Sunday, August 1, 2010

July is finally over, and it's time to garden again - maybe

What happened in July? Drought, that's what happened. We had the hottest July on record, many days around 100 degrees, and approximately 1.1" of rain for the entire month - that's all! It was terrible, kind of like being stuck in the house during a snow storm. Too hot to go out, way too hot and buggy to garden, and meanwhile everything was dying.

Trying hard to be a responsible gardener, I do most of my watering from the rain barrel and from gray water saved from the kitchen sink. But this month I did do some deep watering with the hose and sprinkler a couple of times. How long can you watch your viburnums and hydrangeas curling up and gasping for breath without rushing to their rescue?

But, just like a snow storm, a long, hot summer gives you a chance to dream and plan. So here are some thoughts on moving things around, plus lessons learned from the raised bed. Caution: some of these images may be disturbing.

To be moved:
The American ginger in the shrub border - it gets too much sun and not enough water. Moving them under the oak tree will solve at least the first problem. Here they are all splayed out. Horrible, isn't it?

Itea - I have two in the shrub border behind the house, but for whatever reasons, this one suffered terribly in the drought while the other one did fine. I think it's time to move it (where?) and substitute an evergreen that grows 6-8' tall and can hide the rain barrel from view.
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Tithonia - now that I know what this plant actually is, I would mass them some place where they get good sun and enough water. Not sure where this would be, but I'm working on it.

Tiarella - the sole survivor in front is dwarfed by a Siberian iris that throws its blade-like leaves far and wide and smothers the poor thing. Time to move the iris.
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To be improved:
ALL the soil in the gardens, but especially in the side cutting garden. Most of what's there are annuals, so this fall will be a good time to dig up the dry, hard clay and add as much of that great compost as I can spare. See how awful it is now?

Raised bed area:

The eggplants have been attacked by flea beetles; the pepper was eaten by whatever creature has been eating my plants; the parsleys were discarded and new ones planted but they are tiny because of the drought; the cleomes and cosmos are okay. Putting bird netting around some of the plants seems to have averted the creature (birds? woodchucks??). Only the tomatoes seem to be somewhat successful. I always like cherry tomatoes, but I would not plant Siberia again. A short, cool growing season is hardly one of our problems.

The cardinal climber vine is more delicate than I expected - maybe because of the drought? - and does not have the presence needed for the arbor. Next year, either another year of annuals such as hyacinth bean, or take the plunge and plant roses and clematic.
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The beans were attacked and replanted and have been sulking a bit. I'll give them another week and then I'll rip them out and plant for the third and last time. The zucchinis are doing okay but not setting much fruit. I may be the only gardener in the world who is not inundated with zucchini this August.

But am I daunted? No, I am not. It takes only one day like today, everything sparkling with the less-than-1/10-of-an-inch-of-rain we had last night and low humidity, for me to think that all things in the garden are possible.

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