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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Where does Motivation go?

Did you ever wonder where the motivation to garden goes in the summertime?

We all start out the gardening season full of ideas and energy and Motivation.

On the first warm day of spring, we grab our little friend Motivation, roll up our sleeves and dig in once again.  We hold hands with Motivation and walk around the garden,  together marveling how the soil is so soft and crumbly and smells just as we remembered it smelling.

We take Motivation with us to the garden centers and buy plants by the flats and load up our trunks and trucks with mulch and top soil. We can hardly wait to take it all home and transform our garden, with Motivation's help, once again.

We are just so productive with Motivation by our side.  We can hardly stand it to turn dark at the end of the day and force us back inside until another dawn and another day of gardening.

Then one day, it happens.  Motivation disappears.  It's hot. There are mosquitoes. Motivation doesn't like hot and mosquitoes.  Motivation gets discouraged, too, because not everything turns out as we thought it would.

We think occasionally we ought to go look for Motivation in the summertime and see if we can get it to help us do a little weeding, but then we go for a few weeks without rain.  We know that even if we find it, Motivation will whine and try to convince us to wait until it rains before we weed and may even suggest the bigger weeds will be easier to see and pull out.

Motivation can be tricky that way.

Then we sort of get used to not having Motivation around very much in the dog days of summer.

Sure, we get a few glimpses of our ol' spring friend, Motivation, when the first green beans are ready to be picked.  And Motivation is always there eager to taste the first ripe tomatoes, the first ears of sweet corn, really the first of any crop.

Then Motivation realizes again that it's hot and there are mosquitoes and goes into hiding again.  Where does our friend Motivation hide?  Motivation likes to hide in the cucumber patch and looks a lot like over-ripened cucumbers.  It disguises itself as "something green" in the back of the flower border, which on closer inspection, is nothing more than our old nemesis, Thistle.  

Good ol' Motivation.  It likes to leave us with just enough time to mow the lawn but not enough time to trim it because Motivation is like that.

Fortunately, at least in my garden, Motivation usually shows up again around Labor Day.  It's ready now to weed those paths, trim the lawn, clear out the overgrown cucumbers. Truthfully, I think Motivation is just a little bit embarrassed by how it let the weeds grow and didn't provide a proper support for the wisteria, again.  It is ready to make amends. By-gones, says Motivation. Every day is a new day in the garden, a fresh start,  no matter what happened all summer, no matter where Motivation hid.

Of course, I'm happy when Motivation comes back in early fall. It's always welcome in my garden and in fact is key to my garden's success. Without Motivation, what would my garden look like? What would any garden look like?

I'm afraid I know what my garden looks like without Motivation and it isn't a pretty sight.

Welcome back, Motivation. Let's get started with some weeding, okay?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ten steps to de-clutter your garden

When you look around your garden, do you wonder how you ended up with so much stuff?

All those decorative items you knew would be just perfect for your garden.  You placed some of them in the first open spot you found, while others you left on the porch or patio because you just couldn't decide where to put them.  Whatever were you thinking when you bought yet another plastic butterfly on a stick to put in your garden?

Hoses, pots, saucers, tools, gloves, pruners.  It's as though you left them in the last place you used them because you did leave them in the last place you used them.  You know they will last longer if you take better care of them, yet you don't.

Then there are the plants.  There are plants still in their nursery containers, sitting on the patio begging for a drop of water. How could you love them so much at the garden center but then treat them so poorly once you brought them home?

And that's just the condition of the patio. We haven't even walked around the garden yet. We are a bit afraid to, but we must.  There we know we'll find weeds, and plants which could use a good pruning back or maybe should even be removed. We'll find areas not yet planted.  Vegetables not picked. Flowers which would look beautiful in a vase inside.

If this describes your garden, a big cluttered mess, or even a half-cluttered mess, it's time for a good session of decluttering.  Here are ten ways to do declutter your garden.

1. Make a big pass through each garden area and without thinking too much about it,  pull the weeds, cut back spent blooms, removed diseased plants and take out all of the decorative items.  Once you are through with one garden area, go on to the next one.

2. Make a list as you go of what you can't do alone in each garden area and hire or ask for help from friends and family to take care of those times.  A half dead tree needs to be removed? Call right away to get quotes and get it out of there.

3. Find the open places where you were going to plant all those plants still sitting on the patio in their nursery containers. "Fall is for planting", so plant them now before it gets too late in the season. If you bought annuals in the spring and you haven't planted them by fall, toss them on the compost pile.  Then make a donation to a charity of your choice equivalent to the amount you spent on those annuals you never planted. You'll feel better about yourself if you do that.

4. In the vegetable garden, pull out plants which are no longer producing. Compost them unless they are diseased. Throw the diseased plants in the trash.  Consider planting a cover crop on the fallow beds to prevent weeds and enrich the soil.

5. Go through your garden tools. Toss those that are broken.  Do you still have too many tools?   Keep those you use the most and donate the rest. (Unless you have a hoe collection. For now, you can keep your hoe collection). Then take those you are keeping and clean them up and store them properly when not in use.

6. Take a look at all those garden decorations.  Toss them out if they are broken, donate them if you don't love them.  Clean and put them back if you think they add to your garden.  Remember nothing damages garden decor faster than winter, so if it is fall, put all those decorative items away for the winter. If there are too many decorative items to store each winter, go back through them and donate what you can't take care off properly.

7. Go through all your pots, containers, saucers, etc.  Recycle plastic nursery pots or find a garden center willing to take them back.  Go through pots and saucers. Sort by size and get rid of any you haven't used in the last year.  Get rid of what is broken unless you are one of those crafty-type people who can make something of broken pots. If you actually think you are one of those crafty-type people but it's been a year or longer and you've done nothing with your broken pots, get rid of them.

8. Hoses? A necessity of gardening but oh how we fight them all summer. They kink, they leak, they balk at us.  Buy a good hose reel and keep your hose at least rolled up when not in use.  If it leaks, replace it. If it kinks, replace it. If it balks, well, that's what hoses do.

9.  Round up all the garden gloves. If you can't find the mate to a glove, toss the glove. The mate will surely show up, then toss it, too.  Get rid of gloves that don't fit properly or are full of holes and then find a good home for the remaining gloves and vow to return your gloves to their home after every use.

10.  Finally, after you've done all these steps, go back through those garden beds again. Weeds grow, flowers bloom and die and so it is never once and done in a garden.  A garden is a living, breathing, every changing place so it will always need some attention. And aren't you glad of that? That attention is called "gardening". Give your garden regular attention and like a room that is cleaned regularly, it should never become too big of a mess.

Honestly, every gardener needs to do a bit of decluttering this time of year.  I do. You do. We all do.

Go. Do it now.  Let us know how it turned out for you.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Theory of Seasonal Wildflowers

Dear Gail,

Thank you for providing us with Wildflower Wednesday on the fourth Wednesday of the month, reminding us to think about wildflowers for our gardens.

While I was out mowing today, I thought about wildflowers and what I might post about them.  I mowed past some Black-eye Susans (Rudbeckia sp.) and considering posting about them.

Black-eyed Susans
Then I saw the big Joe Pye Weed (Euchotrium dubium 'LIttle Joe', formerly Eupatorium dubium 'Little Joe'), standing over four feet tall and covered with bees.
Joe Pye Weed with Boltonia asteroides
I considered posts about Boltonia asteroides, Symphyotrichum novae-anglia, Solidago shortii and even Phlox paniculata. All are big, wonderful wildflowers for the garden. We wait all summer for them and its like a big carnival when they arrive. Color! Bees! Butterflies!

As I continued to mow, I asked myself why we don't have such big colorful wildflowers in the spring. 

In the spring, we marvel in the smallest wildflowers.  The tiny scented blooms of the vernal witch hazel, Hamamelis vernalis. The diminutive Dutchmen's breeches, Dicentra cucullaria, which peek out from the leaf litter in early spring.  The pure white of a Bloodroot bloom, Sanguinaria canadensis.

We would never notice these tiny spring flowers amidst the exuberance of fall flowers, and I think this is by design.  Mother Nature knows best.  

Mother Nature gives us the big, bold, colorful fall blooms to fill us up and give us the energy to endure the cold bloom-less winter.  Then in spring, she gives of the tiny, pastel flowers to slowly bring us out of winter lethargy, as she brings the garden out of its dormancy. 

Mother Nature knows that after all the cold and snow and ice, it would simply be too jarring to walk out to the garden or the woods or fields on the first warm day of spring and be assaulted by masses of bloom. Instead, she starts us off slowly each spring with the eagerly anticipated tiny blooms.

I call this idea of why we have the blooms we have each season The Theory of Seasonal Wildflowers.

Of course, I'm sure many people will point out some big flowers that bloom in early spring, and others will point out tiny blooms of fall.  That's fine. It's a theory, and I've based it on my own experiences, mulled over in an evening of mowing.

I guess what matters about my theory is that I like it.  I enjoy Mother Nature's ways, what she's chosen to have bloom in the the early spring and what she's chosen for early fall. 
I like both seasons, for their own reasons, and I wouldn't change a thing.



Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Old Woman at the Door teaches me about balance

Sometimes, when I sit still in the garden for just a minute, the old woman at the door comes and pays me a visit.

Long-time readers, you remember the old woman at the door, don't you? She seems quite familiar to me, and when I look her in the eyes, I sometimes see my own reflection.

She keeps me on the straight and narrow and reminds me what gardening is all about. Sometimes, she reminds me that it isn't all about gardening. Occasionally she insists I hire help with some of the more arduous tasks of gardening, like spreading mulch or cutting off great big tree limbs.

I remind her it is hard for me to fathom that the trees I planted are big enough now that I should ask for help when cutting off lower branches.

She smiles and nods at me. She knows. She gets me, as they say.  She seems to have traveled all the same roads I've traveled, hoed the same rows, but she is further ahead of me, always. She looks back to see me.  I'm sure she sees me more clearly than I see her off in the distance.

The other day, the old woman at the door and I were sitting quietly in the garden when she asked me about the new app on my iPhone called The Amazing Type-writer. I explained how it is set up to be like a typewriter, so much so that you can't backspace and delete a letter you didn't mean to type.

She and I talked more about gardening and came up with nine words of advice on "Garden Your Way to a Good Life" and I carefully, slowly, typed them via my "typewriter", to come up with a nice card with the nine words.

It's all about balance, she said. Sometimes you have to create and coddle - like when you sow, grow, and nurture.

There is also a time to take care of what you have and even get rid of what isn't adding value - tend, weed, prune.

But always you must find time to reap the fruits of your labor - harvest, taste, enjoy.

She told me if I had all three of those, I had balance.   I'm working on that balance. I suppose a little more weeding is needed and after that some enjoyment is in order.

I promised the old woman I'd keep these nine words close at hand and commit them to memory. She seemed satisfied that I would try, and got up and walked away, disappearing through the garden gate, leaving me to sit and ponder some more.

Garden Your Way to a Good Life
     Sow, Grow, Nurture,
     Tend, Weed, Prune,
     Harvest, Taste, Enjoy.