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When it comes to gardening, follow this advice: Do what pleases you

Posted: July 2, 2013 - 3:13pm

So there I am, my friend has asked me about his honeysuckle that has three live leaves. It was planted six inches from the wall of his house probably 30 years ago by a former owner. It needs to go. Now. I suggest this. Emphatically. I can read his face — who couldn’t? He does not want to cut it down. We go back and forth.

Cecilia, my 8-year-old granddaughter, cuts to the chase. She looks him in the eye and says, “Do what pleases you.”

And that’s it in a nutshell.

How many times have I said to all of you that you garden for yourself. He wants that honeysuckle no matter that everything that could possibly be wrong with it is. Keep it he will. Turn a blind eye every time I walk past it, I will. 

I am slowly but surely getting a grip on this garden of mine. This garden of former splendor. This garden that has been gutted by the cruel hand of winter. The perennials that I bought and stuck in the ground in sheer desperation are looking a bit more lively than at the onset of my mania. The annuals are looking lonely but spritely. They should fill in before it snows. 

But now it comes down to the lawn. I’ve never been a big fan of grass although I recognize the need for it. It lends elegance and calm to the landscape. It certainly provides a place for the grandchildren and dog to romp to their hearts content. 

But this lawn, once a tidy swath of green, is now sporting a Friar Tuck ’do. Verdant around the edges and bald as can be in the middle — which is a large middle. We have raked and thrown grass seed hither and yon. We are watering with our “subsistance” water (claimed from the sump that prevents our house from floating into the bay). I am willing to wait
this out. 

Maybe by the end of summer we will have more green than brown, we’ll see. Plus, to add insult to injury, our electric lawn mower has met its fate. We need to do some thinking about its replacement. 

I am in the process of giving both perennials and vegetables a good feeding. I have followed Ann Lovejoy’s advice in her book “Gardening From Scratch.” Her recipe for “spring feeding mulch — 2 parts large, untreated alfalfa pellets, 1 part aged manure (bagged is fine), 1 part compost.” 

I have altered this because alfalfa pellets now cost about $30 a bag so I use one bag. We run it through our shredder because the pellets really don’t decompose with any speed and they are quite unsightly laying around in the garden. 

But, using a five-gallon bucket and the wheelbarrow, I mix up a bucket of each component and spread it around the plants. They truly love it and I feel like I am doing something besides adding compost in the fall to each bed. Be careful that you do not cover the crown (center) of your perennials, you could suffocate them. 

Speaking of books, a favorite of mine is Lauren Springer’s “The Undaunted Garden.” She is a Colorado gardener but her advice can be applicable to us. Because I am starting the perennial beds over again, I am referring to this book for plant combinations. Not all of her recommendations can be used here, but a little common sense and asking around will get you far. Think of this book as a guideline. 

The vegetable garden is quite magnificent. This, too, got a dusting of the feeding mulch, as did the greenhouse. I call this addition of nutrients “top dressing.” It freshens up the soil and adds a boost to the plants when they are putting out an enormous amount of energy.

Beware, the weeds also love this additional food.

Which brings me to weeding. It really is your choice. If you don’t have time for a tidy weed-free garden, then don’t weed. Keep in mind that weeds will suck up water and nutrients that your plants otherwise would be using. Take a few minutes to pull away weeds that are closing in on your chosen plants. 

If you are like me, a weeder, than try to get the root system to come along with the top part of the weed. I am often guilty of leaving too much behind in my haste to get to the next bed. My haste often haunts me. 

I have started cutting back shrubs that were damaged by the late frost. The azaleas, one pink the other yellow, have always been a bit on the spindly side but they bravely bloomed and then were covered up by everything else around them. It worked. Although they have died back to the base, there are lovely little shoots coming up and they will take over, eventually. 

I cut down the Mt. Baker lilac. It has been struggling the last two years and this last winter was the final blow. There is a shoot coming up from the base but I have been warned that it may not be a Mt. Baker but the original root that it was grafted to. I had no idea it was a graft. The things you find out as life rolls along. 

I am waiting on the red twig dogwoods, all three of them sustained considerable damage but are ever so slowly leafing out. 

Make the most of the gardening season. Roll with the punches and see what happens. 

Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener.

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