Friday, July 3, 2009

What Was I Thinking?

One thing I've noticed about gardening magazines: they're all beautiful. The gardens are pristine, the paths are wide enough, the plants are flourishing, and the pests are few.

I'd like to inject a little reality here.

Unless you have the income to hire a staff, buy all the "right stuff", and devote yourself to your garden 24/7, it will not be pristine, plants will die, weeds will flourish, and you will have plenty of pests. Oh -and the soil will more than likely not be balanced.

These are some of the gardening mistakes (or just problems I haven't the energy to deal with and have let go) I find daily in my own backyard.

Top photo: witness my love of all things liquid. I love water. Probably a result of growing up on the Gulf shores. Unfortunately, just because I have built a 500 gallon rain collection system does not mean I should dump all of it on the tomatos. This poor tomato plant has yellow leaves because I simply cannot seem to quit watering it (it's 90 degrees, hot and sunny -it must need water,right? No. Put the bucket down and step away from the plant.)

These poor transplanted cauliflower are victims of a preventative medical tragedy. They were
absolutely heart-stopping gorgeous plants I raised in the greenhouse. Then I transplanted them, and as a precautionary measure to ward off beetles and other nasty insects, I mixed up a batch of my usual Dawn detergent-hot sauce-water mixture, and sprayed the little darlings. Since I was in a hurry, I didn't pay attention, and I added too much detergent - burnt their delicate leaves. Really, really bad. I've left them in the bed for the moment as a reminded to me to think before I spray.

Wiregrass. Not really my fault - more like a curse upon my head. I've tried everything - read endless forums on it - no one has a solution for getting rid of it. Apparently they actually plant the stuff in South Carolina and call it a lawn. Ideas so far for its termination: Pulling it up, blocking it with edging, burying it under mulch, burying it under carpet, changing chemical balance of the soil, adding salt to soil, planting a thick green manure crop over winter, and finally, but certainly not least, using a flamethrower.
Nothing works. It spreads, it grows through and around, it adapts to soil changes, it grows amidst other innocent plants and converts them, and it thinks flamethrowers are foot-warmers.
Wiregrass is the Devil. And it is invading every corner of my garden.

This bed just got away from me but at least it's pretty. These are actually volunteer potato plants, with horseradish mixed in, all being covered by morning glories. It looks like an overgrown weed patch but in reality, the potato plants are perfectly happy being shaded by the horseradish and the morning glory. It only looks like a disaster.

Back in the greenhouse, this is what bok choy looks like when you forget to repot it outside in the big boy garden. Beautiful flowers, but no longer edible, and actually pretty bitter at this point.
And of course, it has wiregrass in its pot - I have no idea how it made it through the screen door into the greenhouse, and up into the pot - I told you it is the Devil.

On the other bench in the greenhouse is a box of sad remains of what was a beautiful tray of lettuce. Between extreme heat (100 degrees plus) and my forgetting to transplant/water it, it gave up the ghost. There are simply not enough hours in the day. And in hot summery Virginia, to work in the garden, any hours you have need to be before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m.

And, my finally entry in the hall of gardening shame - my soaker hoses, all needing to be re-laid in the garden to replace ones that are worn out - instead hidden beneath potato plants and morning glories. And since we found that black snake, I'm very nervous about pulling through the pile to find whatever length of hose I need.

Welcome to a garden that is not pristine, not ready for a magazine cover, and where things do not always turn out like the picture on the seed package - all for lack of energy on the part of the gardener.

I do however have the best of intentions for next year....


  1. Good dose of gardening reality here! :)

  2. You're definitely right about them requiring work. My DD is a wonderful gardener - she loves to dig in the dirt and get hot and sweaty. I, on the other hand, find gardening about as much fun as cooking. I love to look at them, just don't want to work in them. Too bad I can't afford that 24/7 gardener.

  3. Maybe it's not pristine...but I still enjoyed visiting your garden. I love it.

  4. I love it Carole! It isn't pristine, but neither is life. And, being from nearby, believe me when I say that I feel your pain. Wiregrass surely is the devil (we call ours crabgrass, but I know it is the same thing). I've tried the "zen approach", knowing that in South Carolina it is considered a good lawn, but it has yet to work. Perhaps we can start a lucrative business of digging it up and selling it to SC????
    I will say, if you can keep on top of it anyway (always a challenge) that the deep mulching method seems to be keeping it down some in the garden. Of course, now that I've said that I'm sure the crabgrass will take over the garden by the morning to prove me wrong.
    Good luck with your garden. Always remember how many times it took Edison to build a light bulb.