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Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Gardening Equation

I've discovered a formula called the Gardening Equation which can be used to predict with some degree of accuracy your overall satisfaction with your gardening experience.

The formula is ((S+P+C)*D)+To+Ti+W+Ch = GE (Gardening Enjoyment or Experience)

Here is how to work this equation:

Rate your Soil (S).  If you constantly have to remove rocks and other debris from your soil, wonder if maybe your garden was once a landfill, or think that a pick ax is a good tool to use for digging, rate your soil around 1.  If your soil looks like the friable, dark brown soil full of good compost and lovely earthworms that we sometimes see on British gardening shows, and you want to weep with joy each time you dig through it with your bare hands, rate your soil a 10.  If your soil is somewhere between those two types, decide which it is closest to and rate accordingly.

Rate your Plants (P).  If you love all the plants in your garden and they are the exact plants you want to grow, rate your plants a 10.  Conversely if you do not care for the plants in your garden, perhaps they came with the garden when you bought it and you want to rip them all out and start all over, rate your plants a 1.  If your feelings for your plants fall somewhere in between, perhaps you long for just a few plants from another hardiness zone south of you, rate accordingly.

Rate your Climate (C).   If you love your climate and wonder why anyone would ever want to garden some place colder or warmer, wetter or drier, rate your climate a 10.  If you are constantly looking at maps and checking real estate guides to figure out how to move to another climate, rate your climate a 1.  If your feelings about your climate are not one extreme or another, rate accordingly. 

Rate your Tools (To).  If you always have the tools you need for any gardening activity, and you know how to use them to such a degree that when you garden you barely notice you are using tools, rate your tools a 10.  If you are looking in your kids' sandbox for their plastic sand shovel because you can't find your trowel or you lack other decent tools, rate your tools a 1.  Most of us fall in between, so rate your tools accordingly.

Rate your Gardening Time (Ti).  If you feel like your garden is so needy that you will never be able to give it enough time, rate your time a 1.  On the other extreme, if you feel like your garden requires just the amount of time you have to give it, rate your time a 10.  As with other ratings, if your feelings about the time you spend in your garden are somewhere between those two ends of the time spectrum, rate accordingly.

Rate your Weeds (W).  This is a little bit tricky.  If you have so many weeds you are thinking of pruning and deadheading them just to feel better about having them, rate your weeds a 1. If you rarely have weeds in your garden or you are able to remove weeds when they are teeny tiny before anyone sees them, then give yourself a 10 for weeds.  As with other factors, if you fall in between, rate yourself accordingly.

Rate your chemical usage (C).  If you do not use chemicals on your garden, give yourself a 10 on this one.  If you use so many chemicals that there are no beneficial insects buzzing around the flowers, the squirrels cross the street rather than walk by your house, and the birds are flying by wearing gas masks, give yourself a 0 on this one.

Rate your Design (D). Design is either a 1 or a 2, or rarely a 0. If you have a pretty good design for your garden, rate your design a 2. If you don't have a design and feel like your plants are all misplaced, rate your design a 1.  Only give yourself a 0 if you think a garden design is a waste of time.  This is where you can also factor in the size of your garden.  If it is a good design but too small or too large, drop the rating to a 1.

Now, add up P+S+C and multiply that sum by D.  Then add in Ti, To, W, and C.  The result will be a number less than 100 but greater than 1.

A 100 means you lied on your ratings, go back and check that weed one for sure.

If you scored...

80 - 99 - Wow. You've got this gardening thing all figured out.  Good for you, but I think I see a weed over in that one bed and I want a soil sample for that 10 you gave your dirt. 

60 - 79 - Swell. You are doing pretty good, and gardening is a good hobby for you.

40 - 59 - Oh dear. You either need to move or you have some work to do to bring your garden up to a level that brings you more enjoyment. This is where the equation can help you improve your situation. Look across your ratings and see if you can move any of them up by switching out plants, buying better tools, adding more compost, or laying off the chemicals, for example.

20 - 39 - Uh oh. I'm worried about you and your garden. Maybe you need to think about a good design to double your satisfaction with your plants, soil and climate? Maybe you should move to a better gardening situation? What other numbers can you raise because I know that just by working through this equation, you want to enjoy your garden

0 - 19  -  I don't know what to say, except maybe there is a better hobby for you other than gardening?

Here's my Gardening Equation:

((S+P+C)*D)+To+Ti+W+Ch = GE
((7+8+8)*2)+9+7+7+9 = 78

I'm going to call that score "high pretty good".  I think I'll keep on gardening.

How did your equation work out? Are you enjoying your garden?

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Gardening Book Well Used

I bought a gardening book well used, another copy of A Southern Garden by Elizabeth Lawrence (1942).

I am quite aware that my frozen garden in Indiana is not in the middle south, where Elizabeth Lawrence gardened.  But I can still read and enjoy this book, especially this copy, with a little hardiness zone translation.

Whoever owned this book seems to have read it cover to cover, underlining the names of plants, writing little comments in the margins, sometimes making notes that disagreed with Lawrence.

Here they noted that bearded iris are best transplanted in June or July, not fall.

On another page, they noted a particular allium bloom did not have a good scent by writing "stinky" in the margins.

In the back of the book, on those extra blank pages that are often found in the back of books, they wrote lists of blooms by date. Here are the lists of blooms for April 21, May 20, and June 16, 1947.

The signs of a reader who might have enjoyed Garden Bloggers' Bloom  Day?

Here's a list of all the tulips this particular gardener grew, with bloom dates.
Keeping track of when flowers bloomed was something Lawrence enjoyed doing and encouraged other gardeners to do, too.

I don't know exactly where this gardener lived, but there is an address label in the front for Kay H. in Alexandria, VA. That address includes an apartment number, so she may not have been the original owner.

Whoever she (or he) was, the owner of this book has left their mark on nearly every page, showing that this was a gardening book well used.

But that isn't the most fascinating aspect of this book.

What fascinates me is  this book was signed by the author.

"To a good gardener Greetings from Elizabeth Lawrence."

I'm sure all the markings in the book are the reason I was able to afford to buy this rare, first edition, signed book by Elizabeth Lawrence.

I'll take those markings, a sign of a gardening book well used, with the inscription by Elizabeth Lawrence and put this book on that special shelf in my library labeled "treasured".

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Garden Fairies Save This Blog

The rabbit is watching & waiting.
Garden fairies here.

We are garden fairies and we have been watching this blog, waiting for a new post. Waiting. And waiting. And waiting some more.

Finally, we have decided to take matters into our own hands and Save This Blog from oblivion by posting something here at the beginning of the week.

What has been going on here at May Dreams Gardens? We are glad you asked.

It has been pretty much non-stop winter here. Snow, ice, wind, chilling cold, and did we mention slush?  We garden fairies have been watching Carol cope with it all and have made some observations.

For whatever reason, Carol has three different coats, multiple pairs of gloves and several different types of footwear for winter.  Everyday, based on the weather, she decides which coat, which pair of gloves and which footwear to wear.

The number of combinations is beyond our ciphering abilities, but somehow, she figures it all out and manages to go out and about it each day.

We garden fairies, on the other hand, are content to stay indoors. We hang out amongst the house plants, for the most part, though sometimes we sneak into the kitchen to see what the toast fairies are up to.

For our evening entertainment, we watch Carol look at seed catalogs, then when she isn't looking, we change up what she has marked. Won't she be surprised when she finally orders her seeds?

We garden fairies are curious about one thing, though.  Carol is expecting a package, perhaps on Monday.  She is excited about it, whatever it is, but has been keeping her cool.  Or she thinks she's keeping her cool.  But we know better.  She set up alerts to go to her phone so she can track this package every step on its journey to her door step.

But what is in this package?  We are garden fairies and we are quite curious.  We can hardly wait for it to get here and for Carol to open it.

Until then, though, we are going to just continue chilling, literally and figuratively, here at  May Dreams Gardens while wait for the first snowdrops to bloom.

Submitted by:
Violet Greenpea Maydreams, Chief Scribe and Keeper of the Secret Diary of a Garden Fairy

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Down the rabbit hole, again

More Lily of the Valley
I've gone down into another rabbit hole of old gardening books.

Down in this particular rabbit hole, I've been following one trail and then another, sometimes retracing steps just to be sure, and other times finding a new trail, only to have it lead me right back to where I was before.

Along the way, I've either found something I never expected to find or I've been taken for a goodly sum of money.

I'll know for sure when I get a package from this rabbit hole in five to nine days, perhaps as late as February 2nd.

I promise to share more about my fortune or misfortune, however it turns out, once the package arrives.

In the meantime, winter continues. We've reached the point when forecasts of more snow are no longer a cause for excitement or concern. We've got our "snow legs" now, so we just shovel the snow aside and keep going. 

I've also arrived at my fifth anniversary of joining the Society of Gardeners Aged 50 and Over (SGAFO).  Time flies, doesn't it? Good times.  Yes, good times, for the most part.  Double nickels. Discounts. It's all good.

I am pleased at this juncture to be able to still mow my own lawn, shovel the snow off my driveway, and sling a bag of mulch off my truck and into a wheelbarrow. 

I am delighted that I am still as giddy as a kid going through the Sear's Wish Book at Christmastime whenever I go through a seed catalog, marking varieties and dog-earing pages as I plan out my gardens for the coming growing season.

The only difference, I suppose, is way back then when I was picking out toys in the Wish Book, there was a practical limit to what my mom and dad would buy me for Christmas and my birthday. Today, I can buy whatever seeds I choose from the seed catalogs and the practical limit is based on the size of my garden, plus add a few extra packets because gardeners always end up with more seeds than they  plant.

I am blessed.

We'll see just how blessed when I get that package from the rabbit hole in five to nine days, or perhaps as late as February 2nd.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Story of Compost

I feel obligated to tell the story of compost in my garden because too often new gardeners read about how to make compost and decide it is too complicated, too advanced for their level of gardening.

Yes, dear new gardener, it is so advanced that we have mounds and mounts of plant material stacking up all over because people have forgotten how to make compost.  

My apologies for that bit of sarcasm. We know that is not true.  The process of composting happens, even if you don't think you know how to make it happen.  It happens...

...No matter if you have the right proportions of green material and brown material in your compost piles.

...No matter how often it rains or doesn't rain.

...No matter if your compost bin is tiny or gigantic.

Compost just happens.  It may happen quickly, it may happen slowly, but eventually all the plant material is broken down by fathomable and unfathomable bacteria, fungi, insects, worms, microbes, and other assorted living organisms.

Other assorted living organisms in my garden include the members of the McGarden family of garden fairies who live down in the vegetable garden here at May Dreams Gardens.   The matriarch of the family is Granny Gus McGarden.

Granny Gus knows just about everything there is to know about vegetable gardens.  She uses her knowledge to help in many ways on the growing side of the garden, but she excels in her knowledge of how to make compost.  

Her son, the right reverened Hortus Augustus McGarden, Gus to his friends, is actually responsible for making the compost. Granny Gus taught Gus everything she knows so that he can carry on the tradition.

What she knows is that you pile up the over-sized cucumbers, the rotten tomatoes, the leaves that fall from the trees, the trimmings from all the perennials, the frost bitten annuals, weeds pulled from the garden and other bits of dead headed flowers... anything from a plant that isn't diseased or full of seeds that you don't want to self sow all over the garden.  You pile it all up.

You pile it all up and then the right reverend Hortus Augustus McGarden, Gus to his friends, gives a little homily about the virtues of composting. Granny plays a little song or two and everyone nods and smiles and sings along, everyone being all the fathomable and unfathomable bacteria, fungi, insects, worms, microbes, and other assorted living organisms.

Then, just as the sound of the last chorus fades into the wind and just before ol' Grandpa Gus McGarden falls asleep, they all shout hooray and tear into the plant material.

It is a sight.  They munch through the green material and the brown material.  They chew and spit and otherwise make their way through it all.  The pile begins to shrink.  The party continues. They beg for more.  Give them more!

Then one day you look at the compost pile and see that the party is almost over for that pile.  All that is left is rich, dark, loamy, beautiful compost.

It is a beautiful sight. You look at it in awe.  It is so beautiful, you could almost cry.  In the stillness of the garden as you stand there and look at the beautiful compost, you swear you hear a little hallelujah chorus.  You might actually hear it, because Granny Gus McGarden loves to play for an audience. 

Then it is all up to you to take that beautiful compost and spread it about the garden, where it will make plants grow better. And then when those plants' time has passed, when their leaves have fallen, you can gently pick up all their stems, flowers, branches, and leaves and take them back to the compost pile.

Pile it all up and leave it for Granny Gus McGarden and her son the right reverened Hortus Augustus McGarden, Gus to his friends, and all the fathomable and unfathomable bacteria, fungi, insects, worms, microbes, and other assorted living organisms.

They'll know what to do.

And that is the Story of Compost.  Please tell others about it.  We cannot let the story die.  We must let every gardener know the truth.  Do it for Granny Gus, for all the McGarden garden fairies who live down in the vegetable garden at May Dreams Gardens.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - January 2014

Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for January 2014.

Here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6a garden in central Indiana, I had to go inside to find blooms in January.

Fortunately, it wasn't that difficult to find a few indoor blooms.

I followed my nose to find the Lily of the Valley,  which I purchased as pre-cooled pips and planted about five weeks ago. 

I've been enjoying the blooms for quite awhile now. They've added to my indoor garden and later this spring, I'll plant them outside, where someday they'll bloom for an outdoor bloom day in May.

I've still got a few Amaryllis in bloom, though there are far fewer now than a week ago.
I enjoyed having these blooms last week when I was trapped inside by a raging snowstorm that dumped nearly a foot of snow on my garden and dropped the temperatures to sub zero for a day or two.

Now a week later, most of the snow has melted, but there are still no signs of blooms outdoors, unlike last year when I counted four blooms outside.

What else is blooming here at May Dreams Gardens? In the sun room, the Kalanchoe is still blooming along with these two  Crown of Thorns plants.

I can always count on Crown of Thorns to have a bloom or two, regardless of what else is going on in my garden or sun room.

And that's what I've got to show for this bloom day, my 84th time to post on the 15th of the month about the blooms in my garden.

There are several other garden bloggers who have posted for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day from the beginning who now also have this  seven year record of their garden.

How long have you been posting for bloom day? Whether this is your first time or your 84th time, we'd love to read about what is blooming in your garden today.

It's easy to join in. Just post on your blog about what is blooming in your garden on the 15th of the month and leave a comment to tell us what you have waiting for us to see so we can pay you a virtual visit. Then put your name and the url to your post on the Mr. Linky widget below to make it easy to find you.

Then repeat after me... “We can have flowers nearly every month of the year.” ~ Elizabeth Lawrence

Monday, January 13, 2014

How to turn winter into your favorite gardening season

Yesterday was a lovely day. Bright, sunny, and the temperatures were well above freezing, so most of the snow melted.

Inside, the Lily of the Valley are at their peak and seem to taunt the Winter outside. "You can't touch us, you can't frost us."

There are microgreens sprouting in the sunroom and a basket full of seed catalogs sitting beside my favorite chair, from where I can look out occasionally and see birds stopping by the feeders.

Does all this make winter my favorite gardening season?

Absolutely not.   

But it does make it one of the most restful of all the gardening seasons*, and that's good enough for me. 

*Every season is a gardening season for me.  Isn't it for you?

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Come sit with me in the garden....

Come sit with me in the garden and we'll talk about lawns of clover, fresh-picked peas and the scent of lily of the valley.

We'll remember when it was once warm as we watch the birds peck at frozen seed and suet at the nearby bird feeders.  There are cardinals and starlings and morning doves taking their turns.

Come sit with me in the garden, and we'll talk about how much work it is to shovel snow off a driveway and what will happen when all of this snow melts.

We'll make plans for spring and summer and try to guess when the first crocus will bloom and where it will be.  It could be in the front flower beds or out in the lawn, where 2,000 corms wait below the snow for their time.

Come sit with me in the garden and will speculate about garden fairies and pilliwiggins and see if we can see any under the nearby spruce tree.

We'll look for rabbit tracks and vole trails and discuss if the chicken wire fencing around the young apple trees and honeyberry shrubs is high enough to protect them from hungry wildlife.  Hopefully, it is.

Come sit with me in the garden and we'll marvel at the quiet beauty of a snow covered landscape.  Then we'll go back inside and smell the lily of the valley blooming in the kitchen window and check on the microgreens growing under lights in the sun room.

We'll warm ourselves by the fire in the fireplace, grab some seed catalogs and forget the snow and cold, at least for now.  It's time to plan for spring.

Come sit with me in the garden...

Sunday, January 05, 2014

I vanquish thee, O' Winter

I vanquish thee, O' Winter.

I have Lily of the Valley in bloom indoors.  One whiff of the tiny bell-shaped flowers and I see my garden in the spring-time, green and lush.  I don't see the snow covered lawn. I don't see the snow coming down fast and furious. I don't think about the long, dark wintry days ahead.  I don't think shoveling snow off the driveway. Spring is in the air inside.

I vanquish thee, O' Winter.

I have stacks of seed catalogs to read.   I will look through them one by one, cover to cover, starting with page 1 and going all the way to the back cover. I will mark and circle all the flowers and vegetable varieties I want to grow in the garden this summer.

I vanquish thee, O' Winter.

I have shelves of gardening books to explore.  I can spend hours rediscovering old favorites, re-reading favorite passages and discovering new words that I hadn't read before.   I can open books and discover gardens all around the world, all in full bloom on the pages of a book.

I vanquish thee, O' Winter.

I sowed seeds for microgreens yesterday.  Today, I will set up the hyacinth bulbs on their vases. They've chilled long enough in the back of the refrigerator.  I will water the plants in the sunroom, counting the blooms of hellebores, kalanchoe, crown of thorns, African violets and Amaryllis as I go.

I vanquish thee, O' Winter.

I can stream gardening shows from YouTube and make it any season I want it to be. Spring, summer, fall or even winter.  

I vanquish thee, O' Winter!

Thursday, January 02, 2014

It's time to retire...

It's time to retire... this old Felco No. 8 pruner with holster.

It had a good run, if you consider 15 years a good run for pruners.

I do. 

I do, especially knowing all the work this ol' pruner did over those years.  The cutting, the shearing, and occasionally  the digging of maybe a really small hole when no trowel was nearby.

I am certain I didn't take the best care of this pruner. I dropped it more than once, onto concrete, too. I put it away with plant sap stuck to the blade, and probably didn't do the best job of sharpening it when I did sharpen it.

There are a few knicks in the blade, and it is blackened from use. The red plastic coating is peeling away from the handles.

Yes, it's time to retire this old Felco no. 8 pruner with the clip-on holster.

Its replacement looks quite familiar.  A new Felco no. 8 pruner with a new holster...

I expect this pruner will be good for at least 15 years, or longer, especially if I take better care of it.

What will I do with my ol' pruner now that I've retired it? Throw it and its old holster away? Never. We've been through too much together in this garden.

I think I'll clean it up, sharpen the blade as best I can and use it on the plants in the sun room.  Working with houseplants won't take nearly the effort of working out in the garden with trees and shrubs and perennials and vegetables.

Yes, this ol' pruner, even though retired, ought to last quite a while longer being used just for houseplants.