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Finding right spot for right plant perennial challenge for gardeners

Posted: June 19, 2013 - 2:29pm  |  Updated: June 20, 2013 - 10:52am

The iris setosa (our native iris) thrives in a very boggy area of the garden. There are even marsh marigolds tucked in among them. Whenever I am mucking around in there I think back to the adult mink that paid a visit to our garden six years ago, and I start to wonder if it, or a relative, is lurking among the iris. 

While this thought was foremost on my mind I felt a furry sensation brush against the back of my legs. I vaulted out of that plot and over a bench in one smooth move. Who knew I could still hustle like that? I have our canine companion, Jade, to thank. For such a large animal she is stealthy, I never ever heard her coming up behind me. Crazy dog. Crazy me.

But the point here is to plant your iris where they have plenty of moisture. This low spot in the garden would be just a muddy mess without those iris that found a home there 15 years ago.

Take a look around your garden. Finding the right spot for the right plant can be a challenge. For instance, raspberries are related to roses and both hate too much water. When we first moved into town, we were quick to put up a fence to thwart the moose. On the outside of this fence, facing the neighbors, I put in a row of rosa rugosa “Hansa,” knowing they would quickly soften the fence, and look very good from the street. On the inside I put raspberries. Both were thriving. 

Well, as life moves along, the neighbor who lived there at the time, did some fancy dirt work and that changed the dynamic of the water flow. Hence, neither the roses nor the raspberries will ever achieve their former glory.

What to do? I gave the roses to the new neighbor to put on his now much higher and drier ground, and am looking for ways to convince my non-gardening spouse, John, to build boxes for raspberries. Anything that will raise them up out of what is now soggy ground. Plus I can just imagine them being easier to manage — running the lawn mower between the boxes and being able to reach all the way around them. Better air circulation also would be a plus. I can’t just move them to another spot because there isn’t one. This place is booked.

As you know, I lost most of my perennials (recurring plants) thanks to an amazing amount of ice that came early and left late. Because I had an inkling of what was going on, I started more annuals (plants that have a one season life cycle) than usual. The only catch is that I don’t really know what to do with them. 

The garden has been devoted to perennials with a smattering of annuals for continual color. I always start some annuals, I have a few favorites, and I tuck them in among the perennials. It really is fun, no planning, just here and there, the result is usually a pleasant surprise.
    But not now, oh no. This place looks like a trial garden. Everything planted in blocks and rows. Good grief. I am doomed to look at this all summer. Rats.
    I digress. Where I am going with this is I spent most of today weeding these said perennial beds that are now mostly annuals with a few brand new perennials positioned for what I hope is future glory. The weeds are loving all the open space. They are taking advantage of my misfortune. Whereas the now deceased perennials shaded out the weeds, the weeds now have the full advantage and they know it.
    One propitious glimmer is that I can now eradicate the forget-me-nots that have plagued my existence forever. The main clumps rotted out along with everything else but the seeds have germinated with a vengeance, and I am matching that vengeance with my own focused drive to remove them from my life. I have enlisted the aid of my oldest granddaughter, Cecilia. She can spot a forget-me-not in a heart beat and will nip them out of the bed tout suite. Bless her heart. 

Get out your long-handled cultivator. You will use this wonderful tool to break up the surface of the soil so the water will soak in and reach the root mass instead of rolling off into the path or wherever.

Once again, John has come to the rescue. Years ago he devised a way to reclaim the water that our sump pump sends into a ditch. We now use that to water ornamentals. I won’t use it on the vegetables because I am uncertain just where this water is coming from and what has leached into it. But there is no reason to let this water go into a ditch when it can be watering a very brown lawn.

Which brings me to our very brown lawn. Goodness, now there is a mess if ever there was one. We raked and threw grass seed around and are now watering with our reclaimed water. John refers to it as “subsistence water.” Nothing ventured nothing gained.

Lots of questions coming in as to when to remove the floating row cover. Well, I usually wait until the plants are pushing up against it. But, with this heat, I am concerned that the cole corps will button, a term used when these plants form premature edible parts, which are very tiny and, therefore, useless. 

So I took mine off, put a spoonful of crushed egg shells around the stem of each plant and wished them well. Hopefully, the dreaded fly that lays the dreaded maggot that is capable of annihilating the entire crop will go somewhere else. Cross your fingers.

The greenhouse is looking — dare I say it for fear of jinxing it? — fantastic. We are down to our last head of gorgeous lettuce before we start on what is thriving outside. The tomatoes have set their fruit, the cucumbers are loaded, the basil makes the whole place smell good and the green beans are blooming. All is well, so far. 

I need to water every day. That does not mean you will need to water yours every day. Each greenhouse is a microcosm unto itself. You will need to interpret what it needs and once you accomplish this you and it will be on your way. Any problems you may be having will be due to either too much-too little water, too much-too little heat, too much-too little air circulation — you get the idea. Keep working it and you will win.

Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener.

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