Garden Journal: Week of 8/15

Erica here with the mid-August garden update!

It’s been a real treat to work in the garden this past week, especially in the crisp, cool air of the early morning hours – a reminder that fall is right around the corner.  The plants seem to be enjoying this weather too, especially as the week has brought a good amount of precipitation.

We did get quite the storm to start off the week – a microburst hit Charlottesville on Sunday night, and while there was extensive damage throughout the city, the garden fared incredibly well.  When I arrived at the garden Monday morning, I expected to see a lot of downed plants, particularly among the taller plants in the garden, but was pleased to see that all of the corn was intact (!!!), the sunflowers were minimally affected, and that, while a few of our cotton plants suffered some wind damage, it was nothing that a few well-placed bamboo stakes couldn’t fix!  Whether it was sheer luck or a combination of luck and the help of the additional support we’ve provided, particularly to the corn and sunflowers, we may never know!

On our Tuesday workday, Rachael and Lily worked to protect our sunflower crop from our ever-present foes: squirrels and hungry birds.  As we are looking to use the seeds in upcoming workshops and courses, Rachael devised a fantastic covering for the sunflower seed heads from mesh and fishing line.  We call it the “shower cap” or “hairnet” system.

Rachael sewing the plastic netting together to create smaller openings and a more stable structure in the sunflower covering..

Rachael testing out the mesh cap on both her head and the sunflower's!

Hopefully, this will prove to be a successful deterrent – we’ll keep you posted!

Rachael and I also began the laser-cutting of our Buckingham slate plant labels this week!

Me configuring the laser cutter to accommodate the slate tiles.

Left: Our test tile! Center and Right: If you look carefully past the reflections on the glass top of the laser cutter, you can see the laser's progress and the final project beginning to emerge!

The labels came out beautifully!  We plan to get them into the ground this coming week and test a few different surface treatments to increase contrast and bring out even further the beauty of the stone.  We’ll be sure to post more images of these soon!

As we begin to wrap up the summer, we all thought it would be fun to highlight some of the garden’s lovely “unsung plant heroes” that, as of yet, haven’t gotten a lot of attention on the blog.

Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) | the silvery, soft, aromatic (and infamous) herb

Indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) | very slow to establish this year, it is wonderful to finally see the plants growing steadily! They will be featured in the upcoming short course dye workshop!

Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) | a beautiful, little, moisture-loving plant that was traditionally grown for its medicinal and household uses. The name is derived from its use as a mild cleaning agent.

Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) | the fast-growing cover crop and pollinator-magnet

Red clover (Trifolium pratense) | our delicate, slower and lower-growing, soil enriching cover crop

And lastly, here are a few recent metamorphoses that have occurred in the garden:

The pleurisy root (Asclepias tuberosa) has begun to produce its characteristic seedpods!

Monarch caterpillers are growing by leaps and bounds, thanks to host plant, swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)!

Seed pods develop on the sesame plants (Sesamum indicum) as the plant continues to bloom and attract pollinators.

Well, as I wrap up this post, I have to face the sad truth… this is my last blog post as a TJDG summer intern.  While I will continue posting about ongoing projects, such as the development and creation of our beautiful garden signage and the upcoming construction of our hops trellises, this will be my last, comprehensive garden update.

But never fear! We have some fantastic fall interns who will be keeping you abreast of all of the weekly developments in the garden so you won’t miss a thing!  We’ll be welcoming them into the garden as the fall semester and a new growing season begins.  Stay tuned for their updates, reports on new plants (!!!), fall projects, and workshops!

As always, hope to see you in the garden!

-Erica

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