Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Garden Detente: Plan and Understand Garden Tasks

To build may have to be the slow and laborious task of years. To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day.” Winston Churchill


Put plan to paper. You don't need to learn landscape architectural design techniques though I heard a lecture on this and found it very interesting and helpful.  You just need a notebook, even better, make it a graph paper or grid paper notebook. Sketch out your ideas. Study your options.

More importantly, anticipate the consequences of your actions.  You may have done something the same way all your life, everyone you know does it that way, the stores want to sell you these products, they want you to think it's necessary, and you do it every year without fail. What if you didn't? What if you stopped? Would the world end? Probably not.

The dump truck dropping off a load of wood chips next door
Consider that mountain of wood chips that gets dumped on your driveway every year or two. Yes, those fresh chips give a clean, albeit fake dyed look to the borders. Yes a couple inches is fine but they do accumulate, though, don't they? In an effort to get that mountain off the driveway as fast as possible you throw them around our plants and trees willy nilly, giving little or no thought to the natural dividing line between root, which needs to be below the soil line, and trunk or stem, that needs to be above.
Wood Chips 4-5 inches deep spread right up to the trunks of trees and shrubs
We think we're doing our gardens a favor by keeping down the weeds, the competition, and keeping in moisture that we know our plants need but are we really smothering them to death? Roots get water from the soil where they also take in oxygen! They can't do that if we constantly bury the roots deep in wood chips. Burying the trunk too deeply in mulch and chips can cause rot. Eventually you'll have a lovely, bare bed of wood chips, devoid of the beautiful plants and trees you envisioned.
Alternative: a wood chip border around the garden, a wood chip path, perhaps. How about allowing seedlings from your annuals and perennials to come up and fill in the spaces. What a joy it is to discover bleeding heart seedlings or to realize that you won't need to buy morning glories for the trellis. If they don't come up exactly where you want you can transplant them. You may have to do more weeding which may give you time to think or even stop thinking so much. You may get in touch with nature, say a silent prayer in thanks for all that is good.

Consider all that fertilizer that gets sprayed on, spread on, and eventually washed off in the rain. Grass needs nutrients like all the  other plants, well, to a point. Lawn treatment companies want you to think it needs more than it actually does, that the more you apply the better. All that fertilizer puts the grass in hyper mode, growing roots close to the surface, which we then need to water often. Those excess roots die off and become thatch which we then pay those companies more money to come and remove. What if you left the grass clipping on the lawn and allowed them to decompose down under the blades of grass, which you allowed to grow to a good 2 1/2 or 3 inches? Then the grass would get the nutrients they needed and would grow deep roots which they would use to survive the drier periods of the summer. If your lawn needs fertilizer there is a correct time for this as there is also a correct time for herbicides. Use a site similar to this for a lawn schedule based on your area. Sure this tends to only hold true in areas of the country where grass grows naturally. Growing grass in the desert is another thing altogether. Don't get me started.

Be aware of what you're doing when you decide to spray on those broad spectrum pesticides. All insects are not equal.
If you can't solve the bee crisis on your own in your own backyard, which you can't, well at least be aware. Preserve the bees we have. Remember, they pollinate our vegetables, fruit trees, and flowers. I love bees, but bumble bees just send me over the moon. Sometimes when thy're resting on a flower I sneak in a little pet and it makes me feel so happy. Not all insects are pests.

Japanese Beatles are voracious eaters

That said, . Take the Japanese beetle, please. Ba ba... bum. Some insects are just downright evil! The old saying, "Take time to smell the roses." has never held more true because if you have Japanese beetles you may not get another opportunity to smell, let alone see those roses. One or two of these beetles can destroy a rose in under an hour. What a mess. Some years are worse than others. Techniques for dealing with them vary from soil injections to the old soapy water bucket.

A bucket of soapy water is an effective method of killing
Japanese Beatles if the flowers or leaves are within reach
and the infestation is not too out of control.
This is how I choose to deal with them. I place the bucket under my rose or string beans and shake the plant lightly to knock the beetles into the soapy water. A few drops of dish detergent into a little water in a gallon size bucket will break the surface tension and they won't get out. It's pretty cathartic to stick it to the little rats.

The list of garden decisions go on and on: watering, weeding, nursery stock, etc. I'll save some stuff for another day so I can get out in my garden where I really want to be.

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