With all the rain we’ve had over the past three weeks, you’d think my house would be squeaky clean.
Alas, not so much.
With all the rain we’ve had over the past three weeks, you’d think my house would be squeaky clean.
Alas, not so much.
The love of gardening that is.
Any gardener will tell you that the honeymoon phase of gardening doesn’t last long. Once the plants are in, there’s weeding, watering and nurturing to do, year in and out. Unless you have a cadre of gardeners to tend to your flowers and plants, you don gloves and sunscreen and spend a lot more time on hands and knees than you do standing back admiring your handiwork.
Speaking from a “few” (cough) decades of personal experience, there’s nothing romantic about gardening in Southern soil. In fact, I would argue it’s not even soil; it’s just nasty, heavy, slick red and gray clay. Almost greasy when it’s wet and forms rock-hard clods or bone-dry silt when it dries, depending on what you did to it when it was wet. My garden beds have a voracious appetite for organic matter and they seem to devour it almost as fast as I can apply it. I hear-tell that Southern sandy soil is nearly as nasty and twice as hungry and thirsty.
I carefully applied a dozen bags of pine fines and mushroom compost around each perennial last week, and I’m happy to report that most of my transplant/refugee plants are taking off and growing like gangbusters.
After I finished with all those bags, I realized I need a lot more than that to get the beds topped off this year. So I talked Mr. Official into getting a load of bulk compost over the weekend. And by load, I mean 1 1/2 cubic yards. That’s a lot of ummmm, “stuff” if you catch my drift. And speaking of drift…
Oh my word.
As I pitch forkful after forkful of this steaming stuff, from big trailer to small trailer to garden beds, my mind conjures up all sorts of obscure adjectives. Words you just don’t hear every day.
The list goes on.
I’m just glad plants can’t smell, because this would be an intolerable situation to grow in if they could. And if you visit my garden in the next few weeks, I probably won’t encourage you to lean in close to sniff the flowers. But it did put me in mind of the old poem penned by Frank Lebby Stanton, a Charleston SC native and longtime journalist for the Atlanta Constitution:
“This old world we’re livin’ in
Is mighty hard to beat
We get a thorn with every rose
But ain’t the roses sweet?”
If life is like a river, then I’ve been furiously paddling some rapids for the past several weeks. Yes, I consciously chose the rapids, so I have no one to blame but myself. But Summer 2012 was definitely not a “lazy river” float trip. Whew.
A week or so ago, a friend of mine pinned this on her board, and I repinned it to mine. It keeps running through my head – am I busier than God intended me to be? Part of me loves living at a pace that is non-stop, with every day crammed chock-full of generating good ideas and executing projects to completion.
Case in point:
In the midst of all that, Swimmer Girl had her last first day of school. She turned 17 without much fanfare or hoopla.
Our beloved pooch – a lazy beast to begin with – became more lethargic day by day this summer. Finally the symptoms worsened and I took her to the vet last week, to find out she had colitis; an inflamed colon typically caused by a) dietary change, b) eating something that made her ill, or c) stress. With her history, we’re gonna go with “c” on that one. Things seem to have righted themselves in her world, thanks to a hefty round of anti-inflammatory meds. She’s perkier and more active than she has been in a while. I wish I had noticed the onset of symptoms earlier but in my hustle and bustle, I chalked it up to her age and the “dog days” of summer. Bad me.
For better or worse, my life’s pace has quickened, at least for now. I am ever mindful of the pitfalls of “busy-ness” and so I’m determined to balance things to make sure I’m running my life and not the other way around. My family will be relieved when I demonstrate that I do remember how to cook and clean better than the “lick and a promise” approach I’ve employed during the past couple months.
The good news is fall seems to be coming early: we’ve slept with windows open the past several nights – unheard of in August in the south. Maybe this is nature’s way of apologizing for jumping the gun on summer back in April. Whether it means an extra-long fall or an extra-long winter, who knows? But at this point I’ll take either one.
Here’s to a life full of good things, including time to be still in the midst of it all.
P.S. Watch for a recipe-of-the-week to appear next week; some things ARE returning to normal!
Our old house was once again empty as of June 30. After our tenants moved out, I found I not only needed to touch up the painted walls inside, but a stroll through the back gardens showed that my left-behind plants were seriously suffering from neglect. And realistically, that was not surprising – not everyone loves gardening as much as I do, and even an avid gardener isn’t necessarily going to appreciate my plant choices, or understand all the quirks that come with gardening beneath greedy, thirsty maple trees in thin clay soil and very hard, high pH water. It took me several years of trial-and-error to figure out what worked, and my plant ranks suffered many casualties along the way.
I reluctantly made the decision to move some of the plants while we were between renters and give the beds a fresh coat of mulch for the new tenants. Moving plants is always stressful on them, but conventional wisdom says the best time to transplant is in the spring or fall…either before the plant breaks dormancy or as it is drifting off for a long winter’s nap.
Obviously, July is neither spring nor fall. In fact, it is quite possibly the worst possible time to uproot and move plants around – they need all their strength just to withstand the rigors of high heat and dry conditions that July is notorious for. But it was a “now or never” window of opportunity: No matter what arrangements we made at lease signing, I wouldn’t have felt right expecting new tenants to welcome me and my trusty shovel in September, and at the rate the plants were declining, I wasn’t sure they could hold on that long even if I did. As it turned out, we had it rented just two weeks after it was vacated.
And so, in the middle of the month that is in the middle of summer and in the midst of extreme heat and drought, I spent an overcast but extremely humid Saturday morning digging up dozens of plants: hydrangeas, peonies, hellebores, hostas, heucheras, a prized Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ and some pulmonarias and even a bag full of variegated Solomon’s seal roots (the plants had gone completely deciduous due to the extreme temperatures and dry spell.)
I tagged and bagged and hauled them all home, set them in the shade and began the process of putting them into new surroundings with as much rich, moist amended soil as I could muster. Since I was digging and moving, I thought I’d bite the bullet and move three randomly planted peonies from this property, and create double borders along eastern fence, with hydrangeas on one side of the gate, and a double-row of peonies along the other. The photo gallery shows the ugly truth about moving plants under these conditions. These were taken yesterday, two weeks after the plants were moved. They will not win any beauty prizes this year, but if I can keep them hydrated and we have a typical fall and winter, I’m hopeful of their chances for survival.
You may see them as lost causes, but when I look at them, I see the potential for them flourishing once again under the watchful eye of the one who hand-chose nearly all of them for her garden, once upon a time.
and see how they are growing and filling in, just a couple months later:
If a fellow gardener or homeowner asked me for advice, I would tell them to do as I say and not as I did, unless they were in similarly dire straits. Even with a lot of TLC, I’m sure these plants are going to take a few years to fully recover from this ill-timed move and I may lose a few of them. But fortunately for us, plants are resilient and forgiving, so take courage and transplant your plants, but preferably in months that have R’s in them.
It’s hard to believe we’re already at the threshhold of “late summer” – WHERE has the time gone! My garden was a tangled jungle this week, after a couple weeks of letting Mother Nature take care of things. (At least she watered.)
This week, I managed to get everything untangled and I tossed the rain-rotten tomatoes to the emus across the fence. It nearly caused a food fight between the cows and emus…guess they ALL like tomatoes and not everyone was in a sharing mood.
Everything is coming along nicely, except the zucchini plant – it appears to be two zucchinis and done. (I may be the only gardener who cannot seem to harvest more than a couple zucchinis off a plant…most people have them running out the wazoo.)
Not to be outdone, the purple jalapenos have put on a flush of new flowers and fruit – which is good, considering our heat wave did in the first wave of fruit.
Jimmy Nardello appears to be a frying pepper, and we’re going to invite him for dinner soon.
Over in the pumpkin patch, I’ve got two of these cute ‘Cotton Candy’ white pumpkins growing like weeds
And the ‘Sweet Dumpling’ squash are also coming along nicely.
Tomato-wise, by the time I snapped these pics I had harvested most of the ripe tomatoes, but I found several ‘Hazelfield Farm’ ‘maters waiting for me and the camera. One is wedged in tight..it took some doing to ease it out without mangling the fruit or the plant:
Don’t tell her, but ‘Eva Ball Purple’ is umm, not purple. But her fruit are pretty…the old-fashioned juicy kind of slicing tomato we love on a BLT.
Here’s this week’s haul. It’s not enough to make salsa, so later today I’ll roast all but a few of them, leaving some for sandwiches this weekend.
The lettuce has finally gone to head, so I shared the pulled-out plants with the emus. They liked it, but not as much as they do tomatoes.
I hope your garden is putting on a show for you, too!
I usually take my weekly pics on Thursday evening but last Thursday I was watching it rain. (Yay!!!!) And for several other reasons, that meant I didn’t get a chance to take pictures until this morning. Up before 6, I was shooting pictures and then hurrying to get Swimmer Girl on our church bus for a week-long mission campaign trip.
Then Mr. Official and I spent quality time at our old house, getting the landscaping shaped up so we can rent it again. (Another long story.)
So I’m just now sitting down and editing this week’s photos.
It’s a “that’s good, that’s bad” kind of story. Our record-breaking temperatures have taken a toll on the “first fruits” and caused a few problems.
Like this pepper – it’s supposed to be orange
but it’s not supposed to have a soft rotten spot on the bottom.
but not so attractive when you flip it over.
Here’s my one okra (the rabbits continue to nosh.) Mr. Official contends it’s poor soil also taking a toll, so I think I’ll plant a cover crop along this area, and look for okra to pickle at the farmers’ market.
and squash are plugging along, although I’m on guard against beetle and borer problems with them.
But the onions and carrots are doing okay.
And there have been some bright spots – the Black Krims are almost ripe
And Jimmy Nardello
is a funny fellow
The Sugar Sweeties are proving prolific:
So how is your garden doing? I’m afraid some of my earliest ripening tomatoes will suffer from blossom-end-rot; a combination of clay soil and our strange spring and heatwave. But we’ll keep plugging along – and enjoying the fruits of our labors!
O zinnia, how I love thee, let me count the ways.
Yeah, I know that’s not how the sonnet goes but I am definitely head over heels for my zinnias this year. I planted seeds from three packets of seeds: ‘Cut and Come Again’ from Pinetree Seeds, and ‘Carrousel Mix’ and ‘Zowie Yellow Flame’ from Johnny’s Selected Seed. The early results are in, and I’m thrilled with how they’re shaping up:
Do you have any favorite flowers in you garden this year, or one from years’ past? Zinnias are easy to grow from seed, but as the slides show, you get a lot of bang (and radically different colors and shapes) for your buck.