Time in the garden should be cherished
by Ronella Stagner, Gardening Columnist
Jun 24, 2009 | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It is a mystery to this old gardener that some of us have some gene that makes us dedicated gardeners while others will quit working in their flowers and shrubs when the weather is too hot or too rainy or too dry or when the diseases and insects show up. Some of us were taught this love of flowers at a very young age while others have come into this wonderful hobby late. Whatever the case, it is a most rewarding way to spend a few hours a day. My dear grandmother taught me at a very young age to love anything that grows, whether it was the ferns along the creek, the wild flowers that abounded on their farm and along the road from our farm to theirs. What I had to be taught over and over was that those wildflowers I could see from the road as my mother and I walked to Ma and Pa’s were off limits because that’s where the venomous snakes lurked. I had to learn that lesson as all children do by seeing a bad tempered copperhead or rattlesnake in action. My great-grandmother was also a great lover of plants, whether it was her medicinal plants she found in the woods or her many flowers in the yard. So I guess it’s in my genes. I think it could be something worse.

The most perfect flower garden I ever saw belonged to my grandmother’s sister. She was a tiny, bent woman who lived in a small log cabin on a fast flowing creek. Her yard was fenced in by a picket fence and her chickens were on the outside of that fence. That didn’t strike me as strange at the time. Now I know that the foxes and bobcats caught the most of the chickens but her flowers were more important to her. Her whole yard was one big flower bed with paths running through. Pa and Ma would go in the wagon to her sister’s to take them vegetables from their garden and milk and butter since her husband was not much of a provider spending his days with a fiddle. That didn’t strike me as strange either. The wonder to me was that glorious yard of flowers in all colors and sizes. As we left her house, she picked a bouquet for me as we walked on the little paths. And the bonus was that her creek had minnows and frogs to catch. What a memory that was for a little girl. If you are a flower grower, you may never become so obsessed as Aunt Angie but it’s fun to keep adding perennials here and there. One good way to add another few flowers to a bed is to put down eight or ten layers of newspapers just where you want to increase the bed. Weight them down with rocks and cover in mulch. By fall the paper will have disintegrated, the grass and weeds will be dead and you have another foot or so to plant this fall. What would we do without newspapers? Chopped newspapers added to a compost pile will create a place for earth worms to do their thing. Lay them down between the rows of your vegetable garden and put grass clippings on top of them. This keeps the garden free of weeds and will rot by fall to add to the soil.

Ants in your garden? To repeat something which I wrote about recently and caused some head shaking: where you find ants in your garden, you will find aphids. Ants keep aphids as we would keep milk cows. I didn’t believe this either but several years ago I read of this and checked a book by a leading horticulturist and it’s true. So you don’t want ants in your garden.

When to transplant? Transplanting depends on the plant. You can move or transplant daylilies any time without damaging them. You can separate them with a sharp shovel and they won’t know they were moved. Oriental poppies must be moved right after they bloom when the leaves are beginning to wilt. If you wait too long they wither and disappear for the summer. You can’t move peonies until October. And it goes on and on. So check with a good gardening book or the net to be sure if you want to transplant.

Be careful of any plants you buy at the gardening centers, especially at the discount stores. You may bring in a disease you don’t suspect. And even your best friend can give you a plant that carries a disease. I can never refuse a gift of a plant so take a chance if it’s from a friend.

A reader of the Harrodsburg Herald recently called me and we talked about the difficulty of growing Lupines. I sympathized with her because I tried for years to grow them and then accidentally planted some seedlings in the right spot. I had started them from seeds and had tried several spots in my flower beds. The “right spot” was a place that had rotted leaves dumped there for years. Then I discovered the secret. Lupines, like clovers, alfalfa, beans, peas or other legumes have collections of nitrogen-bacteria called “nodules” on their roots. All of these plants actually improve the soil for other plants by adding nitrogen instead of removing it. Just as alfalfa bacteria will not do for clover, a special one is needed for Lupines. Some seed companies may be able to obtain this for you. Once established, they will be sturdy growers with colors rivaling the rainbow. They are a wonderful companion for Delphiniums.

(You can reach me at 270-522-3632 or write Ronella Stagner, 137 Main St., Cadiz, KY 42211.)
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