wonder, unfolding. Now, the daily routine is more mundane: damage control and crabgrass patrol.

Inject some excitement into your garden and gardening life by visualizing changes and variety. I am contemplating such a change. Idea, plan, action! An area, behind the long raised border that meanders above the lawn here at home, has become an undifferentiated mass of aronia, dangleberry, sassafras, plus my self-inflicted nemesis, adenophera. It is formless and presents a blurred green backdrop. Now that I have imagined clearing this area it demands to be done!

It is a maxim that maturing gardens become shadier: you may have to re-site specimens or make difficult calls on old garden friends. As gardens mature, many plants exceed their space or outgrow their welcome: what seemed like a great idea back then may have become tedious by now. The continued re-balancing is what makes gardening an absorbing activity.

To do: daylilies may be cut back, dug, and divided now.

Tired containers?

Unpretentious island summer style, where three red geraniums in an old flowerpot sufficed, has been permanently upstaged by an influx of glossy magazine glamour. “Wow factor” has upped the ante, and many gardeners feel obliged to emulate it. Whereas the pot of three red geraniums would probably still be looking good, being well adapted to the dog-day conditions and entailing little care and expense, more elaborate containers may start looking scruffy and need changing, and require a correspondingly greater outlay.

One strategy is swapping out tired annuals for specimens of late-season flowering perennials (re-blooming daylily ‘Happy Returns’ for example); smaller flowering shrubs; and even foliage plants, grasses, and evergreens. The well-heeled discard these when passé, while the thrifty recycle them into spots elsewhere in the garden or shrub border.

Several shrubby possibilities: compact rose-of-sharon (Hibiscus syriacus); caryopteris hybrids; compact mophead, oakleaf, and panicle hydrangeas, such as ‘Limelight’; compact forms of crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia hybrids); re-blooming azaleas, lilacs, and mockoranges; and the various Knockout and Drift class roses.

Perennial possibilities: early ‘mums come to market shortly; lespedeza (bush pea) in several species; Michaelmas daisies; ornamental grasses; yuccas and agaves; and foliage plants such as perennial and tender ferns, ornamental peppers, and the multitude of colorful heuchera/heucherella/tiarella hybrids.

The above combinations will also have a more tailored appearance than summery flowers. Give them some “socks and shoes” with fall and winter blooming pansies or perennial groundcovers such as lamium, bearberry, ivies, and gaultheria.

To do: Take cuttings of geraniums for next year’s plants.

Garden phlox

We know there is nothing new under the sun, just fashionable cycles coming and going. Arbiters of garden taste in positions of influence may promote, say, grass-filled prairie gardens, and disparage flowery or colorful ones. However, according to various industry sources the old standby, summer blooming phlox, is enjoying a resurgence of popularity.

There is good reason for phlox’s (P. paniculata) enduring appeal. Phlox provide plenty of cutflower stems without depleting the overall garden effect. Hummingbirds love them. They add swathes of color and peachy scent to gardens during the high summer doldrums, mentioned above, and those colors are chromatically integrated. Even the magenta and so-called orange phlox may be used without jarring the white-pink-cerise-purple garden: they serve as exclamation points.

Culture consists of planting in full sun in rich, neutral, well-drained but moisture-retentive soil. Choose mildew-resistant cultivars, such as ‘David.’ In late fall cut stems back and side-dress with compost. Divide phlox every three to four years, making divisions of six to eight stems.

To do: Spray phlox with horticultural oil for mildew.

Onion harvest

Onions have gone over in my garden. The harvesting advice that follows is from Dixondale Farms, where Homegrown sources its onion plants. “When the tops of the onions turn brown or yellow and fall over, it’s time to harvest. Ideally, the plant will have about 13 leaves at this point. Pull the onions early in the morning on a sunny day. Dry the onions in the sun for two days. To prevent sunscald, lay the tops of one row over the bulbs of another.

Onions’ keeping quality depends on post-harvest treatment. “They must be dried thoroughly to avoid problems with rot. If left outside when the weather is dry, this will take two or three days. The entire neck (where the leaves meet the bulb) should be dry, all the way to the surface of the onion, and shouldn’t “slide” when you pinch it…. If rain is expected, you’ll need to dry your onions indoors. Spread them out in a well-ventilated area with room to breathe. Drying indoors may take longer than outdoors. Once the onions are thoroughly dry, clip the roots and cut back the tops to one inch.”

Polly Hill Arboretum

Fern Workshop, August 8, 9 am to 3 pm, and August 9, 9 am to 12 noon; with Kristin Fauteux.

Shorter Oriental lilies, such as 'Stargazer' fit well in smaller gardens.

The tall bulb lilies, formerly called August-blooming, are starting their turn in the garden, a high point in the horticultural year. They join the Vineyard’s wayside, semi-naturalized tiger lilies. Oriental and hybrid Orienpet (crosses between Trumpets and Oriental groups) lilies add focus and scent to garden spaces.

As noted, many of the above are tall and need space, and perhaps staking, to look good. However, shorter cultivars better proportioned for small gardens or the front of the border are being bred. Look for ‘Strawberry Shortcake,’ ‘Stargazer,’ ‘Mona Lisa,’ or Little Rascal Mix, among others.

New options in color as well as height have become available. The color palette of the Orientals is white through rosy pink and cerise to wine red, with touches of green and yellow at throats or in banding. With the creation of the Orienpet crosses, blends of yellow and orange, more akin to Hemerocallis colors, have joined the late summer lily wardrobe. They open up possibilities in plantings that feature hot colors of plants such as dahlias and sunflowers.

Dog days

The dog days are here and gardens cry out for redoubled efforts to keep everything looking good, healthy, and on track. Generalizations result from synthesizing one’s own experiences and so it is with this. My own garden is at its most needy now, just when all the other work-related ones are, too.

The very term, dog days (according to Wikipedia, “Dog Days were popularly believed to be an evil time — “the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies.” according to Brady’s Clavis Calendaria, 1813″) is synonymous with enervating times, when the hanging onto of one’s ambition is a challenge.

Garden hygiene

So — what is to be done? Can’t advise about cures for prostration, apart from caffeine, but I do know some of what should be done.

Adjusting staking and tidying is required daily: remove anything passé, brown, mushy, dangling, or broken. Deadheading and dead-leafing keep annuals’ flowers coming and eliminate some fodder for rot and disease organisms.

Powdery mildew afflicts drought-stressed plants when humidity is high, so water soil, not plants. Mulch adds organic matter to your soil, but make sure plants are not suffocated by it. Pull it away from crowns and stems: it may harbor earwigs, slugs, and snails, as well as disease organisms.

That said, waterlogged and compacted soils lack air, another precursor of problems, and this is alleviated by the presence of organic matter and humus in soils, upon which the micro soil organisms feed.

Good air circulation promotes plant health. Therefore, in a closely planted bed or container, this may be the time to take trowel in hand and shift things around, to increase spacing. Many plants, such as nepeta, alchemilla mollis, and various geraniums, benefit from being cut back just around now, their first flush of bloom and foliage having gone by. Their crowns will receive more light and their space will be expanded for better air circulation.

Speaking of tools in hand, it is time to look at lavender and other semi-woody herbs such as rue, santolina, culinary sage (salvia), and rosemary, with pruning in mind and clippers in hand. Pruning out woody growth, which promotes new growth that hardens off before cold weather arrives, gives the opportunity to improve or correct shapes, such as making plants more compact.

Many beds become contaminated with perennial weeds, such as mugwort or fleshy-rooted bindweed, when nursery stock or shared plants are brought in. Be on the lookout for the appearance of these uninvited problems, which like all weeds are more easily controlled sooner than later.

It is much the same with the vegetable garden. Weeding, sanitation, staking, harvesting, and pest control are the operations that correspond to the above measures in ornamental gardens, plus sowing fall crops.

Now is a good time to give perennials and annuals a feed to support foliage and flower production. The earlier rains may have leached container mixes. Lightly scratched-in organic fertilizer (“soil food”), or liquid feeds for both soil and leaves supplied by liquid seaweed, fish emulsion, and compost and comfrey teas, are the means I recommend.

Alys’s comfrey tea

The following information about comfrey is from Alys Fowler’s column in the Guardian:

“Common comfrey (Symphytum officinale) self-seeds and can become invasive, so it’s worth hunting down ‘Bocking 14′, a variety of Russian comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum) that is bred to be sterile.

“Comfrey is rich in potassium (K), which is required for fruit production, and also contains potash (P) and nitrogen (N). A liquid comfrey feed has a higher NPK ratio than farmyard manure. Comfrey is also one of the few plants to contain vitamin B12, so it’s a rich source of food for plants.

“A comfrey feed takes about four weeks to rot down. There’s no precise recipe, but the goal is to end up with something the colour of weak tea. Start with a bucket of chopped, packed leaves. If you add a little water, you will get a black liquid; dilute this in the ratio of one part comfrey to 20 parts water. If you add two watering cans of water (10 litres), the liquid should be cola brown and must be diluted 1:10. For a mixture you don’t need to dilute, use a bucket of leaves and a barrel of water. However you make it, use a container with a lid, to keep down the smell.”

Polly Hill Arboretum

The Polly Hill Arboretum holds the national Stewartia collection. These trees possess multi-season interest, but now is the time to visit for viewing their flowers.

In addition, PHA offers the following programs:

July 27: The Botany of Beer, with Tim Boland and Julie Jenning, 3–5 pm.

July 30: Our Healing Heritage, with Holly Bellabuono, 4–5 pm.

July 31: A Rich Spot of Earth, with Peter Hatch on Jefferson’s gardens at Monticello, 7:30 pm.