A variety of tasks in the garden

By Roger Erpelding
Contributing Writer

It was a hot and windy Memorial Day, a perfect time to enter the yard and garden, and to perform a variety of tasks. It was still too wet to work in the garden, due to recent rains and a heavy dew. However, we could still work in some of the flower beds.

In my previous post, I mentioned the gaps that would appear in the apple tree garden once the daffodils and tulips died in June. I could purchase annuals such as small marigolds to plant between the spring bulbs that would fill in. However, I had purchased some flower seeds earlier, and it was time to plant them.

With my handleless hoe, I dug a small trench down the middle of the tulip and daffodil rows, as they were planted in two parallel lines which made this easy. I first planted calendulas, then cosmos. The cosmos might get tall, and if so, they are on the south side of the apple tree garden, which is fine. The calendulas are on the west side, and I know they will be short of stature.

I covered the trench and didn’t water because the soil was damp. Both of these flower seeds are quite large and are easy to space when planting. I also sprinkled some Bells of Ireland seeds over the garden. Unlike most annual flower seeds, they are to be sown early in the spring, “as soon as the ground can be worked.” I’m six weeks late, but what the heck. If they grow they grow; if not, next year.

 Among my flower seeds was a packet of ornamental peppers. I placed soil in a one-gallon container, sprinkled the seeds on top, and covered with an additional half inch of soil. Since this soil was dry, I watered as well. In addition to this, I also noticed that a number of ornamental pepper plants growing in my citrus trees had dried pods; I picked and crushed them, and placed them in the pot as well. Hopefully enough of them will grow, so I will need to thin them in a month. They will also transplant quite well in case I have gaps elsewhere. These are hot peppers, so a thorough wash with soap and water followed.

By this time it was after 9 a.m., and the wind was doing its job in drying the foliage. Just east of our wooden fence that serves as a property line there is a small area, perhaps one foot wide, of small rocks, bordered further east by a row of bricks. I had noticed earlier that this area was in need of some weeding. I got to it, and it didn’t take long to get it done. Everything growing in the rocks was a weed–grass, a couple of violets, creeping Charley, etc. There was also one Virginia bluebell growing in this area which had to go. Fortunately, due to the wet soil, it came out roots and all. These “roots” are corms that kind of resemble dahlia “bulbs.” So, just south of the fence, on the extreme eastern edge of the garden, I dug a hole and placed the whole plant and roots into the ground.

These mertensia Virginica are beginning to die a natural death, and in two weeks you won’t know they even occupied their space. An upcoming task will soon be to dig up several clumps of these corms from Beth’s perennial bed on the west side of the wooden fence. They have become invasive, which is their habit, and will need to be culled. There is plenty of room in the waste area on the south east edge of the property for them to have a happy home next spring. In fact, the ones I placed there last spring are doing well.

We’ve all heard it said “do as I say, not as I do.” This applies to my next task. I had received some white yams from a mail order company that were doing poorly. I had placed them in water, and a week later, placed them in a pot of soil. They were doing poorly, and really needed a more permanent home. I jumped the south fence of the garden and found a spot for them right away, to the west of the green beans and to the east of the potatoes. Just one problem–the garden was not just wet, it was muddy! I left large footprints as a result–excellent for soil compaction, and a really ugly garden practice!!! I only mud things in on a very occasional basis, and do my best to avoid it. The heavy clay soil was in clumps, and when it dries out, as it someday will, I’ll need to go to the white yam planting, break the soil up, and amend it as well. I double marked this spot with two wooden stakes in case the plants do not grow.

Everyone was telling me that my lettuce was up and looking good. Due to recent rains, I hadn’t been in the lettuce patch. I  knew two things–that it needed to be cut, and it was too muddy in the garden. So, toward lunch time, I committed a second garden no-no. Against my better judgment, I jumped the north fence with a bag in hand, and began to pick lettuce. What a muddy mess!!! Again, I left footprints, and just shook my head in disgust!!

The lettuce was perfect, and made a tasty chef salad for lunch. The weeds are also doing perfectly well. Again, someday it will dry out and I’ll get those early crops weeded. I’ll probably need a bulldozer to loosen the soil after my foolishness, but if I weed fairly soon, it may not be so bad.

The lettuce leaves are smooth, broad, and quite long. The weed leaves are rougher. In fact, while eating lunch, I soon discovered a weed in my mouth as well. The leaves felt rough, so it was easy to sort out. Probably a night shade I think, but I really didn’t care at that point. The good news is that the lettuce was not gritty or muddy, and I didn’t run across any worms or bugs. This will be only the first of several harvests. The portion I picked will come back again for a second harvest in late June. Unless we have a month without rain, this crop will continue to do well.

Later in the week it is my plan to get those vine crops in, pick more lettuce, and perhaps pull a few weeds in the east part of the garden where the early vegetable crops were planted. Weeding this area will be a real challenge, as the weeds and vegetables have grown together and are about the same size. My initial garden map, and my experience in growing these vegetables will be a huge help.

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