Gardening–or Not–Again This Year

On Monday I had some photos of a few annuals and herbs, and a couple of tomato plants that I hope to get planted in the next few weeks. When (or maybe if) it warms up, I will get a couple more warm weather herbs and plant green beans as well. Ideally, the weather will cooperate on one of the days of Memorial Day weekend to allow me to do this.

It’s been a crazy spring. It’s been raining just about every weekend–the professional weather folks just announced that we had our 6th rainy weekend in a row.

To top that off, a colleague–my only co-worker–abruptly left our office so I am getting by currently with a part time volunteer. When my colleague announced that she was leaving, I went home and announced to the Spoiler, “well, there goes the summer.”

The next week, my right arm was biopsied and at the end of June I have to go back for another “excision.” It’s not more melanoma so it’s all good but it will put a dent in the gardening, of course. I just need to find a way to get my pond cleaned between now and then.

So whatever gardening gets done, gets done. And that’s really the least thing I have to stress about. Because when gardening becomes a stressor, that’s a problem!

Almost Ready to Plant

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Although the oak leaves are the size of little mouse’s ears, we are still going to get some very cool weather this week. Our average high this time of year should be 70 degrees. Today it won’t reach 60 and tomorrow it might not reach 45.

It’s a bit easier to understand why I joke about “winter and July” being the 2 seasons in Connecticut. Or, as Mark Twain used to say, the coldest winter he ever spent was his summer in Connecticut.

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These lovely looking tomatoes are now indoors on my glassed in sun porch. No point in setting them back who knows how long by keeping them out in 40 degrees!

Memorial Day is usually warm enough to plant around here–although the way things are going this year, I may have to wait until July 4th!

Know Your Exposure

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I mentioned that our trees are usually in full leaf by the first week of May. One of the things that does is change the light inside our house.

Obviously this photo was taken on one of our innumerable rainy days. But you can pretty much tell that even on a sunny day, this window is not going to get much sun. Why am I even making an issue of this?

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This is what’s in that window. And from October until just about now, it’s fine. Now I am praying for some warm weather so that I can get all these (or most of them anyway) outside for the summer where they will be much happier.

So if your house plants suddenly start looking a little peaked, take a look at what’s happened to your indoor light. Perhaps, like mine, it’s gotten a little shadier than your plants care for.

Early or Maybe Not?

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You already know that I am a fan of phenology by my reliance on the oak leaves as a last frost date.

For years, my recollection (backed up by 20 years of written gardening journals) is that our trees are pretty much in full leaf by the first week of May.

Additionally, the dogwood trees bloom for Mother’s Day, along with the lilacs. Other gardeners that I have spoken to confirm these “recollections.”

So is the problem this year the date of Mother’s Day, which is falling in the second week of May? Because while I do have dogwoods (albeit not quite as lush this year as in other years), the lilacs are barely open.

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Perhaps because of the late date, they decided to split the difference!

The Freedom Lawn

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We’ve grown a little too obsessed with perfection. It’s everywhere we look. If we turn on the television, all we have to do is tune in to the commercials to see that we are being sold a bill of goods: buy the perfect vehicle, or clothes dryer, or clothing, or grass seed and we too can be perfect (and don’t even get me started on the pharmaceutical commercials!)

What exactly is a “Freedom Lawn?” Well, like the name suggests, it’s a lawn that avoids inputs–so no fertilizer, pesticide, irrigation or other input beside mowing. So what happens?

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As you can well imagine, nature happens. Wildflowers–or to the uninitiated–weeds grow. And granted, not all wildflowers are welcome. For example, we have far too much plantain in our lawn. But it’s there and it’s not terribly unsightly and were we motivated it’s fairly easy to remove with a stand on step weeder–so clearly we’re not terribly motivated.

This strip is right next to the driveway as you might be able to tell. Plantain loves compacted soil. So we would be working at cross purposes by trying to remove it and grow grass in a spot where folks keep driving.

Dandelions are creeping back in, I notice. That’s one thing that doesn’t bother me at all. If you’re a “lawn person,” they drive you crazy. If you’re a pollinator person, you rejoice, because they are one of the earliest flowers for pollinators. Just deadhead them before they seed. I think I can still count them on 2 hands so they’re not a nuisance.

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And violets. I love the violets. I would have an entire lawn of violets if I could–again for my pollinators. This lovely little one is a species of viola moderate that I planted called ‘Freckles.’ The photo at the top of the post afe all wild violets.

Certain butterflies will nectar only from violets–why would anyone want to get rid of them? (Again, you can see that I am clearly NOT a lawn person!)

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Ants have naturalized these muscari for me. Maybe you can see why I am fond of ants. They also spread my violets around.

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We used to have much more clover but since my neighbor’s landscape company mistakenly poisoned my property, most of it was killed off. It’s just beginning to return, thankfully. Where the plantain has run amok used to be wild clover. Ah well.

As the season progresses, I get tiny little St. John’s wort coming up–I’ll post that at some point. The plantain blooms. And of course we get more unwelcome wildflowers like purslane and the vetches and oxalis–not welcome to us, but valuable to wildlife like the later nesting goldfinch who love the seeds.

So rejoice and enjoy a more nature looking lawn–and maybe even consider a “freedom lawn.” Your birds and pollinators will thank you.