Summer simmers in the hollow. We’ve just gone through a week of temps in the upper 90’s steeped in soupy humidity. Thunderstorms reverberate around the hills more afternoons than not and we’ve measured just under a half inch this week with more to come. Yet the shade of the old ash tree seedling John transplanted so many years ago from Carr’s Hill still beckons through the shade to the meadow of swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), yarrow, Queen Anne’s lace, black-eyed-Susan, and the ubiquitous yellow wingstem, also called the yellow ironweed (Vernonia alternifollia).
Tomatoes and peppers are coming in, the Malabar spinach is lush – you can almost taste the deep green iron from our clay loam soil. Following through on my resolution to have something going on in the vegetable garden at all times, I sowed kale, radishes, carrots and miscellaneous mesclun on the 17th – plus all my old seed packets from previous years – and have had great germination. The key is to sow seeds that want the warm soil and will segue into fall. Have found an old schedule from John Scheepers that tells what to sow according to weeks after Final Frost Date (May 15th for central Virginia). 7/15 – 8/1 calls for carrots, beets, broccoli and kale, with arugula, radishes, salad greens, spinach, and Swiss chard.
After a disappointing – virtually nil – yield from the showy scarlet runner bean I grew last year (great flowers, no beans; turns out it doesn’t like the heat!), I’m trying a variety of cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), also called southern pea, an unfortunately named cultivar called ‘Pinkeye Purple Hull’, a bush variety that does not need trellising. They are supposedly a good hot weather crop for fresh or dried peas and thrive in poor soils and hot situations, a staple for poor people of the South. I’ve been using thinnings (4-6″ between plants) as sprouts in stir fries.
The old Jeffersonian Pelargonium inquinans thrives in the decades old turquoise pots we got from Lewis Ginter. This is the iconic geranium Rembrandt Peale is caressing in his father’s famous painting. I make starts each year from several mother plants and John uses them at Carr’s Hill as well.
The glazed pottery makes it through the winter just fine all cleaned up and empty when we remove the sunken nursery pots that hold the geraniums. Still beautiful and gives Zsa-Zsa a place to pounce from.