Greengirls Helen Yarmoska, Nicole Hvidsten, Martha Buns, Connie Nelson, Kim Palmer and Mary Jane Smetanka are dishin' the dirt from the back-yard garden and beyond. Whether you're a greenthumb or greenhorn, they're eager to learn from your mishaps, mistakes - and most importantly, your sweet successes - all growing season long.
Walking in the yard last week I heard a familiar crunch that I have not heard since September. It was the terrible sound of grass crunching under my feet. After such a wet Spring, I thought the sprinkler would never need to be used, but alas, it’s time to get the water going.
According to things I’ve learned from the University of Minnesota, grasses have very long root systems (if watered properly). When given long, deep watering as opposed to quick short spurts, the grass creates a web of filtering roots that grow. After our wet June, I figure roots must be about 10 feet long!
That same article points out that lawn watering is best done between 4 am and 8 am. It reduces evaporation waste and drift. So neighbors and paper delivery guy, if you see me out in my nightgown, baseball cap and pink Crocs at 5 am, please look the other way. I’m just doing what I can to make sure I can wiggle my toes in green grass in a few days.
It’s a beautiful old stucco house with magnificent wood accents. He had just removed two large overgrown arborvitaes and was looking for replacement ideas. When I got there, I realized there was more removal that needed to happen. He had bushes that blocked walkways -- one of landscaping’s no-nos. I recommended keeping the shovel out and removing those two bushes.
We did the walk around and the back yard and front yard were bi-polar. The back was a combination of peaceful repose for parents with areas of unique plants and a large green lawn space for children and dogs. It was fenced in nicely with a well-kept privacy fence and terraced back area that was not too dangerous or steep for curious boys. The area to the side of the house was fully shaded and the only area in the back that might need some work.
Then it came to ideas for the front, he wanted to keep the budget relatively low, but still wanted the “wow” factor. I noticed a few shrub rose bushes in the back that could be moved to the front. But he has limited time and moving roses is not fun. Besides, I already gave him the task of removing two bushes.
“Let’s go with hydrangeas out front,” I said. “Peonies? What about coreopsis and sedum?” I didn’t see the “magnificent idea” look on his face. What I saw was. “eh, common.” Although he never said it, I could tell by the plantings in the back he wanted more. “I could divide up some of my hostas and snow-in-the-mountain for the side garden,” I enthusiastically chimed in. He said, “Really, snow-in-the-mountain.”
At this point, I hoped to slap him into reality. “You’re moving. You won’t have to deal with invasive snow-in-the-mountain! The hostas are the plain green kind, but they’re free and spread quickly. Plus, the peonies are on clearance now at the garden center. Add some bright petunias and new mulch in the front and it will look fantastic.”
I think he expected more from this Master Gardener. But that’s what I had -- common, easy-to-grow, abundant plants. They can be gorgeous and make for quick beauty. Maybe I’m too practical – or too cheap – but I didn’t go with adding $50 shrubs and $20 perennials. That would be the next owner’s creative palate to fill.
Did I do my friend wrong?
Gardeners, we have liftoff.
I was downright giddy when I checked my garden over the weekend and saw the sunflowers peeking through and realized that the carrot seeds did not get washed away after all. Tomatoes are thriving, the strawberries are coming into their own and my herbs become more fragrant by the day. Alas, the poor peppers are trying to stay strong after it appears rabbits used a fair share of their leaves for a tossed salad. But now that my little gardens look like Fort Knox (thanks, Pa!), I expect them to flourish as well.
But something I didn't expect? Just how happy my little gardens make me. I love checking them to see what's new, I love how they look in the corner of my yard and I love that neighbors stop to talk about what's growing and the curse of rabbits. Gardening gives me a different kind of energy, and it's refreshing.
Even the rest of the yard has benefited from the gardens. After a few lackluster year
The key to my success, though, is not only making time for gardening but trying to maintain this momentum. It's easy to get excited when the seeds start to sprout or the first tomatoes start to turn -- I can already taste the BLTs -- and we have fresh strawberries with our homemade ice cream. What will happen when the adrenaline wears off and the weeds start to invade? A couple of years ago I might have been more concerned. This time I'm approaching gardening very differently: It's not what gardening does TO me, it's what gardening does FOR me. Yes, I believe I'm hooked.
When did you become hooked on gardening? Did it take a couple of tries? What does gardening do for you?
After visiting with him, I went to fill my car up with gas. The person in line in front of me had two gas tanks and a lawn mower in back. Hmm, maybe my advice to Mike wasn’t that good. With gas at $4.39 a gallon maybe he should forget about his lawn.
If you just don’t use the lawnmower does grass work like a bald man’s
This high-priced gas is supposed to last until June, by then dandelions and quack grass will move in and no one will notice. (Is that like a wig for a patchy lawn?)
So, Mike, let the Great Dane romp in the back yard. Forget about filling in those patchy spots and forget about mowing twice a week. What do you guys think? Live and let live? Go bald or go home?
If you were one of those folks who let their lawns go dormant over the heat of summer, it’s time to pull out the hoses. If you don’t provide your lawn with proper moisture now, there may be no turf grass to come back in the Spring.
Sam Bauer, Extension Turfgrass Educator for the University of MN Extension, wrote that usual Fall lawn maintenance on drought affected turfgrass may actually do more harm than good.
For example, the usual maintenance right now is to lower your mowing height to prevent snow mold. However, Sam says to keep the height up right now and mow less to help encourage grass recovery.
And fertilizer, don’t think about it. The University of MN has already informed us that the October feeding is no longer recommended. And in drought conditions, any quick release nitrogen flows right into the ecosystem because lawns aren’t growing as quickly and robustly as a ‘usual’ Fall in Minnesota.
So pull out those hoses right now. Give your trees a drink and give you lawn chance to turn green before it turns white! Will you do it?
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