GARDENING ... AND MORE: Plants need more attention during hot, dry spells
by Ronella Stagner, Columnist
Jul 30, 2014 | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Some plants suffer more than others during the last of July and through August. Hostas will probably need to be watered every other day during dry, hot spells. They need about two or two and a half hours of morning sun and that is all. They do best in soil that is slightly acid and which has been amended with compost, a bit of sand, leaf mold and composted manure. Pine needle mulch is wonderful for them. Since the hosta is the best- selling perennial in America, you need to know how to grow them. What I like best about hostas is that they will thrive in shade and are remarkably resistant to insects. About their worst enemy is the slug. Their size ranges from the petite to the giant and the range of color is great.

On the other hand, some water-wise flowering plants that survive beautifully in hot summer days are purple coneflower, fern-leaved yarrow, and sedum Autumn Joy. Some gardeners are afraid to grow purple coneflowers because they can be invasive. However, they are easily kept within boundaries. Its big advantage is that it will bloom from July 1 to September and even longer.

When I was a child, life was fraught with dangers during the hot month of August. I learned very early how to tell if a dog had rabies. A narrow road came by Pa’s farm and a turning lane from that road curved by their stable and on up to the house or instead of going up to the house, that same little road went to their neighbors. The main little road that ran in front of the house also went by my father’s place and the next turning lane went to their house. So any rabid dog passing by was likely to go to Pa’s or on to the two houses further on. Or it might go on and not turn off at my father’s. It was anyone’s guess. The telephone was a method of the neighbors keeping a watch for any dog appearing to be mad. People didn’t spend time just watching for a mad dog but would immediately notice one passing by. They would get their dogs in the house and, if there were time, they would pen up the milk cow and mules.

It wasn’t just out in the country that rabid dogs were a problem. When I was a teenager, my friend was bitten on the street of Cadiz. Thankfully, those days are in the past.

Hot, dry summer weather was a time to beware of venomous snakes. They would move from the deep wooded hills looking for water in the creeks and ponds and even the river. I was aware that the snakes were shedding and therefore more dangerous because I would find their big skins, which they had shed.

Wasps were a constant problem for Ma back then. They would make nests in the attic and there was no spray to kill them. I barely remember Pa putting a sack over the nest and knocking it down and throwing it out the attic window. Yellow jackets were always flying around in the orchard where they settled on rotted fruit. The sting of a yellow jacket is one powerful pain.

When DDT was invented, Ma was in her glory. She sprayed everything on the place that didn’t move and some that did. She really got rid of wasps in the attic and she even sprayed the hens’ nests and their roost pole. I can just see her now going about with her little pump sprayer. Little did we know the danger.

But, though there were many dangers to worry a little girl, there was much happiness.

I have such warm, sweet memories of sitting with Ma in the old swing on the front porch, all cuddled up, listening to the rain. Pa would be sitting on the porch floor, leaning back on a post near us. They talked of many things and I was all ears. There is no sound in the world as sweet as rain on a tin roof. We would sit out on that deep porch until one of them had to go about some chore. Unless it stormed, rain didn’t reach to the old swing.

That porch was the center of the old home. If they had guests, they all sat around on the porch, talking and telling family tales. If the Raleigh man, Mr. Young, came to sell Ma his wares, he displayed them in his big case on the front porch.

When rain was threatening, I had the privilege of chasing down the baby chicks and putting them in the little pen outside of each little house. When I put them all in the pen, their mama would hop in with them. I loved that essential chore and I especially loved the feel of the soft babies.

If the rain chased us inside and it really stormed, Ma sat beside the old library table piecing on her quilt or cutting the pieces while Pa read a book on the other side of the table. I remember the feeling that all was right in my world. My baby sister was at home getting all the attention of my parents and that was all right with me because I had Ma and Pa all to myself.

Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632 with questions or comments. I appreciate your calls.
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