Summer Solstice 2019

Summer arrived in a downpour making it hard to distinguish from spring. While I’m still wearing fleece at the dawn and dusk, I have put away my flannel nightgown. It’s warming up.

Sadly, I was not snapping photos in the spring so that season is not represented here. With all the cool — really cold — rain, plants thrived. This was something of a triumph because last year I sent soil samples to the University of Connecticut only to learn that the three areas I have been trying to convert to gardens adjacent to my out buildings were nearly Superfund sites. The other area that did not test well was a corner of the meadow, what I now call the hillside garden, that for at least the three decades had supported Lonicera, Japanese knotweed and Goldenrod. There has been much speculation around here about why the soil next to the sheds and the old barn were so poor. Our favorite thesis based on elevated lead levels in those areas is that there was a good bit of dumping that went on there.

SKIP AHEAD if you don’t want to read soil reports. The clothes line garden had excessive calcium and below optimum Potassium. The outside shower garden had above optimum calcium and below optimum Potassium. The eastern side of the guest house garden, the only piece I tested because the other areas support plants, was below optimum for calcium, Magnesium and Potassium. I am pleased to report it has optimum amounts of Phosphorus. The hillside garden was below optimum for all four elements. Even the Winterberry garden that was planted in largely new soil imported as part of the 2010 renovation was shy of optimum Magnesium and Potassium. Only the clothes line garden was within a range of tolerable acidity and around here, we tolerate a lot of acidity.

The fall and early winter were busy times for soil amendment campaigns. This spring as I planted in the areas that had tested poorly, I kept up the soil augmentation. The process has been taxing. Although I mix my own fertilizers, I could not make one batch for all areas because each area needs a different prescription. Then UCONN gave the rates of application for areas much bigger than mine so I had to do more arithmetic to scale down to my small gardens. Patience is a virtue in gardening but one I don’t always have. I hope I have not put too many plants into unhealthy soil because I spent only a few months making amendments.

Ninebark and Buttonbush

Astillbe, Bloodroot and a non-native Solomon’s seal

Box and Meadow rue

Penstemon and Oakleaf hydrangea

Lamb’s ear and Iris

Rhododendron maximum and Hay scented fern

Douglas fir new growth

Blue spruce new growth

While its too early to tell about the “new” gardens, the old ones thought they were in England and thrived. Not only am I an impatient gardener, I am also untrained when it comes to garden design. The one design idea I do employ is leave shape and color contrasts. If Eskimos need hundreds of words for ice, I could use a larger hue vocabulary for green.

On the fauna front: the honey bees did not make it to the spring but they left me a full box of honey. I was in Holland and Germany at the time when I would have started new hives, so I’m going without this year. First time in a decade. Honey bees are around. Today I saw quite a number by the empty, open boxes stacked beside the mud room porch.

A Monarch returned on the exact day she arrived last year — 3 June. It was sunny and relatively warm that day. She did the first-Monarch-back thing of looking as though she barely had energy to fly, limping from one milkweed to another. Then she seemed to be gone. Another has appeared as of today. This one is full of energy, flitting around the meadow.

The June bugs seemed to come later than usual, although I don’t make note of when they arrive. Maybe I shouldn’t expect them before mid month.

There’s nothing special to report about the birds: all the usual suspects have been here more or less on schedule. No maybe the Hummingbirds were later than usual. There also seem to be fewer of them. Only the Grackles and the Cardinals come to the feeders most days so I have slacked off in keeping them full. The other birds are busy catching bugs to feed their babies. The Orioles liked the new feeder that Charlotte gave me for my birthday. I like it too; it requires half and orange and no syrup.

The Eastern bluebirds who seemed to be taking up residence in the early spring moved on. I culled some 15 eggs from the two House sparrow nests in the nesting boxes. I set the trap when I saw a few juvenile House sparrows but I only ensnared a Cat bird, a male Cardinal, and a Cow bird so I disbanded that activity for the year. Tree swallows have a nest box in the meadow that’s about to fledge. A Wren has the fourth box.

We have a good crop of Downy woodpeckers. A couple of juveniles were squawking from a low branch of the Sugar maple just off the porch as I eat breakfast. They were soon feed some no doubt yummy bugs and then went about trying for themselves to find something in the bark of the tree to eat.

Great horned and Barred owls call at night. Peepers and other amphibians keep the nights noisy until first light when the bird ruckass starts. Yariv was here with his family over Memorial Day weekend. It’s louder here than Second Avenue, he said at breakfast.

A lone deer appears many evenings at dusk. Perhaps I’m sleeping through their calls, but I haven’t heard coyotes or foxes since I returned from Europe in early May.

So on to the shortening days of summer. If past years are a prediction, we’ll soon be in a heat wave accompanied by a drought. We’ll be longing for the cool rains of the spring even if, from time to time, they were torrential.

 

 

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