Monday, August 30, 2010

Battling the garden jungle

Are any of you other gardeners out there having a late summer battle against jungle-like vegetables and flowers? I'm afraid I misjudged just how huge some things can get. Here are some examples.
Next year the zucchinis will not be in the potager proper. They do not conform to the rule of thumb that no plant should be taller than the horizontal dimensions of the bed it's in. Also, I'm only going to have one plant instead of two. I have moss roses (aka purslane) I grew from seed (portulaca grandiflora) that only blossom when the sun shines on them, and the zucchinis have effectively prevented this. So every day I chop off huge leaves - up to two feet in diameter - to give them and also my boxwoods some light. The zucchinis are supposedly a climbing variety. That may well be, but they have conquered every pole I tried to fasten them to, just too heavy. One day an entire plant had collapsed on the ground, and I needed my husband to lift it. (Please click to enlarge.)
Here views of the moss roses right after I chopped off some zucchini leaves and a little later after they'd then gotten some sun. What you see on the stevia is a snail collar. If you have a slug problem like I do, I highly recommend them. My stevia was almost completely devoured and is now doing nicely.
A gardening friend gave me some small seedlings after I'd admired her sunflowers last year. I planted them in one of my rose beds, carefully protecting each of the small plants with a snail collar. They turned into hardy plants, and when they'd reached about 2 meters in height (about 6.5 feet) I expected them to start blooming, as hers long since were. Here a shot of how they looked at this height.
But no, some of them didn't even have marked buds at this height, and they just kept growing and growing, jack-and-the-beanstalk-like. They've now reached over 3 meters (over 12 feet) and are starting to bloom, with up to 20 blossoms per stalk! I'm afraid some of the roses and my potted tomatoes along the wall of the cottage might not be getting enough sun, but think they are spectacularly worth it.
The flowers are already attracting birds and bumble bees.
Nasturtium (Kapuzinerkresse)
My predecessor in the allotment had attempted to build a brick compost container, which turned out to be impractical since it had no earth contact and was impossible to empty. He soon realized this and had just closed it with a board. I decided to fill it with earth and see if it would work as a raised bed. As a first try I planted nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) in it with great results. No aphids either. They haven't blossomed a lot, but the leaves are beautiful and a perfect cover for a previous sore spot in the garden. I am having to cut it back, though, in order to get to the compost bins.
OK, I admit that our sprawling blackberries are running riot because of pruning mistakes, although I do sort of enjoy the jungle-like feeling they give our patio enclosure. Our neighbor has kindly offered to help us prune them this year. HIS blackberries are perfect, and he's already pruned them for the winter, leaving just one or two stalks per plant. I'm sure we'll have a better harvest if we're more severe about pruning. I have to frequently chop away at them to ensure the survival of the Kerria japonica (Ranunkelstrauch) we planted in the spring.


  1. Die Sonnenblumen und Zucchini sind wirklich umwerfend und die selbtsgezogenen Portulaca grandiflora finde ich auch beeindruckend da ich es noch nie geschafft habe, die aus Samen zu ziehen.

  2. I give our blackberry a severe haircut each year and I think it gives us larger berries this way. You do need to be well protected against the thorns though!

  3. Hi, Barbara, After years of gardening, I still underestimate the full-grown size of some plants. Your sunflowers are gorgeous. Pam

  4. Wow, Barbara, you must have some great soil to get such fabulous results.

  5. Are you sure that zucchini isn't another kind of plant on steroids? lol It has surely taken over but such a beauty!

  6. hi Barbara, I know the feeling re: zucchini...and I have done the same thing in the past, ruthlessly chopped leaves off to help nearby plants. Every year when I plant them I forget how enormous they sprawl! Love those sunflowers, taller than your roof! I really like how you have stuffed your garden so full of plants. Less lawn, more plants is my credo as well :-)

  7. Hi Barbara, I love those sunflowers! That is the way sunflowers were meant to be grown. They are beautiful. Rosa Caramba is the name of the rose, and it is a groundcover rose, pretty much care free. You mention Black spot. If it is bad enough, it gets in the soil so it may be best to not plant another rose there. There are systemic products you can purchase to apply in the Spring that will last for several months and prevent blackspot. This shrub rose actually doesn't need much more than water and sunshine. There is a another variety of shrub rose you may enjoy that comes in several colors. They are called Knockout Roses and are very similar to Rosa Caramba in their quality. features. I'm so envious of your hiking trip. Sounds like such an adventure!

  8. Dear Barbara, I had no need to 'click to enlarge' since just a glance at your zucchinis was enough to convince me that they should win prizes for the biggest in show!! Your garden does indeed seem to be very lush and, as you say, taming is needed if some of your prized possessions are not to be swamped. However, this is all much more preferable, in my mind, to the searing heat and drought which seems to have dried and destroyed so many gardens this year.

    Thank you so much for your 'Favourite' award, through which I have happily found you. You are only the second gardener in Germany that I have met yet in the Blogosphere.

  9. College gardener: The Portulaca grandiflora is hard to raise because the seeds are so tiny and the seedlings stay tiny for so long. Once they take hold, though, they are very hardy. A lot of work for an annual, admittedly.

    Green Lane Allotments: Our blackberry seems to be some kind of hybrid without bad thorns. I do notice that it keeps getting wild shoots with large thorns, though. Maybe pruning would prevent that.

    Pam: I'm glad to hear that even experienced gardeners have the same problem.

    Deborah: I think we are blessed with great soil, and I'm conscientious about composting. Also a relatively protected location and lots of rain. Lots of slugs, too.

    Tina: I know - I took a second look at the seed package myself. It says they achieve a height of about one meter - yeah right, mine are taller than I am.

    Ellen: It seems like there's never enough space for all the plants I want to have. The rest of the family insists on a minimum amount of lawn, though. LOL

    Meredehuit: Thanks for the tips on the roses and black spot. I was wondering whether it would be a good idea to put new roses somewhere else.

    Edith: "Lush" is a nice way of putting it! We are blessed with lots of rain and humidity here in the Rhine Valley. For humans not always great, but perfect for the garden. Gardening is the number one hobby of all Germans, so maybe you'll discover some more German blogs in time.

  10. Those sunflowers are real tall.

  11. You are fantastically talented at gardening!

    Thanks for the fave on botanical. What a way to make my day!


  12. Barbara, your garden looks as though it's located in the tropics, not in central Europe! Good grief! You're obviously a fantastic gardener, because the proof is in the pudding! Bravo!!

  13. Babara, the sunflowers are really HUGE! I never knew that they can grow so tall. You must have added some magic fertilizer. You are really good in gardening.

  14. I love your jungle Barbara! You must have great soil and tenderly care for your garden. ;>)

  15. No blackberries here, not even one. They are the coveted holy grail of berries in my part of the world. The blueberries are coming along ok though.

    As for giant vegetables, we just had our state fair and there were some big ones (how does an 1100 pound pumpking sound?). My vegetable garden is nothing to be proud of...too many slugs this year.

    Christine in Alaska

  16. Barbara, Your sunflowers are amazing! I love the photo of the open flower with the bee on it. -Jean

  17. First visit here. I love your blog!
    I have never ever seen such a huge zucchini-plant. Very impressive, though I can imagine that it is a bit inconvenient. The sunflowers are also nice - they make me smile.