A Busy Saturday

By Roger Erpelding
Contributing Writer

Saturday, April 26, involved many gardening activities. First, it was time to check up on the plants that had arrived from Bluestone the day before. All was well and it looked like we could plant them into their permanent beds whenever time allowed.

The weather was still beautiful, so I proceeded out to the alley south of our property. The alley runs east-west. On the north side, south of the garden fence, I dug nine holes for hollyhock plants. I did not measure out a space between plants, but used the fence, trellises, and tomato cages as guidelines. Raspberries had been planted in these areas during previous years–it is yet to be seen if they will come up this year or not.

By the time I had the nine holes dug it was time to move on to the next garden activity. As Master Gardeners, we are required to complete 6 hours of education and 12 hours of volunteer work to keep up our certification. Beth and I obtained our education hours at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Gardens in their “Learn on Saturday” classes this winter. We are also involved in the Demonstration Garden in Urbandale, which is connected with the Polk County Extension Office and the Polk County Master Gardeners. We went to a planning meeting for it in March, learned that the clean-up day was April 26, and our volunteer hours would be fulfilled working there.

Beth and I are in charge of the sunshine plaza garden at the eastern entrance to the Demonstration Garden. We accomplished most of the clean-up work for last year’s garden last autumn. However, we had plenty of preparation work to do in connection with our upcoming garden. The raised bed on the south side of the garden was broken and we tore it down for replacement. Since we purchased the raised bed a year ago, we will take it home and either fix it, or make the raised bed smaller. We brought two raised beds and assembled them. They will be on each side of the path. After that, we needed to move soil. This was supposed to be a quick process, but it soon became obvious that since the new beds were deeper, more soil was needed. A neighboring gardener pointed out a large pile of soil just southwest of where we were working. Beth placed signs in the plaza garden area while I hauled 5 gallon buckets of soil back to the two raised beds. When Beth finished her task, she found a wheelbarrow so we could complete our task in a speedier manner. Just west of the new raised beds is a weedy area with lots of water grass. It was decided that in the near future Beth and I would weed and mulch the area to prepare it for next year when we’ll place either perennials or annuals in this space. Since it is a demonstration area, we will use All American Selection winners to test.

I did not use my cane when transferring the soil as neither hand was free. From the new raised beds, I followed the fence westward until it ended. I then angled south west for about five feet until my feet hit the large mound of soil. The same route was used when returning to the beds. When using the wheelbarrow, I balanced it while Beth guided the front of it back to the beds. It is a lot of work, but it is work I love.

This garden day was still far from complete, however. After lunch we headed out to the new Master Gardener greenhouse. Formerly housed at the Botanical Gardens, that facility’s remodeling and space needs forced us to find a new location. Several Master Gardeners found an old greenhouse in Altoona and countless hours were spent rehabbing the location to suit our needs. Though Beth and I were not part of that effort, we attended the greenhouse’s open house from 1:00 to 3:00 on this date. It was my first visit.

The annual Master Gardener plant sale is in early May each year. This year it will occur on Saturday-Sunday, May 3-4. There is a pre-sale open to Master Gardeners on Friday night. I thought that this year we’d just buy our plants after I worked the morning shift at the sale on Saturday.

However, upon arrival at the greenhouse, we took a tour and my plant addiction soon took hold. I told Beth that we simply must get out there Friday night so some of my favorite selections would not be “picked over” or gone. Beth agreed and an adjustment was made to the schedule. I am excited about some bush Early Girl tomatoes which would fit mighty nicely in those huge clay pots. And, how about some mighty good-looking yellow canna plants? There are only a few of them, so I’d better brush up on my running skills in order to get one, or two, or three, or thirty of them. Seriously, there were only a few, but I memorized well their placement. I just hope I am quick enough. While Beth and I were touring, we discussed our planting plans, and what would fit where. We noted some nice small marigold plants that would fit nicely around the edges of those clay pots. I don’t care what color they are, but I do like the old-fashioned stinky ones–I’ll just follow my nose. Since the clay pots and new raised beds are on the south side of the house, moss roses should do well in this area as well. I already have my buying shoes on!

We made a few other plans upon our return home and, after dinner, Beth and I were at it again. I placed the 9 hollyhocks in their designated spaces and planted two mums in the garden. I have Braille markers for the mums—Bolero and Cambodian Princess—and will place them alongside the plants soon.

It is easy to mark up these plants. Earl May has 10 inch wooden sticks, which look like large Popsicle sticks. With a Dymo tape labeler, I entered the words, cut off the tape, pulled the backing off, and placed the sticky side on the wooden labels. The Braille holds up longer than the wooden markers. Therefore, it is beneficial to make a Braille map of what seeds and plants you have planted and where.

Things are pretty well caught up in the garden. It is a good thing because we’ve now had rain the last four days. Though it is too early for peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and squash, the early crops should thrive in the cool and wet conditions.

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