Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Much Ado about Gardening

I can never resist quoting Shakespeare, but today's post should more accurately be entitled "Much to do in the Garden." Reading many of your blogs, I know you all have the same feeling. It's almost June, and there is still so much to be done! What's really frustrating here in my little corner of Illinois is that we have had so much rain. I should be thankful--and I am--that we have not had floods nor the horrific storms that have caused so much destruction in parts of the Midwest. The rain here, to be truthful, has just been a minor annoyance: a soaking rain one day, then just when the garden has dried out enough to work in it, it rains again.

It's hard to tell from the picture above, but the white streaks in the right of the picture are actually steady streams of the rain that fell all day yesterday.

I was hoping to get into the vegetable garden yesterday to till up a section again so that I could plant tomatoes. The tomato plants have been sitting on my patio for over week and are looking pretty puny right now. Of course, even if I had planted them they would have needed a blanket yesterday--the temperature went from the 80's on Monday to 50 degrees Tuesday. I still have two trays of flowers as well waiting to be planted. And, believe it or not, I still have to buy more plants! There are still some empty holes in some of my containers that need to be filled in, and the new roadside flowerbed is not finished either.

And once all the planting is done, of course the weeding must be done. All this rain has caused them to grow by leaps and bounds. I have been pulling the obvious weeds--some sort of grass that may be the ribbon grass some of you have described, dandelions, thistles, and a persistent vine I thought was bindweed, but thankfully isn't. My problem, though, with weeding this time of year is not knowing sometimes what is a weed and what isn't. I was looking at these "weeds" when they first popped up in the front of my main flowerbed, debating whether to pull them or not, and thought they looked like something else. Sure enough, Beckie confirmed my suspicions: they're actually echinacea seedlings!

When I cleaned up my flowerbed this spring, I sprinkled the seeds from the dried coneflower heads all over the ground, hoping I might get a few volunteer plants to fill in bare spots. It's worked before, but never like this. I am so glad I didn't buy that echinacea I put in my shopping cart at the garden center two weeks ago!
Then there are other projects. I have been wanting to plant some perennials for a permanent memorial for my late dog Roco. I found this small trellis recently and I have all the plants needed, but I'm waiting for the ok from my husband on the placement. Mr. MowerMan doesn't like to have to mow around things, so I want to make sure I plant in the best place so the flowers don't fall victim to his mower blades.

Another project that has me puzzled is this birdbath pictured below. I bought this two years ago, waiting patiently until it finally went on sale. I love the cobalt blue accent in the shade garden. But I hadn't had it more than a month before something knocked it over, eventually breaking the top of the base, as you can see. Last summer I carefully placed all the broken pieces back, using superglue. Once it had set for a few days, I placed the top back on, and in a week it was knocked over again! I have no idea what might have knocked it over--it's too heavy for the cats or our Pomeranian. I thought it might have been a deer or a large stray dog, but we do have raccoons and opossums, too. Whatever it might have been, I would sure like to fix this again. Any ideas? If it can't be fixed, I might fill the bowl with pebbles and water, using it as a butterfly bath, as suggested at gardening workshop. But, darn it, I really want to use it as a birdbath.

As I walk around my garden I see so many other things that need to be done, too. But I really need to look on the bright side. After all, it's only the last week in May, and I am so much farther ahead than what I normally would be. A year ago at this time I was busily grading papers and averaging final grades, completing inventory and book orders, and cleaning out my desk and thiry-four years' accumulation of files and teaching paraphernalia. Last year I had barely started gardening by the first of June!
Looking at the garden in a positive light, I realize I have accomplished quite a lot. The roadside flowerbed expansion was tilled, and most of it has been planted. The spinach and lettuce I planted later than intended has appreciated this cool weather and is almost ready to be picked. Green beans and summer squash are popping through the soil. I also have most of my containers planted.

Later this summer, when they have filled out, I'll show them all to you. I've also experimented with a couple new planting projects--some hanging baskets and a living wreath, both of which I'll post about later, as well.
I also finally got around to a project I've been wanting to do for ages. This old buggy seat belonged to my mother-in-law, and since she always left it outside, I thought it would be the perfect accent in the main flowerbed. Unfortunately, I neglected to bring it inside last winter, and rain and snow took a toll on it. I wanted to refinish it to protect it from the elements, but preserve its original look. My mother-in-law had painted it a dark green, and you'll notice if you enlarge it, that she added some yellow trim, including painting her and my father-in-law's names on it. I gave the seat a very light coat of paint, including some Rustoleum on the metal parts, and then a couple coats of an exterior polyurethane varnish. Trying to touch up the yellow trim and re-copy her inscription was not an easy job, but from a distance I think it looks ok. I am hoping that this will keep it preserved for my children, who have fond memories of their grandmother. And I will take it inside this winter!

And while I have been complaining about all the rain, my plants have loved it. I have killed more astilbes than I can remember, but this one, planted just last year, looks like it might be a keeper. Astilbes need lots of moisture, and I tend to forget to water them during the hot, dry spells of summer. I am resolving right now to do a better job this year of keeping this beauty alive.

Too often I am a glass half-empty kind of person. As Carol of May Dreams said in an earlier post, it's good to sit back sometimes and think about what you have done rather than what you have to do. Now that I look at all I have done this spring, I feel much better.

On a final note, I want to thank everyone who left a comment on my last post about Empty Wallet Syndrome. Apparently, the condition that causes this problem--plant addiction--is running rampant among all gardeners. I don't know if it can be transmitted through cyberspace, as Cheryl suggested, but it is good to know I belong to such a great support group. In fact, I've come to the conclusion that gardeners are among the nicest people there are. Who else is so willing to commiserate with you about your problems? Who else is so willing to share their possessions (plants) with you? Who else has just the right advice for you in a sticky situation?

And it's not just bloggers who are such nice people. Last week I was searching for a particular plant when a total stranger also looking at the annuals struck up a conversation with me and recommended a couple of her favorite annuals that stand up well to Illinois summers. Later that afternoon Beckie and I were standing in the check-out line at Meijer's when the woman behind us started commenting on the cleome in my cart. We began to talk, and not only did she give me some advice about growing the cleome (it doesn't like fertilizer), but it turned out she belonged to the local chapter of the Master Gardeners. By the time Beckie and I left, we had plants as well as tickets to the Master Gardeners' Garden Walk to be held in June.

And finally, last week Beckie brought me a gift when it wasn't even my birthday--this tool that I've seen on so many other blogs. Sure, she only paid a dollar for it at the Dollar Store, but it's the thought I appreciate. It's amazingly substantial for that price, and I've used it so much already I don't know how I got along without one before.
So to all my gardening friends, I thank you for your support, and I wish you sunny days to work in the garden and a few rainy days to sit back and appreciate all that you have accomplished.


  1. Every time I am over, I see the fruits of your labors. You have accomplished so much in such a short time and all your efforts look wonderful. You have much to be proud of!

  2. You have gotten a lot done in your garden! Your garden is definitely "half-full" and think how beautiful it will be once the plants all settle in.

    On tilling up the vegetable garden, I used to fret about that every spring, too, trying to find a time when the ground was dry enough to work. Now, since I have all raised beds, I can literally plant the day after a rain, with no tilling. Just a little light weeding, hoeing, raking it smooth and I'm planting.

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  3. Unrelated to this post but I just thought of you as I missed my mouth when drinking orange and raspberry juice and now I have splodges on my clean t-shirt.

    That old seat looks lovely. What a great hand-me-down.

  4. Your garden is looking lovely Rose. Just think of all you have accomplished since you have no papers to grade.

    My mower man also doesn't like to go around things. I have used the riding mower to plan beds. I mow so you don't have to back up etc just go straight ahead and where the grass is taller is where I put the bed. No one has to trim around the beds and it seems to have kept mower man happy.

    Love that wagon seat. As to your bird bath. Maybe the top is just a little heavy. If you put some sand or gravel into the base to make the base a little heavier it won't topple over so easily. I have used epoxy glue that doesn't weather to hold broken bird bathes together before. They don't come apart at the original break when you use epoxy.

    Good luck...

  5. Hi Rose.....Lovely post, almost felt I was having a chat with you. I to like Shakespeare...When I was 14 I was a prefect at senior school. My teacher was so pleased with the way I had worked with the class for that year, she gave me the complete works of the said man. I still have them now.

    I love the buggy cart, so pretty, and you have done a good job, it looks lovely.

    I can't believe you let your husband do the tractor mowing. I do ours.....Mr Practical did it once and mowed down all the wild flowers I had planted. He is not allowed anywhere near it now.

    I am behind with the garden, the continuous rain has left the garden sodden and the plants are growing at a terrific rate.
    Weeds are coming up in places I have never had them before....
    BUT it will all get done, we all get a bit panicky when we see so much work and can't get on with it.

    I love Astilbe they do well here because it is damp.......

    I agree with you its so good to be able to share our joys and woes with fellow gardeners. It makes our world a better place, chatting on line with like minded people.

    Have fun!!!!!

  6. It's probably a good thing we don't measure our self worth against our garden to do list....I would surely be in trouble.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation with you today; what a nice post.

    You are going to have to stake that planter into the ground some way...since the base is hollow maybe placing some heavier rocks inside it would keep it from tipping over....also placing a shallow bowl of water might keep the thirsty guys from jumping on top of it.


  7. Thanks, Beckie! I've been working today (with my little helper) trying to get more of the plants I bought yesterday into the ground.

    Carol, Thanks! Raised beds do sound like an easier way to go. Maybe that's a future project for me.

    Liz, Now why would you think of me when you spilled your drink? :)

    Lisa, Thanks for the tips on the birdbath. I think I'll try that. Last night we saw a deer behind a tree next to the shade garden (which is just outside a bedroom window!), so my hunch may have been correct.

  8. Cheryl, Well there's something else we have in common--Shakespeare.
    I "let" my husband mow because we have so much to mow, and he doesn't help with housework. But I've made a deal with him that I will trim around all the flowerbeds if he'll just stay a foot away from them. Usually it works out (the key word here is usually...)

    Gail, Thanks for the kind words and for the suggestion on the birdbath. Leaving another bowl of water out is something I'd never thought of.

    And to everybody, thanks for your patience in reading this: blogger seems to have a mind of its own in putting spaces (or none) in today.

  9. It is a very busy time it seems everyday there is something "new" growing. I have a "mower man" myself and he doesn't like to mow around things. He threatens to mow down some of my plants :0 , but he's wouldn't dare!

  10. Your mood and weather sounds much like mine here. We have NOT seen the rain but the cooler temperatures every other day YES! I can't seem to get motivated to do the bigger projects in the garden...we did get the big cleanup accomplished and here it is June almost and still planting potting and throwing soil compost and mulch which usually has already been done by now!!
    It is better than snow so I will look at all the beauty that surrounds me and think SUMMER!!
    Happy gardening to you! Love the painted bench!


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