Garden Update, 5/20/21: Overwhelmed by May

So the garden progresses. Ever feel like you are making progress, only to find that the space you cleared just makes room for everything else to move to the front? That’s how I feel with my garden at the moment.

Maybe this is the usual May overwhelm that many gardeners feel. As a new gardener, and one working under the constraints of both a pandemic and a surgery, I’ve felt particularly behind the ball. I made up for this with research and purchasing power. (I did my part for the economy, boy howdy.) But this research and purchasing power may have ended up working against me, as I have far too many plants and, due to my healing knee, no real way to make all of the physical changes in the garden that would be needed to plant them all. So. Into pots many of them go.

Granted, my plans for the garden this year were a lot. Upon review, I realized I couldn’t make all of the landscaping changes I wanted in one year, even if I was at full health. So I scaled that back. The rock garden overhaul will have to wait, as will the thinning of the overgrown iris and daffodil bulbs along the side of the house and the back alley. The evergreen bushes and overgrown lilac and magnolia trees in the front of the house will have to limp on for one more year without my help. And in the main flowerbed, all of the clumps of old lilies and Shasta daisies will get to enjoy one more season before I replace them with something prettier. (Or, if I get really energetic–or desperate for space for my dahlias–some may get up getting dug up later this summer.)

But I just don’t have the mental bandwidth right now, honestly. I’m already growing about 20 species or varieties that I’ve never grown (for example, I love apples, but I’ve never actually grown them), and keeping their growing needs and the details of how to counteract all of the things that could possibly go wrong ready to pull out of my head at the appropriate moment is keeping me pretty tired. Luckily, I could do my day job in my sleep at this point, so it doesn’t take much of my mental bandwidth, usually. And working from home, I have a lot more time to devote to the garden than I normally would. If/when we go back to the office full-time, though, I’ll be SOL. That’s probably part of what’s driving my anxious need to get everything squared away in the garden right now, actually–the pandemic is winding down (yay!) which means we’ll have to go back to the office soon (boo!)

My two new 3’x8.5′ raised beds are built and filled with soil–mostly a mixture of peat moss, top soil, and manure, with some lime, worm castings, and insoluble fertilizer mixed in, a la Gary from The Rusted Garden. I would not have been able to do this without the help of my father, who ended up doing most of the heavy lifting. (As a trade-off, I fix his computer, on pretty much a monthly basis.) The beds themselves are cheap metal raised beds that I picked up on Amazon back in January. Both raised beds have wooden trellises supported by t-posts, and they are already almost full.

As of now, almost of my tomatoes are out; I had started my Sungold cherry tomatoes too soon and as a result, by the time the weather was warm enough to put them out, despite my best efforts they were 2′ tall, leggy and weak. I now have two-week old seedlings going and I’m sure they will catch up with the rest of the tomatoes soon enough. I picked up a few brassicas as the local nursery–brussels and a red cabbage–as I wanted to give them another go but had no desire to start any more seeds. They ended up in the ends of the beds. This week, we had a day of rain followed by what was predicted to be 6 days of 80s weather, so I sowed my cukes directly into the bed, and added more carrots, because why not? I also had some melon seedlings ready, so they went in as well. And since I have a metric ton of dahlia tubers–most of which are now sprouting–I added an HS Date and a Great Silence went into the melon/cuke bed as well. I figured it would make the bed look pretty 🙂 In the other bed, the tomatoes are surrounded by calendulas and ranunculus corms, which will hopefully draw pollinators.

Eggplants are in fabric pots, and the tomatillos are in large plastic pots, as I recently found out that, despite what the seed packet says, they usually grow rather bigger than 3′ and spread more than tomatoes do. (From what I’ve seen, they look a right mess and I don’t want them anywhere near my raised beds.) I also picked up some seed potatoes, and also planted some from my kitchen that had started to sprout. And I’ve potted up some of the dahlias and ranunculus together; hopefully, even if they don’t bloom at the same time, the pots will always have at least something blooming in them. Tomorrow, I will finish potting up my peppers–why waste trellis space if I don’t have to?–and do some general clean-up. Planting and potting up is a messy business. And, finally, I need to figure out what to do with all my extra seedlings. I’ve already passed on as many as I can to friends and family, but as I was a paranoid grower, II planted a ton and therefore have a bunch left over. Ah, well. At least we have good weather finally, and soon–soon!–my garden will be fully planted, and I can move on to simply managing adult plants, without having to also worry about constantly sowing and caring for baby ones, too. Sounds like paradise to me!

Garden Planning: The Moon Garden

So this week I had good news and bad news. The good news is that the weather is continuing to not dip below 47F for the foreseeable future (usually our last frost date is 4/30). Another bit of good news is that I was able to find many cheap annuals at the local independent garden center. The bad news being that I have to yet again scale back my plans for renovating the garden due to my physical limitations. Currently I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck pretty much any day that I do any gardening, so…. it’s going to be a very long, slow rehaul this summer. (Who knew that simply bending down to weed and moving bags of soil could be so tiring??)

The ideal Moon Garden

Anywho, I have been able to slowly clear out a space in the back yard flower garden for my Moon Garden. This will be an all-white garden with a few plants that only bloom at night. It will be against the fence where the neighbor’s very tall fence ends and my way-too-short fence begins. I picked up a cute 6′ trellis to add to help add height and more privacy.

The plants I had originally planned for this area were the Moonflower vine (obviously); Fleurel dahlia (large white dinner-plate dahlia); white Malva; White Swan Echinacea; and some Acidanthera Murielae (“Abyssinian Gladiolus”)–all grown by me from seed or bulb. I’ve also added to this list some Roman Chamomile, mainly as a filler. The chamomile seedlings are coming right along; the echinacea seeds were extremely slow to germinate and as a result may not even bloom this year. The Abyssinian glads have also been very slow to sprout. 😦 Luckily, yesterday I was able to pick up a good array of annuals from the garden center, all already in full bloom: a couple of four-packs of while dwarf gladiolus, some white single-bloom border dahlias; and white cosmos. I also have a few ranunculus from a mix that might turn out to be white; they’ll get added if there’s room. I may even add one of my night-blooming jasmines, though it will have to stay potted as it is not at all hardy to my area.

Before I realized that I could get so many white annuals locally, I also ordered a few more seeds; Marshmallow from Baker’s Creek (all proceeds going to help India in their current Covid crisis), and some Indian Peace Pipe Nicotiana seeds from Botanical Interests. Now I just need to sow them when they arrive, and sow a few back-up moonflowers (my cat and the sun ruined a few already), and I think I should be good to go. I also have about six mature white Shasta daisies further up in the garden; unfortunately they are not close enough to the moon garden area and I’ll have to transplant one or two over, maybe using them to mark the borders. And once I get everything set up, I’ll likely add some kind of solar “fairy lights” to brighten things up.

Finally! A plan comes together. 🙂 Slowly but surely.