2009-06-25 / News

Stay in touch with your garden’s daily rhythms

The Island Garden
By Roger Marshall

The best gardeners are often the best observers. Taking care of your garden comes down to noticing little things – things like finding slug damage that wasn’t there yesterday, asparagus beetles that weren’t there a few days ago and flea beetles that leave their tiny shot holes in the leaves, followed by potato beetles that decimate the remains. By observing your garden carefully and noticing the changes on a daily basis, you can immediately fix any problems.

For example, I set some dahlia tubers out a few weeks ago, but it seemed that the dahlias were taking a long time to grow. A walk through the bed showed that the stems were being eaten on an almost daily basis. The local rabbit population was having lunch every day on my dahlias. I planted some marigolds around the edge of the dahlia bed (rabbits hate marigolds) and sprayed the bed with Rabbit Stopper to keep the rabbits off the shoots.

If you have time, take a walk though your garden once a day and take note of any changes. Notice how weeds fill every empty space. Nature doesn’t like a vacuum and every empty space is a vacuum to be filled with weeds. The trouble with weeds is that they compete with your corn, cabbages or other plants for food. Chances are, you’ll need to spend a while pulling weeds because it has been far too wet lately to hoe the weeds out. You can also help control weeds by mulching over any empty space to eliminate the “vacuum.”

If you see insect damage, fix it immediately rather than waiting a week or two. If you solve it right away, you prevent crop losses and the need for more severe treatment later. If you can’t treat the problem immediately, try to find a way to control it until you can. For example, the apple trees need spraying, but it’s been so wet that spraying has to be delayed. So, I hung red balls coated with Tanglefoot to help control insects until the weather lets me spray.

A walk through your garden tells you other things as well. Right now, the daffodil leaves are turning yellow and need to be removed, so it’s time to check the clumps of bulbs. If they’ve grown too large, dig them up and redistribute the bulbs. When replanting daffodil bulbs, drop a teaspoon of all-purpose fertilizer into the hole and stir it into the soil before putting the bulb down. This will help you get healthy plants and lots of blooms in seasons to come.

You might notice chrysanthemums starting to get a little leggy, so pinch back the tops to increase the number of blooms, or carefully trim the plants into a mound. They still have plenty of time to grow back and produce fall flowers. Check your clumps of daylilies, too. They may have grown huge over the years and need to be divided. After the flowers have died, dig and divide them. Rhododendrons need to be checked now as well. Most of the smaller-flowered varieties have finished blooming and can safely be trimmed back. Theyíll have most of the summer to grow new flower buds.

Only by observing the daily rhythms of your yard regularly can you notice the subtle changes that are taking place. In fact, the best gardeners keep a journal that records what happens and when in their garden. I have to admit, I’ve tried keeping a garden journal, but its a chore that often falls by the wayside.

Watching the changes in the yard and garden is, in its own way, a therapy that keeps us grounded in our environment. It also helps ensure that our yards and gardens stay in perfect trim all season long and that we get the produce and flowers we’ve worked so hard to grow.

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