Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Where Will the Garden Go Now?

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.

Like now.

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.

Well, three out of four wouldn't be bad...


Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

Your list almost makes me laugh out loud! We have all been there. I just came inside to have some lunch and see the web for a sec. My yard is the other end of the spectrum....soooo swampy and mushy I could hardly walk in some parts of it. The moisture brings the earthworms which in turn bring the moles which then allow the voles to travel through the tunnels to eat whatever plants haven't soggy bottomed out. It is a vicious circle.
Sorry you have had to drag hoses this summer. I don't like paying for the water (we have city water) to keep plants alive only to have the voles eat them. aughghhhh
Are we crazy? ;-)

pigbook1 said...

I don't really have a garden, but I do have a suburban plot of grass with some vegetables. my goal for the fall is to plant some bulbs and pray they come up next spring

Connie said...

I have learned to stick with the old fashioned plants, as they are the hardiest. And I really do like them best, too. My garden is the survival of the fittest, especially this year, when I have not been able to take care of it because of illness. I learned just how tough some of those perennials can be.

Muum said...

Your realizations are something I have thought about , too. It is discouraging when plants die, and you know it is because they take too much care. But, I am greedy, too, and love a new plant, love acquiring it, love planting and caring for it. hard to give up all that, and be sensible.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

STAY OUT OF THE GARDEN CENTER??? No way. Just think you must buy SHADE loving plants. For the most part they are very forgiving and aren't difficult to maintain. One is just weary at this time of year. Get you a glass of lemonade and sit out there and read a book and relax some. You deserve a good rest and will feel better for it.

Gail said...

Kylee, It's staying out of the garden center that's the hard part...I do laud your resolve and your goals. Instead of plants get lots of bulbs to plant this fall...that will help! You can do it! gail

Dave@The Home Garden said...

Good luck with those resolutions. I know I would fail! Just water as much as you are willing and whatever dies don't replant with the same thing. Replace them with something that can go with less water and less maintenance.

Muhammad khabbab said...

Kylee, i am with you.I have around 60 clay pots unlike your soil bed and because i am a plant collector like you there is huge variation of plants.My 100F temp. has made me water these pots every day. If i don't, they wilt and wilt. some are not drought tolerant. BUT i cannot resist buying a new variety of a plant i see. so i am zero out of 4 :P best of luck

Diana said...

Kylee -- Hang in there. What you wrote could be MY post! Exactly. Except that since I took a gardening break in the 100+ degree heat of August, our slightly cooler temps have me back shopping with a vengeance! But for totally drought and deer tolerant things. This week I will put in sedges, agaves, cacti and grasses. And I have to say - I'm so psyched. You'll get psyched again, too!

Frances said...

HA Kylee, stay out of the garden centers sounds too much like punishment! Gardening should be joyous and you have learned so much, as you have written about exactly what you need to do. We also have had to shift to more drought tolerant plantings since we began the current garden, now ten years old. And adjust to that ever changing light canopy. Think of it as a challenge! For us, fall is the very best planting time, both for the gardener and the garden plants. Cooler temps and more rain turn the concrete like clay into something that can be dug. This is a fine time to divide and move things too, since the tops are going to die down anyway and you can still see where everything is located. Onward! :-)

Unknown said...

Stat out of the garden centers? Can that even be contemplated by a gardener? I think our cars drive us to them automatically. Once there, we have no choice but to go in...

Not only has our summer been dry, but cold too. Looks like it's turning even more fall like now too. I want tomatoes!!!! (throws a tantrum)

Cindy, MCOK said...

This all sounds very familiar. Just when I'm thinking about making better plant choices, though, I find myself stopping at the 70% off sales at local garden centers and finding such incredible bargains that I am powerless to resist!

Anonymous said...

Like you, I am a garden "collector". I know I should plant in artistic drifts, but there are just too many plants out there that I want to have and display. How on earth would I plant drifts of all of these things? So I go along thinking I have a more cottage style garden, with a riot of plants and colors happening. Yep, that's my explanation!

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

A lot of the things you mention are things I notice about myself. I've been trying not to just buy each plant that catches my eye. I've bought some this summer, but this year I was much better than usual. It's just all so tempting when you're standing there looking at it. I've really been trying to pay attention to what the plant needs to grow rather than where I wish it would grow.
Good luck with your resolutions :) I'm not sure I could be that strong.

Carol Michel said...

Hi, Kylee, As you may or may not know, we've had a fairly wet, cool summer here, and I'm still getting that rusty fungus on the lawn and it coats my shoes now, too. I can't believe how dry you are just a few hours north and east of me.

To take your mind off your watering, how about joining me in a meme I just tagged you for? You can check it out here
on my blog.

Carol, May Dreams Gardens

Kylee Baumle said...

Janet ~ Nah, we're not crazy. We just do what we have to do! We've had some rain here last week, so that did wonders to perk things up. Still, the garden and the gardener just need a break.

pigbook1 ~ Bulbs are probably one of the easiest things to care for! That's one thing I will be planting this fall.

Connie ~ I'll probably always have a few of the more unusual things, but I'm going to be sticking with the tried and true ones for my garden. I can't possibly have all the ones that I see that I like, so I might as well grow the ones that do well!

Muum ~ Like I said, it's an exercise in will power! Some days I have it and some days I don't!

Lisa ~ I've got other shade gardens and actually like shade plants. I just need to step back and assess the conditions and adjust the plantings in some of the gardens that are changed from when I first planted them.
Yeah, I am weary! But that's normal for this time of year, isn't it?

Gail ~ I do have bulb plans, as always. I'm not going to buy as many as usual though. My gardens are pretty full the way it is.

Dave ~ That's exactly what I plan to do. :-)

Muhammad ~ Oh I understand, believe me! All we can do is try!

Diana ~ I'm not sure I'll be psyched again until next March! LOL!

Frances ~ We've got clay like that, too. I've not had the best of luck with fall plantings here, as far as perennials are concerned. I think most just don't have enough time to become established before the bitter cold sets in. It depends on the kind of winter we have of course. For sure, gardening is a challenge, and I do love a challenge! :-)

Cinj ~ LOL! Oh you are so right! On all accounts!

Cindy ~ 70% off??? No sales like that here, or I'd be a goner...

Robin ~ Sounds good to me! I know exactly what you're saying - yep, totally understand that!

Catherine ~ I'm getting better at making better choices, but I've still got a ways to go. Now that my gardens are pretty well full, it makes it a little easier to resist things. But I also know that I'll fall for something now and then that isn't really the best choice. I'll just try not to do it too often!

Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

Tsk, tks, although the overwhelming majority of your resolutions are spot on, the one about staying out of the garden centre is not.;-) You'll have to go there at one point to get shade lovers and drought tolerant plants and seeds and bulbs and .....

What I do, is check labels to see if a certain plant will thrive in my garden or not. But, and I am gardener enough to admit it, I sometimes buy plants that are not suitable for my garden at all. And sometimes they live and sometimes they die. It's a thing. ;-)

Great post!

Rose said...

Kylee, I can sooo relate to this post. I remember learning at Spring Fling that you had been gardening for only five years, just as I had. I was amazed because your gardens are so beautiful! Like you, it's been a joy but also an educational experience to find what works and what doesn't in the garden. And I, too, am always tempted by that pretty leaf or flower, regardless of what the tag may say about the conditions it needs. This year, I am standing back and taking stock as well as to what needs to be changed here. My main flowerbed, my first attempt at gardening here, has finally filled with overflowing flowers, but it's so full it looks chaotic. Time to weed out the excess and bring some order back to it. The garden is always evolving, isn't it? I like all your suggestions for this fall, but #4? That would be a difficult one for me:)

Nutty Gnome said...

Stay out of a garden centre? - fat chance!!! :) We are magnetically attracted to garden centres and it is impossible to resist .... so it's not worth fighting it!

Kylee Baumle said...

Yolanda Elizabet ~ Yeah, I know. That will be the hardest one. If I'm near a garden center, my car takes overover, driving itself right into the parking lot. And the buying? Yeah, it's a thing all right!

Rose ~ That's right - our gardens are evolving and that's where a bit of a challenge comes in. What stays, what goes, do we make the gardens larger to accommodate things? Can't do that here - they're already large enough - so I have to pick and choose. It's hard!!

Nutty Gnome ~ Well, okay then! I'll blame you for enabling me in my weakness. LOL!

JulenaJo said...

Spot on with your post. And I know you'll be in the garden center. Some resolutions were just made to be broken.
I live a few counties away from you and the dry conditions of the past few years have really taken a toll on our young oak trees and the roses.
Several perennials look tired, too, and for the most part I've tried to plant things that can take drought.
It's been the strangest growing season I can ever recall. We have not a single apple on any of our trees!

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