This is the time of year when the weather turns warm for a brief period and reminds me that spring is just around the corner. And being reminded of spring brings the realization that I have a LOT of work to do!
My favorite time of year to be a gardener is in the dead of winter when the first seed catalog arrives. It’s during this season that my garden exists in sublime perfection. The beds are without weeds, the destructive insects have chosen to bypass my little part of the world, the pollinators are plentiful, the flowers are beautiful and neatly arrayed, the vegetables (all 20 or 30 varieties of them) are hearty and producing large and vibrant produce that would be the envy of any self-respecting farmer.
Of course, it’s all in my imagination.
The true state of my garden in winter is one of neglect – sad, pathetic, dismal neglect.
So, as the robins fill my yard heralding the arrival of spring, I am spurred into action. So much to do and less and less time to do it!
Today, I picked up 10 bags of mulch, probably 1/3 of what I’ll end up needing when it’s all said and done. That was the only thing I had planned to purchase, but somehow I came home with two azaleas and a gardenia.
I tackled one of two front beds on either side of my porch. For years it has had lantana which has steadily looked worse and worse and I’m pretty sure finally died of natural causes (neglect is a natural cause, right???). I’ve wanted to do away with the lantana and replace it with something a bit more structured for some time, but I tend to focus my limited gardening attention span on plants that produce things that I can eat.
Since the lantana had mostly died back and I had actually done a pretty thorough job of weeding the bed already, I decided today was the day.
After digging the holes and planting my new little shrubs, I covered the rest of the ground with several layers of newspaper and topped with about 2 inches of mulch. I’m hoping, with that special kind of optimism that only a gardener can muster, that it will be enough to keep the future weeding to a minimum.
I’m thinking of filling in some of the bare space with perennial herbs like thyme and oregano for some ground cover and maybe a couple lavender plants for some varied height. I’m also going to keep an eye out for something interesting and artsy to place toward the back of the bed for some additional height and interest. (Since I can’t plant back there because there are no gutters to divert the watershed.)
The bed on the other side of the porch is still a work-in-progress, in my mind, that is. I’m limited to what I can plant there because it is entirely shaded. I am thinking of putting hydrangeas there, which I love, but have never grown successfully. Any thoughts or suggestions on shade loving plants that work well in Zone 8? (Oh, and that don’t mind too much if they are somewhat neglected?)
Speaking of neglect in the garden, I do find that sometimes it works quite well in my favor. Especially with organic gardening, it can provide some great benefits.
Plants left in place will die and return their nutrients to the soil where they fall. The layer of debris protects the soil from erosion and drying out, it also provides a place for many beneficial insects to winter over. Some plants will generously reseed themselves. The little volunteers pop up and are often a pleasant surprise. (Though the time I had 20 volunteer Mexican sunflowers in the vegetable bed felt a bit more like an invasion than anything else.)
At any rate, I prefer to think of neglect as a clever plan rather than a dereliction of duty on my part.
One bed taken care of, but it is just the beginning…