Sunday, May 23, 2010

Seed Setting Collards and Other Things

My collard plants and I go back quite a ways. They had sojourned at the Hawkins house most of the previous spring in a small container, until I moved them to Stratford last summer. They were one of the first things I planted in what I now call the Random Garden. I was surprised that they survived this past winter, as we had some severely low temperatures here, at least by coastal Connecticut standards, any way. But I actually even harvested leaves throughout the winter and included them in a few holiday meals:

My collards in a small container (far right), over a year ago.

Picking some leaves this past winter.

In late March or early April of this year, the collards began to bolt skyward until they were nearly as tall as I am. They produced a lot of flowers, and it was only a few days ago that the last of their flowers fell away, completely exposing their seed pods:

Drooping collards laden with seed pods.

Some of the seed pods up close.

One of the oddest things, however, is what appears to be new growth emerging just below the older plants. I am not sure if these are juvenile plants spawn from seeds that might've dropped earlier, or simply new shoots coming up from the old root system. The idea that they are completely new plants seems unlikely given the fact that the seed pods themselves are relatively recent and still look pretty green. On the other hand, collards are not necessarily perennial plants (at least not in my zone), so how could these be new shoots from the older plants? 'Tis somewhat confusing to a relatively new collard gardener!

Two new collard stems rising from the earth. The smaller plant on the extreme left is probably a mint plant that somehow got seeded over here, about a yard or two from the nearest mint.

Regardless of the origins of the new growth, I will soon have to cut the old plants down. I am going to attempt to harvest as many seeds as possible and use them to cultivate new plants in other forthcoming garden beds. Only I am not quite sure how much longer to leave the old plants intact to allow the seeds to mature. My plan for now is to watch them closely and cut them down as soon as I notice the stems drying out.

My bee balm (likewise planted last spring) has also produced several offspring. Today, I attempted to transplant one of them to fill an empty spot in the expanding row of herbs along the front of the garden bed. When I dug, I found that the new plants were the result of two underground runners sent off by the parent:

Parent bee balm and offspring.

The two runners connecting parent with children.

Needless to say, I snipped the runners and carefully transplanted the new plants to their new location just within the border and right next to a recently-planted basil:

Newly transplanted bee balm.

I spent the rest of my allotted gardening time this afternoon laying cedar mulch down beneath the various border plants -- the sedum and wintercreeper along the sides and front, and the different decorative perennials forming the backdrop of the garden bed:

Lavendar, sedum, wintercreeper, basket of gold, dill, basil and veronica speedwell all got a little cedar mulch protection today.

As did the autumn joy, Russian sage, and bee balm.

Continuing with the mulch border around one of a number of stepping stones I've strategically placed around the garden to enable access to the plants.

As for the various vegetable patches themselves, I wanted to experiment with a living mulch this season, so I am soon going to plant buckwheat around the beans and squash. I figure that if I plant it at the beginning of June, and it takes about 30 days to mature, then my living mulch should be fairly well established in time for the onslaught of summer heat. I may then also cut it down if it gets out of control (thereby using the cuttings as mulch), and plant another crop of buckwheat on top of that old one. We'll see how all this works out. For a good summary on the use of living mulches, see this article by Tee Riddle of

Here are some other miscellaneous photos I took today or this past week:

The soil temperature in the Random Garden was a balmy 74.5 degree F today (although I also recorded about 72 degrees F in a shadier spot).

The perennial blue salvia is now blooming against its lush fern backdrop.

A view looking into the extreme northern tip of the tidal estuary behind our place in Stratford that I like to call The Fen. The early settlers wrote a bit about this area and the abundance of birds and other wildlife here. For me, The Fen provides a practically limitless supply of leaf mold for my garden plots. :-)


  1. Everything is looking very green and lovely in your garden!

  2. Thanks Shelley! Glad to have you following. Believe me, this garden as a long way to go!