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Sunday, July 05, 2015

Invisible Weeds

I also weeded in Ploppers' Field this weekend
I started mowing as I always do.  Next to the driveway by the bed which borders the part of the garage that was built for storage.

I headed east a few paces, turned north and mowed next to the garage. There is, of course, a planted area next to the garage.  I surely do not like it when people only plant a few shrubs in front of the house and then let the grass grow up to their house on the sides.  Boring.

The side of my house by the garage has a raised border with retaining stone around it because there is a slight slope down from the garage there.  Every time I mow around there, I think about how I should trim along those stones, but I don't.  

Then just as I mowed past the garage border and turned slightly to the west to mow along the border beside the rest of house, I saw it.

The invisible weed.

Only this time, it was not invisible. It was nearly six feet tall, double branched, and as nasty a specimen of thistle as I've even seen, with huge spiny thorns and massive leaves covered with tiny, spiny thorns.   And I had caught it out in the open, growing up beside the air conditioner unit, no longer invisible as it must have been the entire time it was growing until just that moment.  

For whatever reason, it didn't expect to see me, nor I it.  

Never under estimate the element of surprise to catch your enemies.

What did I do when I came face to face with this enemy?  I stopped the mower, went to the garage and armed myself for battle with  thick gloves, a sharp pair of pruners and a weeder.  Then I went back to face my enemy, my foe, the one who was threatening my garden.

I half expected it would be invisible again, but there it was and now it is no more.  I chopped it down, foot by foot, dug out its roots and threw it all into the trash.  I didn't stop to take a picture. There was no time for that.

And then, as though I encounter and vanquish this size of weed every day, I proceeded to finish my mowing, all the while contemplating how weeds can make themselves invisible and then Bam!  They are huge and gnarly and ready to flower and cast their seeds everywhere.

We gardeners must remain ever vigilant.  The enemy, the weeds,  know so many tricks to thwart our efforts to rid our gardens of them.  

They make themselves invisible.

They disguise themselves as other plants.

They grow up through other plants, daring us to take them out, when they know taking them out will mean we must sacrifice a plant we love.  It is as though they are holding the other plants hostage.

We can't let the weeds win. We can't. Spend the time weeding. Look critically around at all their usual hiding places. You know where they are. Under trees, where they trick birds into eating their seeds and then pooping them out. Around the edges of borders, next to the fence, in the vegetable garden, behind the compost bins.

Seek them out. Clear them out.  Don't let the weeds win.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Why do I name my gardens?

Plopper's Field
I spent the morning out in the garden.

I cleaned up some weeds growing in the Garden of Southern Follies and Delights and noticed two of the three camellias have nice big buds on them.  I don't know if they are flower or foliage buds, but I take it as a good sign they are starting to establish themselves.

After weeding there, I mulched around the camellias and moved on to Plopper's Field.

In Plopper's Field, I pulled out, yanked out, cut back, hacked back, pinched back and otherwise cleaned up all the perennials and removed quite a few weeds.

Plus, I cut back the Amsonia so it doesn't self-sow itself all over the place. It will most assuredly do that if you don't cut back off those seeds before they mature.

Right now, the day lilies and coneflowers are providing most of the color in Plopper's Field, along with Lilium leichtinii. 

Satisfied that Plopper's Field once again looked like a garden and not a field of weeds, I moved across the way to Bird's Blanket. It didn't take me long to weed this garden border which is anchored by a large honey locust tree, so then I moved on to August Dreams garden and weeded most of it and the nearby Woodland Follies garden.

While I was working on those borders, I also weeded out Ridgewood Avenue, the path that separates them.  Then, before  I dropped from exhaustion, I weeded the Family Circle and made a quick pass through Hazelthicket, which is the latest name I'm trying out for the garden border along the back of the house next to the patio.

Oh my, the patio needs a name, doesn't it?

I still need to weed and spiff up The Shrubbery and The Vegetable Garden Cathedral, but I can do that tomorrow morning.

Plopper's Field, Garden of Southern Follies and Delights, Woodland Follies, Bird's Blanket, Ridgewood Ave, August Dream Garden, The Vegetable Garden Cathedral, Family Circle, and now Hazelthicket.

Why do I name all my garden beds and borders?

It personalizes the garden and makes it feel like more than a collection of shrubs, trees, and flowers.

It gives the garden personality, too, and helps me when I am referring to different areas.  Instead of saying "over there", I can say "in Bird's Blanket", for example.

I don't name all the gardens right away. I wait until a name comes to me.

Sometimes the name is based on what's growing there, like The Shrubbery and the Garden of Southern Follies and Delights. Other times it is based on how the garden area is planted, like Plopper's Field, where I plop in perennials wherever there is an open space.

There are all kinds of reasons for why a garden border is called a certain name.

Hazelthicket, the newest name, is so named because there is a large witch hazel in that border, and the rest is a thicket of hostas, hellebores, violets, vinca, and other ground covers.

I still have a few areas waiting to be named. I'll do so in due time. No rush, I'll wait for the name to come to me.

Now what was the question? Oh, right, why do I name my gardens?

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

What I do about Japanese beetles in my garden

Japanese beetle on raspberries
The other day, I noticed a butterfly and a Japanese beetle sharing the same Agastache flower.

I didn't get a good picture of them on the flower, though I tried to.  The butterfly wouldn't stay still. The Japanese beetle could not have cared less, though, and later I took a picture of two of the beetles on a raspberry leaf.

There are also Japanese beetles starting to chew holes in the leaves of other plants in the garden, including newly flowering zinnias in the veg garden and of course, the Knock Out roses in front because roses are one of their favorite foods.

For the past several years, there weren't a lot of Japanese beetles around my garden and I was happy about that. I assumed it was because when we had the drought years, the adult beetles were having difficulty laying eggs in the dried up, hard ground.  I didn't get confirmation of that, it's just my own theory.

Unfortunately, though, enough of the Japanese beetles seem to have survived to increase the population once again.

Many gardeners at this point would reach for an insecticide and start spraying to kill the beetles.  Or put down a grub control to kill the Japanese beetle grubs in the ground.  There was a time I might have done the same, but not now.

I like to think I'm wiser now.  There is no insecticide that would kill the beetles and be safe to use around the butterflies and bees, which I want to encourage to thrive in my garden, so the Japanese beetles get a pass.

I could, of course, buy some of the beetle traps that are popular, and I've used them in the past.  I read, however, the traps can lure in Japanese beetles who never knew your garden existed and those that don't get caught in the trap have new feeding and breeding grounds - your garden.   I heard someone suggest you should offer to buy them for your neighbors but that seems a little selfish, doesn't it?

I also read you can just stand there and pick them off the flowers and plants and drop them into a bucket of dishwasher soap to drown them.  That might be helpful but also might be like trying to take the salt out of the ocean. It's tedious.

Plus, I am barely keeping up with weeding. Who has time to pick beetles off plants?

So, if I don't use insecticides, don't place traps around the garden, and don't stand there and pick the Japanese beetles off the plants, what do I do?


I do nothing.

I leave the Japanese beetles alone, for the most part, and and endure their existence for the sake of all the butterflies and bees, for the health of my garden, and my health, too.  Occasionally, when I go by a plant with Japanese beetles feasting on it, I might give the plant a big shake to scare the beetles, or flick the beetles off like a kid playing marbles, but that's about it.

The Japanese beetles will be gone in a few weeks. And once they are gone, I'll do my best to cleanup the worst of the damage they leave behind, hopefully surrounded by butterflies and bees, happily flying from flower to flower.

I can think of no other rational solution as someone who gardens for pleasure and wants to encourage bees and butterflies throughout her garden.  Viva la butterflies and bees!

Monday, June 29, 2015

I will when Mother Nature says I can

When will I next be able to head out to the garden to weed or perhaps mow and trim the lawn?

When Mother Nature says I can.

And right now Mother Nature is speaking the language of rain.

When it is flat-out raining, she is saying "No, do not go out to the garden."

When it rains in the morning or overnight, that's her way of saying, "You can garden this evening, but please put on a good mosquito repellant."

When it doesn't rain for an entire day and the night before a sunny day, she is saying, "Time to mow."

I listen closely to Mother Nature, and so far it's turned out okay.

On Saturday, it didn't really rain, but it had rained so much the night before, I decided Mother Nature was telling me to clean inside, which I did.  Now my house looks like a normal person lives here, and not someone who is so obsessed with gardening that she feels it is okay not to clean when she can garden.

Then on Sunday, since it hadn't rained all the night before and the sun was shining, I decided Mother Nature was telling me, in her rain language, to trim and mow the lawn, so that's what I did.

Then, I went out to the vegetable garden and found Mother Nature had left me oodles of peppers, one giant squash, and the first little cucumber to pick.

When I saw the size of the squash, I wished then I had listened to Mother Nature a few days earlier when she told me to go out and check on the squash. The one I picked was a bit oversized.

I guess the large squash is Mother Nature telling me in vegetable language to make Zucchini Pie for supper because she is bringing us rain this morning and again this evening, so there won't be much gardening today.

I guess I better do that, because when Mother Nature talks, in the language of rain or the language of vegetables, I listen.

Most of the time.