Is your garden a place of solace or aggravation? My garden is both. Does that have more to say about me than about the garden?
Social media is full of garden memes. All are positive: the satisfaction of growing a tomato, it’s not hoarding if it’s plants, gardening is cheaper than therapy, garden bathing, and so on.
Yes, there is indeed the immense satisfaction of growing a special plant from seed and the thrill of the hunt – tracking down that hard-to-find treasure. Puttering around the garden is a great pastime. Even pulling weeds can be very therapeutic, providing an outlet for destructive urges.
But who are they kidding? Do they want to come to my garden? There are weeds growing in the driveway. The lavender will need trimming in the coming months. My slash pile is too large. Is it really time to turn the compost again? Why does my garden look untended and overgrown in comparison to that lovely South Delta Garden Tour entry where each plant was its own spotlighted garden feature? And now, wherever did that dreaded goutweed come from?!
Let’s face it. Gardening can be a lot of work. Late summer is supposed to be a time to simply relax in the shortening sun, to “garden bathe.” Yes, indeed, there is that – although mosquitos hung around later this year than most years.
Yet here are my August tasks: cut fall-fruiting spent raspberry canes to the ground, sow the last of the cool season crops like radishes and beets for a chance at a crop before winter cold halts growth, and fertilize the flowering shrubs and strawberries lightly so they can build up stores for winter dormancy. (This year, I am trying RoseTone for most flowering shrubs on the advice of a Garden Club member.)
And September? I am so very glad that current advice is to neglect ‘putting your garden to bed,’ with the goals of providing protective mulch and a habitat for small beneficial garden critters. But then I think: oh no, that means the lavender trimming has to be finished in very early spring. Of course, there is an ample number of garden tasks that do not involve cleanup so I really can postpone the lavender trimming as long as I want.
Once regular rain commences and the main bloom period is over, dividing clump-forming perennials is on the task list. Out come the spade, garden forks, and root knife. It’s not a task that every plant tolerates or even needs every year, so my solution is to keep a calendar of what plants might need attention in late summer and early autumn. I find that alternating years for different plants makes the task more manageable. Odd years is for chives and lilies, even years for irises. Of course, I forgot the even-year irises last year, so I got a pretty poor bloom this year. Serves me right.
This year will be different, and I shall tackle all my dividing tasks. But instead of discarding or giving away viable but unwanted divisions, I shall pot them up for the Garden Club Spring Garden Sale, which the club decided to hold in lieu of a garden tour.
This time of year is also great for planting shrubs and trees, as well as some hardy herbaceous plants. The red-flowering currants ordered for the Garden Club’s Tyee Drive beautification project to replace the winter-killed Ceanothus will go in now. The native tree saplings I ordered at the Whatcom Conservation District can move from their pots near the garden hose to their final home where the coming months of rain will help them settle in before winter dormancy. Even some wildflower seed mixes are best sown now because they need a freeze to crack the hard seed coating and germinate.
And regarding seeds, now is the ideal time to harvest seeds from wanted plants. I’m setting aside my harvested flower seeds to spread on the Club’s Tyee Beautification Project when the Club works on revitalizing the next section of spring bulb mounds. Any vegetable seeds I don’t want to use myself can be packaged and saved for next spring’s Point Roberts Seed Share event.
But gardening is not all tasks like this. There are times to sit on the porch and savor the lush vista and the waves of flowers. The breeze stirs the leaves gently. I can work at my desk and look out on the calm layers of greenery. Even now as the lavender fades, it makes way for the pink flush of emerging Sedum “Autumn Joy” blooms.
There is something satisfying about creating order out of chaos. And there is indeed nothing better than a home-grown tomato. I must remember this next time I spot a weed or hear a task calling. It’s a delicate balance.
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