BOOM! It appears that every plant in our gardens is covered with fantastic blooms. I have never seen such voluptuous excess in my garden and around town. Savor it, for soon we will have a dry summer, and we will all be hard-pressed to keep all this luxuriant growth well irrigated.
Even with recent, somewhat-heavy showers, the rain is not keeping your gardens well irrigated. While the lawns and weeds appear succulent and lush, dig into the soil and you will see dryness. Either nearby tree roots are taking the water, or the deciduous trees have blocked the rain from your garden beds. It is definitely time to set up a good irrigation schedule for your garden for the remaining months of this year.
The evening before I plan to do a deep soak on my garden beds, I spend time (about 15 minutes) hand-watering the beds. This opens the soil so that the deep soaking will be able to really penetrate down to the roots. Think of your dry sponge in the sink: When you first apply water, the water bounces off the dryness. However, it does not take much water to open up the sponge to accept more water.
As for your vegetable beds, the watering needs are much greater. Your vegetables have a limited season to do all their growing and producing. They need to be intensely watched and watered, and while a deep soaking for their young roots is not appropriate, a light sprinkling can cause problems by keeping the roots too close to the surface. Should a heat wave occur, the plant roots will be scorched and can fail the plant. I hand-water my vegetables and annual flowers and herbs every three days, even when the temperatures seem temperate.
So many of my younger friends feel overwhelmed these days with their gardening tasks. Many have turned toward the idea of a few seasonal pots and letting the mow-and-blow guys run the rest of their gardens. May I encourage you to rethink that decision for many, many reasons?
It has been proven that dig-in-the-dirt gardeners have longer life spans. As far as benefits for the body, working in the garden can cut in half the time spent at the gym.
Planting a tree that you will never see in its full stature gives to you a continuum that translates back to your community.
Ask anyone you know about their childhood landscape experiences, and they will have much to talk about. Books and reports have been written about the current need for our children to be out and within our landscapes. Yes, there might be a planter on a windowsill, with one or two seeds — perhaps radishes, sunflowers or nasturtiums — to care for and watch.
Or you can put a paper towel inside a glass, with water at the bottom of the glass. Then put a bean seed between the glass and paper towel and watch it germinate, with the root going down and the stem rising up. Or cut the top off a carrot and place it in a saucer with a bit of water, and watch the top make a wonderful circle of green shoots.
Outside, plant some radishes for instant gratification. Plant a few sunflower seeds or zucchini or pumpkin seeds for your summer garden. The twining runners of the squash plants can be directed, with careful pruning, to wander through your existing shrubs — and they cover bare ground so quickly. Once established, they need minimal watering.
Plant lots of nasturtiums. People stay away from them because they get filled with black aphids in August. Rip out those plants, and push their seeds into the ground. The new plants will gallop through your garden until November with no black aphids.
I mention all these simple measures for enjoyable gardening because this is not the time of year to try to plant a new garden or repair an overgrown garden. Our local, fun-filled garden centers are filled with enticing plants in full flower, but so often, these plants fail at this time of the year. It is best to plant in the autumn season and early winter.
There is so much information out on the Web, but it just gets too confusing. A new neighbor who is new to gardening bought a very expensive Daphne shrub. The information on the Web was totally contradictory: Plant in the sun; no, the shade; no, don’t transplant; needs water; should not be watered in the evening — yikes.
I trust that lovely Daphne plant will be cared for in an eastern exposure in a beautiful pot and then moved to the larger garden in the autumn.
Other enticing plants can be bought and kept well watered until late September or early October, and then planted out into well-turned garden beds. The plants can be artfully arranged until then in a sheltered spot, either on a terrace or patio.
This year’s motto might just be, “Take back our gardens from the mow-and-blow folk.” We want less lawn and less noise pollution.
MADELEINE WILDE is a longtime Queen Anne resident. To comment on this column, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.