Before We leave


Before one leaves for a vacation, there are so many things to do. For a gardener, the list is endless. Most of us take vacations in July or August. That’s when it is HOT. And humid.  Conditions tough for most plants. One has to leave the garden to the care of Mother Nature.

Out of the endless list, I try to prioritize. First selective watering – to the vegetables, roses and hydrangeas. All are in full sun.  There will be no vegetables to harvest if the plants dry up. The roses need deep watering and will reward you with the second blush of blooms in September if they are well watered. I have also (selectively) sprayed them with insecticidal soap to keep those pesky Japanese beetles at bay. The hydrangeas will sulk if they dry out a lot. So they get preference over other perennials

I also try to mulch – again selectively. In my garden with 20 planted areas, there never is enough mulch to go around. Again I prioritize – the vegetables, rose and hydrangeas so they lose water more slowly. Add to that, new plantings.

Mid to late summer is when the nurseries (and big box stores) offer a wide selection of plants at bargain prices. If you are like me, you already have succumbed to the allure of the “late season bargain” plants. How do you get them into the ground, well-watered and settled before you leave? It is certainly a challenge.

This year’s selections were some wave petunias, a Jacob’s ladder ‘Heavenly Habit’ for the hint of blue area in the front bed. Seriously, who can resist such a name? A pink Penstemon ‘Mystica’, to be a companion to the Huskers Red I already have. And in honor of the upcoming Olympics, two roses: ‘Tournament of Roses’– pretty peachy pink roses, with a light scent.  And ‘Olympiad’ – with it bold red, velvet blossoms. The advantage of buying roses at this time is that (other than the bargain prices) many will still have a few buds and blooms so you know what you are buying.

In past years, I have done these summer plantings and some have not survived. I try to improve the odds by avoiding one mistake – improper planting. So you newby gardeners, make sure that you make the hole for the root ball big enough and deep enough so the whole of it is completely below ground. Do not plant them higher and pile a bunch of soil on the partially exposed root ball and hope the plant will sink in. A good analogy: those crop pants with the exposed ankles may look really trendy in summer – but try wearing them on a freezing day in December. Not so fun. Those exposed roots feel exactly the same way.

Now about the most tedious chore of all – weeding. It is simply not possible to get all the weeds out. I do not like using a hoe – it has rarely worked for me. I come back and find the weed has grown double in size. But it is still a good idea to cut off the tops. Then the weeds will not flower and fruit and spread their seeds before you get back from vacation.

That’s all I have time for – there are still errand to run, and packing to be done. I will try to take some photos while on vacation but do not look for selfies from me. I find the obsession somewhat narcissistic – and my eyes still look so tired.

Leaving for vacation will give my body and my mind time to heal and rest. Leaving my garden to the care of Mother Nature teaches me another lesson – not to be a control freak. I am constantly amazed when I get back – be it a few days or few weeks later – how well the garden looks. If it is night time when I get home from wherever I have gone, it is such a delightful experience next morning to jump out of bed and open the curtains to see how the garden has fared in my absence. Happy Gardening and happy vacationing!!!

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So this is it?

So this is it? The season without a garden? No plump juicy tomatoes. No bright green and red chilies hanging like Christmas lights? No crisp cucumbers that separate ever so gently from the stem at a lightest pull? No large, green, leafy Swiss Chard with their bright red stems and leaves shaped like a monsters hand? No Carnival Mix bell peppers – playing the guessing game: will this one we purple? Or red? Or orange?

Why, you ask? For starters, a car accident in spring which thankfully spared by life and my bones (but not my car) left me with soft tissue damage and intermittent and sometimes severe pain in my neck, right shoulder and hand. My only son’s wedding in late May which involved months of planning, a trip to India etc. etc.  but thanks to all went off without any glitches.

Back to life after that: clearing the house, catching up on chores. Post-accident, talking to insurance agents, damage assessors, adjusters and who knows who else.  Yes, the car was totaled.  Because of that, arranging for rental cars, discussions about who pays.  Finally a car settlement, and voila! Finally a car again! No time for a garden indeed.

Through all of this, umpteen doctor appointments, medical tests and therapies. New experiences of CT scans of head and of lungs. Other experiences of concussions and cold sweats, and nasty reactions to medicines. And sharp and persistent pain in my neck, shoulder and right arm.

Perhaps it’s just as well, I say when I finally am able to take a stroll to my garden patch. The long stretch of black plastic looks so forlorn, with a few random weeds poking through. Suddenly at the far end of the row, there it is – I start in astonishment – a volunteer tomato plant poking through in the little square, looking quite at home as if I had planted it!

Does one need any more incentive? Surely this is the goal I need, to get over the fatigue and pain. I have a few tomato seedlings (started before the accident). No ripping out the plastic and rototilling this time. I just make a hole just where I had made it last year. Fill it with manure and plonk one seedling in. The cages are close by to put around each one. Soon I have one row of tomato seedlings.

The raised bed has been cleared and accommodates a set of three sweet peppers, carnival mix, also started earlier. Soon they are joined by store-bought Banana Peppers and basil.

And the flower garden? It’s a sea of white daisies. Through them, the first blush of roses in early June – crystal fairy, honey perfume, gold medal and Queen Elizabeth, just burst out as if they just want to join the symphony. Not to speak of the roses in the new rose bed, the names of which I do not even remember. A delphinium, blue allium and blue fescue in the front garden – adding a touch of blue I have tried for years to achieve. The lavender is flowering! The stella d’ ores, flushed with yellow radiance burst out like a bouquet of flowers.

Its only early June, there is plenty of time to plant a garden. Sure enough as June ebbs away, the pain subsides, the fatigue reduces. As I stroll through the garden now, the daisies are spent – I need to get help to pull them all out. And yes, its Japanese beetle time – especially for the apple and the Buckeye. Yes, there appears to be fire blight on the pear tree.

Will there be a harvest this fall? Stay tuned. One thing is for sure – you can take me out of the garden but you cannot take the garden out of me…..

Gardeners all share three things in common; patience, imagination and hope. Almost everything you plant does not give you immediate reward – one has to wait.   For me, I realize that when I do plant, I am not planting a tomato or a pepper or even a rose. I am planting hope. And who can live without that?  I don’t have my life back yet, but I do have hope that one day very soon, I will….  Happy Gardening.





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