By Roger Erpelding
As far as the garden is concerned, Saturday, June 8, had to be one of the most beautiful days ever. It began raining at 10:00 in the morning, and didn’t quit until after 2:00 in the afternoon. When it was all said and done, we dumped 2 inches out of the rain gauge—steady precipitation, but not a cloudburst.
By 5:00 the sun was out, so it gave us a chance to check on some of the things in the raised beds. We didn’t dare walk in the flower beds or garden. Just another advantage to raised beds, which I have come to love more and more as my garden experience broadens.
I have been coveting another raised garden, similar to the ones Beth and I have on the south side of the house. I had a great idea, and later in the weekend, Beth presented this idea as well. Right on the southwest corner of the house is an ugly cedar bush. I have wanted to have it removed for years. Beth recommended that we call Steve, who we use for our landscaping work when needed—not only to have the bush uprooted and taken away, but soil and rock hauled in to make this area level with the current raised beds. Needless to say, I burned a path to the phone, and Steve has been contacted! Now we just need to wait for this raised bed to go on sale as it did last year, and order up. And even better, Beth said this bed is all mine—I don’t need to share. Since there is no such thing as a free lunch, Beth is ordering another bench which she will put somewhere on the property; of course, I will assist in putting it together and carrying it to her favored place. What a blessing to be married to a fellow Master Gardener!
The rain resulted in a foggy night on Saturday and a damp Sunday morning. This delayed my plans to finish weeding the west perennial bed, but I got it done late in the morning. Again, since these are mostly established plants, this was an easy task. There were the obvious weeds, and those always go out first—grass, for example. By their leaf feel and growth habit, I found the coreopsis, the painted daisy, the delphinium, the Arkansas blue star amsonia, daylilies, the gas plant, an old lilac, and various oriental lilies. Since I knew these were desired plants, anything around them, for the most part, were weeds. These included more of those old bushes that seem to never die, some kinds of weeds I didn’t identify, a couple of black walnut trees, and some bindweed which Beth calls “the twisty weeds from Hell.” The bindweeds are so obvious that I pull them without a thought. They were already over a foot tall, and were attaching themselves to any nearby plant.
Sometimes flowers get in a way, and they get pulled as well. A Jack Frost brunnera has seeded itself near the row of daylilies. It is out of the way and I just allow it to remain. Later, while weeding one of the raised beds, an unidentified plant appeared. Is it a weed, or not? Since all things in this bed are bulbs or tubers—glads, calla lilies, and amaryllis, I first dug up a little soil to test for a protuberance. Finding none, I sniffed one of the leaves which I broke off. It was a rather pungent and unpleasant smell. Out it unceremoniously went—roots and all.
Now that the perennial bed has been weeded, it is mulch time. Last autumn, Beth and I collected several bags of leaves through mowing and raking. They are sitting under the awnings around the house and it is time for them to go. So, on Tuesday night I began to fill in the bare areas in the perennial bed. This gave me a second chance to take care of any weeds I missed. Part of the area has nice rows and will be easy. Part of the area, such as around the woodland poppies and oriental lilies, have filled in, and I’ll have to mulch by the handful, and be careful. Other plants are small, such as the lung wort (pulmonaria) and could easily be buried in a pile of leaves. Some plants get stepped on, such as the Virginia bluebells, daffodils, and lily-of-the-valley. These plants are expendable, as for the most part they are dying anyway. In the case of the lily-of-the-valley, they are very forgiving. I have a “step plan” before I enter the garden with the mulch bags. Tonight my plan is to get 4 more bags of mulch emptied and spread. I will start on the south end, and work my way northward, along the east side of this bed. Just to the east of this bed are rows of brassicas—broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. If mulched at all, it will be only lightly. North of these plants is a walkway between a blue spruce and a Korean lilac. This will be easy mulching, and I’ll save this until last.
The soil is drying out and, if it does not rain, my next task will be to weed the green beans, followed by the potatoes. I also want to harvest radishes, spinach and lettuce this weekend, so I’ll multi-task and weed while picking.