September Garden Surprises
September comes with a to-do list and, fortunately, the energy to tackle it. After the long, hot days of August, we suddenly realize that there is a lot to be done inside and outside as the fall and winter approach. The shortening days, cooler temperatures, and subtle yet powerful change in the quality of the sunlight signal a time for action! However, before we get into all that, let us procrastinate a bit longer and look at the gardens….
Throughout the summer, Joe and I check the gardens each morning, looking for insects, weeds, rodent damage, and perhaps a vegetable or two. Things always seem to tootle along just fine until August. August is the month of decline; the plants decide that they’ve had it with the searing heat and are calling it a season, no matter how much watering we do. The tomatoes and tomatillos are long and scraggly with a few flowers but no fruit. The summer squash and zucchini have long since stopped production, and even though the cucumber vines continue to wind and wrap themselves around everything, nothing seems to come of it. “What’s the point?” they seem to say.
But not so fast… just when it feels like the best course of action is to write everything off and start planning for next spring, I notice that some parts of the garden are showing remarkable vigor for late summer. September is prime time for these late bloomers. They essentially take over, as if to say, “Tomatoes, Zucchini, you rest now… we’ve got this.” Good thing, too, because as much as I love fall, I’m not quite ready to turn away from the garden just yet. So, who are these amazing late-comers?
Well, gourds, for one. Joe has always wanted to grow gourds, and this year was the year. We started them from seeds and were rewarded with lovely seedlings and then fast growing vines. But no gourds. Later, we were further rewarded with beautiful delicate white night-blooming flowers. But no gourds. The flowers would die, and that seemed to be that. Maybe the local pollinators were just not doing their job? Then, just as I was ready to take my smaller watercolor brush out there for a little DIY pollination, THIS appeared:
And soon after, there were a few more. Now, we have at least five gourdlings happily growing among the vines. There may be more; they are darn good at hiding. September is their time.
We bought it last year at our local native plant nursery, but now can’t remember the name of it. We were just happy that it reappeared this spring. It grew and grew, over six feet tall, but no blossoms and no clue to its identity. It was pretty and all, but what was it? Then, finally, last week–surprise! Lots of yellow flowers!
So, we *think* we have a swamp sunflower. Not 100% sure, but I’m going with that for now. Welcome, September sunflowers!
A few other plants are doing amazingly well during this late summer time. Our pole beans have more than covered their trellises with lovely dark green leaves and dainty flowers. The zinnias are flowering in deep pinks and corals, keeping their heads above the gourds and everything else. And finally, my favorite this year, the sweet cypress vine. This vine was started from seed and had a pretty shaky start but now is outgrowing everything in the yard. You can’t beat its feathery dark green leaves and deep pink (and a few white) flowers. The hummers love it, too.
All this late-season growth reminds me that I should be a little more productive myself and maybe get a jump on some of the fall chores. But, I think I’ll wait ’til next weekend; for now, I need to spend a little more time appreciating the many beautiful surprises of my September gardens.