Stuff that surprised me this year

mulberryknobAugust 22, 2011

I have always thought of lettuce and parsley as cool-weather water-loving plants. So I was surprised when both survived the summer with so little water. The parsley got no direct water but stole some from the nearby peppers. I never even saw it wilt. The lettuce that I left in a couple beds got no extra water and lived until I cleaned out the plants last week. They not only lived but bloomed and set seed. The cilantro and arugula died long ago after setting seed and now I have one 4X8 bed that is a solid mat of arugula seedlings. The grasshoppers leave it alone unlike my unprotected lettuce seedlings which disappeared while only an inch high.

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I think my biggest surprise this year was in the flower bed. The peony blossoms didn't hang on quite as long as usual, but the plants are gorgeous. They have shown no sign of failing at all. To look at them, all full and lush, you'd never know how hot and dry it's been. Everything around them, with the exception of the lavender, is struggling. I sure never expected that.

Another surprise has been the hosta. They're in light shade and fast-draining soil, so I was afraid they'd suffer, and they have not. They seem perfectly happy and are doing quite well.

Then there's the Pinata rose. I mentioned earlier that it seems unaffected by the conditions. It did quit blooming for a while, but it got some rain last week and is now back into full bloom. It's very satisfactory. Go figure.


    Bookmark   August 22, 2011 at 3:10PM
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Basil was my biggest surprise this year. I threw out some seed and I think every seed made a three foot high plant. I cut them back, barely water them and they are just going nuts. What a nice surprise. But I definately had some losers though, my Brussels sprouts didn't stay in nice little heads they are more Brussels flowers. From what I understand I need to amend my soil to correct that. Also my one row of corn didn't make kernels, weird. But I really can't complain I did get a good number of tomatoes and melons despite the crazy weather. It's been a steep learning curve this year.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2011 at 7:20PM
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grn__girl, The reason your one row of corn didn't make kernels is because corn is wind pollinated and so needs to be planted in a block of at least 4 rows and even more will be better. We plant our sweet corn in blocks of 6 or 8 rows because we want well-filled cobs. But last year I planted the Mesquakie Indian corn that George gave us in a block of 4 rows and it pollinated fairly well. It gave us 30# of shelled dried corn to turn into meal. And since we shelled it out it didn't matter that not every cob was totally full.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2011 at 8:56PM
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What surprised me was the salad burnet and sweet violets that I grow in big tubs. They did have to be watered, and occasionally fertilized, but but aside from getting a little dull in color when needing water, they were quite happy. Salad burnet even likes it in the ground under the north facing eaves-- full shade-- as long as it gets a little water every so often. Lettuce they're not, but they make pretty good summer salading.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2011 at 9:22PM
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grn__girl, IF you Brussels Sprouts made flowers you left them too long. The only time I tried to grow them here I got sprouts that were only half the size of storebought. Ok weather just isn't to their liking.

My basil that I gave up watering a month ago came back lush and green after our rains started 2 weeks ago. I can make more pesto!

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 10:47AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

grn grl,

To add to what Dorothy said about you leaving the sprouts too long before you harvested them, they also aren't very happy in our spring weather and tend to bolt very quickly.

I have more luck with Brussels Sprouts performing properly in the fall than in the spring. In the spring, the weather often heats up too quickly and they bolt almost as soon as the buds form because they're being exposed to both increasing daylength and heat. In the fall, it is the opposite. They are being exposed to a decreasing amount of daylight hours and to decreasing temperatures.

Brussels sprouts are a cool-season crop that needs a longish cool season to produce and fall usually gives them that, or at least it gives them more of that than spring does.

You'll get the best quality harvest from your brussels sprouts if the sprouts are forming when daytime highs are in the 50s and 60s. You can harvest brussel sprouts for a month to six weeks or maybe even 8-weeks in a mild fall if the weather is extremely cooperative. If you're able to cover up the brussel sprouts on any nights when the temps dip below about 40-45 degrees, you'll get better quality sprouts, and if you cover them up well enough to protect them from freezing when the temps hit the mid-20s, you can keep them going well into the winter.

Brussels sprouts are a lot of trouble to grow, but very tasty in a year when the temperatures are just right....much better than any brussels sprouts you'll buy at the store!


    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 12:32PM
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When most things were struggling to survive, the basil was growing like crazy. I guess we learned just how much heat it can take.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 1:44PM
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I was surprised today to find 1 single apple tree I planted this yr had new leaf buds on it! The heat & grasshoppers have turned all 15 trees I planted into tall twigs. Seeing the buds on the apple tree gave me hope that a few others might survive!

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 4:26PM
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Gosh thanks for all the good advice. This was my first year with corn and I obviously didn't research it well, I'm thankful now for the few measly cobs I did get. Ok as for the Brussels sprouts, the very first year we gardened we put in some starts and they did beautifully, we harvested in September I think. But that was way back in 2005 so that just must have been one of those perfect years that made me think they were easy to grow. The last two years I have tried to grow them I've had failure. I think I may try them again next fall. By the way my google research just indicated that I may need to add lime to the soil, that's why I like talking to locals you all know what's up! Thanks again.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 6:59PM
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never having grown peps I will say the humble sweet wax banana out produced everythibng 20 to 1.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 9:12PM
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Banana always seems to grow but so many peppers have a better taste than that one that I rarely grow it.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 10:44PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Before you add anything to your soil, be sure you know what your soil's pH is because it is really important. If you have highly alkaline soil, adding lime would be a disaster but if you have highly acidic soil, then lime might help improve it. You can get a soil test through OSU's Soil, Water & Forage Lab.

Normally, brussels sprouts will grow well in soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.5 and that's a pretty wide range. If your soil is below 5.5, then it is likely that adding lime would improve the brussels sprouts' performance because when grown in soil that is too acidic the brussels sprouts plants tend to remain stunted and small.

If you grew brussels sprouts all summer long in 2005 and they produced well in fall, you must have had really favorable weather...or beginner's luck, and if you're still gardening in the same soil, then your pH certainly wasn't a problem back them. I got a good crop of them one summer too during what was a fairly cool and wet summer, but normally they just can't handle the heat.


Here is a link that might be useful: OSU's Soil, Water & Forage Analytical Lab

    Bookmark   August 24, 2011 at 12:37AM
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Thanks Dawn, I'm planning on getting cozy with my local extension office. Your right I should definitely get some analysis done before I go crazy with amendments. After this discussion I'm thinking it's heat/ planting time ( even though I planted the Brussels in march) instead of soil. I'll try again next year.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2011 at 3:08PM
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