Throwing Rocks

 By Roger Erpelding
Contributing Writer

A combination of 4.2 inches of rain on June 9 and 10 pretty much put the stop to gardening this weekend. But wet or dry, there is always plenty to do.

Saturday was a dandy day–a high of 75, a pleasant breeze, and sunny skies. After Beth and I finished our Polk County Master Gardeners pre-tour, we headed to the back yard for work. I was hungry for fresh lettuce. The garden was plenty wet, but not muddy. My second harvest of lettuce and spinach ensued, and was a part of a tasty dinner later on. This was accomplished while Beth mowed the lawn. This also gave me the opportunity to see how things in the apple tree garden were doing. Everything is growing, even the weeds! Fortunately, each weeding becomes easier as the desired plants get larger. Unfortunately, since I planted some annuals on the south side of this bed, I had to be careful while weeding. I noticed that the calendulas were up, but I didn’t go far enough east to check on the cosmos. Further north, the perennials and weeds were both doing well, but it was too wet to go beyond what I could reach from the brick-lined border. 

Sunday the 12th was a cool and cloudy day, with an occasional sprinkle or a little mist. Despite this fact, it was comfortable to work outdoors. About a year ago, Beth set up a square area in the front yard, placed bricks around its edges, and filled in the area with small rocks. I placed a pole two feet into the ground, where a number of bird feeders hang. We feed all comers, and some of the birds kick their least favorite food out of the feeders; others shell the sunflower seeds and the hulls land on the ground. Still other birds are just plain slobs. Other birds are great ground feeders and help clean up the mess. The bottom line was that there is all kinds of debris on the ground among the rocks, and the area has become weedy. During the week Beth would clear out the rocks in a patch, scrape up the debris, and replace the rocks. On Sunday afternoon while she worked on this, I pulled all of the radishes and weeded that row. Later this month the lettuce and spinach will be pulled, and a second crop will be planted in this area–most likely green beans.

I finished my task first, and asked Beth if she wanted any help. She was about halfway finished, so we divided the area up, and got to work. We were on the north end, and threw rocks south to cover the area she had completed. In many ways this was rather fun. At one point Beth asked “Is throwing rocks therapeutic?” Hey, why not. One hour and a couple of grocery sacks full of debris later, we had the job whipped. Throwing rocks back into this area and leveling off the entire area of the bird feeding station and we were done.

Most gardening weather almost always benefits some part of the garden. This is true of our recent rainy and cool spell. Another 1.1 inches of rain over the noon hour on June 13, and gardening was again out of the question for that evening. What a perfect time to pull most of the spearmint that wanted to take over my herb garden. There are two things that make this plant distinct–its spearmint odor in its leaves, and its square stems. I brought a small basket and two strong arms–the pulling was quickly accomplished. With a large trowel, I walked to the south central part of the garden, south of the fence line. I had determined earlier that this would be a good place to plant extra spearmint. I found the area quickly, dug a nice hole, and rammed them in. If they grow, wonderful; if not, the herb garden will supply plenty more. There was a 70% chance of rain in the forecast, and sure enough, at 2:00 a.m., I was awakened by a heavy thunderstorm. Yes, I think the mint will do well.

Gardening is never a perfect endeavor, and this year is no exception. We had two hailstorms on June 9, and I noticed hundreds of apricots on the ground this weekend when I went out to pick lettuce and spinach. The windy thunderstorm of the 13th knocked more of them from the trees. Accompanying the thunderstorm that will help the mint was more hail. Help the mint, hurt the apricots. That’s the way gardening often is. This cool spell will prolong my lettuce and spinach crops. It will benefit the beets, carrots and kohlrabe. It will drive my tomatoes, peppers and eggplants to distraction. But hey, that’s gardening. This is a great justification for you to practice the utmost in garden and plant diversity.

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