By Roger Erpelding
It is that time of year when I spend time in the yard and garden every night. And a considerable amount of time it is! To add to this, Beth and I spent a week in Germany late last month. This added to the frenetic pace that can encompass outdoor work this time of year. With this in mind, I’ll concentrate on the highlights.
The last part of April was cold and wet. Even if I would have been home, not a lot would have been done outdoors. But along with my return came the return of warmer and drier weather. Work commenced as a result.
It was time to begin moving things outdoors. The cold weather crops had been planted in the garden, and it was too early to plant warm weather crops, such as beans, tomatoes and peppers. I rummaged around in the garage and sun room for things that could be planted out. And I found plenty.
1. Amaryllis. There were ten bulbs in a box in the garage. Despite a couple of chilly nights, the bulbs were firm. I found 10 small pots near the patio, filled them half full with potting soil, placed the bulbs in the pots and filled them to the top. The soil was plenty wet, so no additional water was needed. They were then placed in two flats, and a few days later, I began noticing sprouts which were beginning to appear. I have no idea what color they are, nor do I care. Some will bloom, some will not. The goal is to preserve the bulbs and keep them growing each year. They are currently residing on the patio table.
2. Voodoo lilies. These were in the same box with the Amaryllis. They had long sprouts, and definitely were ready for a better venue. I crept across the south garden fence, at the east end near the lilacs and iris. There were three large bulbs, and several smaller “daughter bulbs.” The big ones went in first, followed by the daughter bulbs as I proceeded westward. By the time I got to the potatoes, which were still marked with sticks and strings from the April 17 planting, this job was complete. A large trowel assured that they were planted a few inches deep.
3. Hyacinths. Remember long, long ago when I saved the pot of white aiolos hyacinths? They were beginning to look ratty in the sun room, so out they went. They are planted on the opposite side of the fence, south side of the garden. I have a bulb planter which made this job easy. When I turned the pot over to dislodge the bulbs, the ugly foliage mostly fell off as well. The bulbs were large, firm and solid. As with the voodoo lilies, I simply guessed on how far apart they are. At this point, it just simply doesn’t matter. I just had to make sure I wasn’t disturbing the rhubarb which I had planted there the previous year. The rhubarb is up, and their distinctive large leaves helped me define its location.
4. Dahlias. I had ordered two kinds of small dahlias from Dutch gardens–sugar diamond, and Clair. They are both to have lilac or purple flowers. There was a large vacant space on the north side of the apple tree garden, and Lucy helped me define a measured space for them. I had dymo tape Braille labels affixed to sticks, so my large trowel and my two packs of tubers were all I needed. Beth had read which bag was which, so this task was already done as well. At planting time I held the Clair in my hand and placed the sugar diamond in my pocket. Each bag had one stalk with several tubers, so I dug a rather large and flat hole to spread out the tubers.
5. Tubrous begonias. These love shade, and they, along with the dahlias, were in a closet in the garage. I didn’t bother to Braille the packages or prepare labels. I simply don’t care. I ordered one package of white ones and one package of mixed colors. I want their large and heavy double flowers; I can ask Beth about color. I have a large pot near the raspberries and magnolia tree, just south of the patio. It will be the perfect place for them. I first took my trowel and loosened the existing soil in the large pot. These tubers are indented, and you plant them with the indentation facing up. A couple of tubers were already sprouting, and their planting arrangement was obvious. I just randomly spaced them through the pot, pressed them down, and covered with additional potting soil.
Saturday morning was Earl May time. I needed additional potting soil, plus I wanted to look at their vegetable selection. Beth also wanted to look for a replacement barberry bush. I found several varieties of large, individual tomatoes, and I purchased five of them. When I plant them, in a week or two, I will ask Beth to read the labels, I will place them in the garden before I plant them. At this point I will add their names to my Braille garden map. The same process will suffice for several individual pepper plants I purchased. While there, I couldn’t resist purchasing six elephant garlic bulbs, and they were planted with the bulb planter around a lilac bush in the extreme northwest corner of the apple tree garden. They probably won’t grow until fall, but they are so close to the lilac bush that nothing else will be planted there.
And then there’s that barberry bush. This was not a job I was looking forward to, and I let Beth know this. But the old one was dying, and replacement was definitely appropriate. While I was planting the elephant garlic, she took all of the rocks from the old bush. It should be noted that this is a foundation planting, and we have placed extra soil and rocks in the area to promote drainage away from the house. So, it didn’t take long to dig the old bush out. In fact, the hole was so deep that we had to add soil back before we could place the new bush in its place, despite the fact that she had purchased a one-gallon container barberry. The sticky problem came for me when I cut up the old bush to place in a garbage bag. Their thorns and my hands only experienced a minor war. Thanks Beth!