Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Miscellaneous Mid-September Musings by Gardener Dave

Is it unrealistic to hope for an extended fall? Probably so, but we could have nice weather for another month and a half or so. After our cool, wet May-June and our turbulent July-August, I sure hope so!

I have two subjects today: One is about whether or not we can be totally objective about our own gardens, and the second des with some observations I’ve made while driving around the area..

Can we be objective with our own gardens?

As Master Gardeners, we are trained to advise the public about good gardening practices, plant selection and placement, and proper care. We do this with a professional eye and try to be very objective. We try to be helpful, but sometimes we don’t understand decisions made by clients.

But when it comes to our own gardens and yards, we may just let our objectivity slide a bit. We have our own foibles, it seems. We may become “emotionally attached” to a plant, especially if it has been part of our landscape for some time. It may seem almost part of our “family”, and we are reluctant to dispose of it, thinking if we give it another year or so, or treat it better, it will surely reward us. Not necessarily so. We may be ignoring the maxim of “right plant, in the right place” ourselves.

Our gardens and yards are not necessarily showplaces, but that’s all right, because they are primarily for our enjoyment, right? So what if the showiest gardens use lots of mass plantings and coordinated colors? So what if public gardens are all arranged with shorter plants in front and taller ones in back? So what if “professional” gardens have plants that bloom in succession from early spring to late fall? Our gardens are our own experimental labs, right? Well, at least mine is.

Oh, I try to put a little “eye candy” in front so people passing by might admire it. And I do try to have a few areas in back that I spruce up for guests that come for barbecues and parties. But, I admit I am many times guilty of buying plants just because “I never had one of those”, or because they are on sale later in the year, etc. These poor plants wind up being “plopped”, sometimes only because there is space that needs filling. It might not always be “right plant, right place”. So there! Now that I have “fessed up”, y’all come clean now. Have you ever done that?
Another human foible very familiar to me – Have you ever set out to accomplish a specific task (not necessarily gardening) and then get totally distracted by several other things that need doing “worse” than the one you set out to do? Happens to me all the time! I think I have figured out why it takes me so long to accomplish some things – it’s because I just never quite get to the first task on my list!

Some Neighborhood Observations

Since our early spring and summer provided plenty of moisture – little or no watering was done on many properties. This was fine for a while, but everyone needs to remember that it doesn’t reliably rain under house eaves and dense tree canopies, and when it goes dry again – as was true this year for most of August and so far into September – we need to turn the water back on. Even if the lawn is allowed to go dormant, the trees still need water.

One Questionable Quote I will always remember: “Trees don’t need to be watered, they get their water from the ground”. Hmmmm… how does the ground get water? They might be very surprised to learn that most of our trees have roots no deeper than 15-20 inches, and desperately need the water now. They might also be surprised to learn that the important feeder roots extend far beyond the leaf canopy on established trees – i.e. don’t water the trunk, guys! Many of our trees put out heavy leaf canopies this spring, and now seem more stressed than usual if they haven’t received irrigation. Trees are very valuable – let’s treat them like family members!


Gardener Dave