Lucy Lu, our Mini Labradoodle, is thoroughly enjoying the dog days of summer. She rolls in the grass, steals a fig or two, snoozes in the hot sun, and then cools down by the fountain, shaded by the giant leaves of the banana tree.
Meanwhile, Riley keeps a sharp eye on the chicken coop. He’s a chicken fanatic.
He oversees it. The little peeping noises and clucks drive him wild.
He undersees it. Because they might sneak out somehow. His diligence is impressive.
He will not let those chickens out of their yard. He takes his job very seriously. He has a problem. He’s a chicken addict.
While the dogs enjoy the heck of out themselves, we prep and plant the Fall garden. Even though it is still hot as Hades here, it’s none too soon to be planting. Today, we prepped several of the 4X8 raised beds. A few scoops of mushroom compost top each raised bed, along with a good helping of high quality organic fertilizer. Then each bed is turned over with a pitchfork and smoothed with the hard rake. That’s it!
Raised beds are great because you can use intensive planting methods. The richness of the soil and the ability to control moisture mean more plants can be planted in less space. Additionally, I love to combine plants. Companion planting is good for the garden and makes it more interesting and beautiful. There are many plants that actually benefit from one another. A classic example is planting basil with tomatoes, which improves the flavor of both. I will use companion planting for the majority of our beds.
In the first bed, I tuck in some transplants along with some seeds. The transplants insure that we have homegrown, organic veggies in time for Thanksgiving, when the whole family comes to Cowlick Cottage. They expect homegrown veggies. It’s their birthright. Baby broccoli, cabbages, and Red Sails lettuce go in like a breeze. I also tuck in some radish seed around the edges of the bed. They grow quickly and will be pulled to eat before they get in the way of the larger plants.
The second bed is seeded with one of our favorite lettuces, Parris Island Cos, along with spicy arugula. We will use these greens as “cut and come again”, insuring weeks of fresh and delicious salads. In a few weeks I will plant more lettuce and arugula, providing us with a continuous supply through most of the winter.
A third, smaller square is the home of a few Better Boy tomato transplants. I have never planted fall tomatoes, so this is a test. Better Boys do well here in north Florida, and they have great flavor. To keep the tomatoes company, I sow the seed for Red Core Chantenay Carrots. Because carrots love tomatoes! I broadcast the carrot seeds around the tomato plants and scratch them into the top of the soil.
The next bed is planted with the stunningly gorgeous Swiss Chard Rainbow, which adds so much color and beauty to the Fall garden and to autumn salads and side dishes. I seed an entire bed with it and cannot wait to enjoy its colorful beauty amongst all the greens.
Finally, the sorry-looking strawberry bed needs a little rejuvenating. It’s overgrown and cramped, so we dig the whole bed up, divide the plants, amend the soil with lots of organic matter, and replant them. Last year, we got about a quart of berries a day from this one bed, and we ate them all!
Oh, one more bed to make this morning – my own! On second thought, maybe I will just crawl under the covers for a short nap…