Summer is drawing to a close and the garden is showing it. As I walk out to Max's Garden, my Crocs accumulate the tell-tale orange stain of yet another dry summer. It's the third one in a row and I'm weary of watering. Even with the watering, some plants have just had it. They can no longer put up a valiant fight.
What's a gardener to do?
If you're a relatively new gardener like I am, you know how enthralled you can get with each new plant you discover. You must have it! Never mind that if it comes to live in your garden that it will be out of its element a bit and will take a bit of coddling until it becomes "established" and maybe even then it will require more attention than you may be willing to give it down the road.
I'm a plant collector. I'm swayed by the new introductions although I've learned to wait a year until they don't cost so much to buy them. I like the unusual. I've got tunnel vision when some pretty leaf or bloom catches my eye. I'm the eternal optimist, thinking it will easily grow and thrive in my heavy clay, and survive the hot dry days of July and August, as if my thinking it will make it so. But soon reality sets in.
As I said, we've just had our third summer in a row of not enough rain. I'm tired of carrying the hoses around the yard, weaving them in and out of the vegetable garden to reach the far corners. We have sulfur water and so much watering requires that we turn the filter system off because it's costly to filter all that water (all our well water goes through the filter). I hate sulfur water, even though it's pretty much a fact of life around these parts.
My gardens are changing. When we first broke ground for Max's Garden in October 2005, there was still a lot of sun shining over it. The small trees in and around it have grown so much that about half of that sunny area is now in shade. Much of this problem was my poor planning ahead, but now I have to deal with it. Plants that once bloomed their heads off are mainly foliage plants due to lack of enough direct sun.
So I sit here, ruminating over the situation and wonder what I can do to help myself by eliminating some of the worry and work of having large gardens that have plants that don't like the way things are any more than I do.
The solution would seem to be obvious, wouldn't it?
Just don't grow things that aren't drought tolerant. Move the sun plants out of the shade. "Weed out" the things that require so much effort to keep them looking good and only grow those that love it here at Our Little Acre.
The real problem is that it's a matter of will power. Plop me down in the middle of a garden center and my eyes glaze over with greed. I want it all. So many times I've walked around, filling my cart with this or that, then when it comes time to take it to the checkout, I'm the one that has to take a reality check and I put back those things that just aren't appropriate for my garden. It's taken me four years to be able to do that.
I've lost a fair number of plants in the five short years since I became a gardener. My first year of gardening, I was devastated over every loss. And the first spring when I realized that not every single one of my perennials was going to wake up from its winter slumber, I was crushed. What did I do wrong?
I've learned to roll with it, learned that it's all a part of gardening and I'd better not take it personally. But now I'm entering another phase, I think. My enthusiasm for trying new things isn't gone, it's just more calculating. I've learned about hardiness, zones, moisture, acidity, sun, pests, and so on and so on, and I now look at new plants with more educated eyes. I'm looking at my old plants in a new way, too.
So, here's what I've decided to do:
- Buy no new plants this fall. I've said this for the past couple of years, but this year I really mean it.
- Take the winter to decide which plants will stay and which will not (unless they make that decision for me first).
- In the spring, be ruthless and eliminate those that make me a slave to my garden.
- Stay out of the garden centers.