There is a beauty salon in town that is advertising back to school haircuts. It was these ads that made me decide to perform a few haircuts in my back yard. Namely, my two weeping cherry trees and my Rose of Sharon bushes. They had simply gotten out of control. They were too tall and too bushy. I decided since all of them had done their thing for the season, now was as good as time as any to give them a little makeover. The picture above is the final result. Two trees that fit better into their small garden spot and Rose of Sharon bushes in between the trees that are more orderly and compact. I also used this time to trim down my hydrangea plants, which had gotten too big over the last few years as well.
My haircutting team started with reducing the heighth of each tree. This meant literally cutting the top four feet off of any branch that grew straight up towards the sun. Each tree had about 8 – 10 vertical branches that needed cutting. After taking care of the height problem, each tree looked much shorter and fit better into their small garden spot in the back yard. Liking what I saw, I then applied the same cutting plan to the Rose of Sharon bushes and made them much shorter as well.
Making the trees appear less bushy was a matter of finding the ends of the branches that hung out the furthest and snipping them off close to where they connected to the main trunk. My guess is that snipping branch by branch took about 2 feet out of the width of the trees. The Rose of Sharon didn’t need much pruning to reduce their width. In this cluster of bushes, only about three or four branches were trimmed. The last step with the trees was to make sure all of the hanging (weeping) branches were cut so they had a proper distance between them and the ground. After making sure each branch was hanging at the same level as all of the rest of the branches, it was time to tidy up the hydrangea.
With the hydrangea, it was important for me to make sure none of the branches were laying on the ground or, as some of the branches had done, were hanging over the stone wall. I also wanted to make sure there was ample room between them and the hosta plant that grows between my two clusters of hydrangea. Based on my research, these mophead hydrangea (H. macrophylla) need to be trimmed and cut after they have bloomed, but before they have set their buds for next year in the tips of year-old wood. I felt that now was the perfect trimming time and I made sure to be a little aggressive and really clean them up.
I may have gone a little overboard in trimming up my mopheads, but I was so happy to see my giant leaf hosta take center stage between both clusters of hydrangea. I had forgotten how beautiful the hosta was because the vast majority of it has been hidden behind hydrangea stems for quite a few years. After I was done trimming the hydrangea, I was quite happy with the results. I think I trimmed them at the right time, there were no stems or leaves on the ground or over the side of the stone wall and there was adequate space between them and other plants. All in all, mission accomplished. I gave what I think were some pretty good haircuts and I didn’t even need to go to beauty school.
It’s always exciting for us here at Glen Road to see our first acorns of the season. It reminds us that Fall is on its way, as well as reminds us about how our blog got its name “Acorns On Glen”. You see, behind our house on Glen Road, there are a number of oak trees that grow acorns during the Spring and Summer. At a certain point, the oaks, after getting permission from Mother Nature, decide to remind us about the upcoming Fall season by dropping hundreds of acorns on top of our roof for at least two to three weeks. Sometimes so many fall at one time that it sounds like bullets spraying the top of our house from some imaginary gun in the back yard. It has become a yearly ritual in our home and we laugh every time we hear the noise or have someone new in the house who asks us, “What was that?”. The falling acorns also signal a period of increased barking from our Yorkie, JoJo. She is always on the lookout for intruders (i.e., squirrels, chipmunks or the UPS delivery man) and hearing the acorns falling on the roof always brings about several barking episodes a day. Yes, it does get a little annoying with her continual barking, but we realize she is just trying to keep us safe and sound.
When we started “Acorns On Glen” about a year and a half ago, I wrote that I wanted it to be about new beginnings and being able to better realize what was real and good in my life. At the time I started writing my first blog post, I was pretty down about life and was only seeing and thinking about what’s wrong in it versus what was right. The blog was a new beginning to me and I hoped it would become a vessel where I could document gratitude for all of the great things that were happening in my life. I wanted the blog to be a chronicle about a great life….my great life. I’m glad to say that it has truly worked and seeing the first acorns of the season reminds me of new beginnings and of just how far I’ve come in appreciating this journey called life!
I don’t really think about what I’m wearing when I’m in my garden. I want to be in clothes that are comfortable, but other than that, I don’t really care what I look like nor do I have any other requirements. My clothes don’t need to match (and usually they don’t), they don’t need to be designer (I mean, I’m rolling around in dirt) and the more holes in the cloth, the better (I think of the holes as added air conditioning). There are a few things I always wear or have with me–my plastic gardening clogs, my wide-brim hat with its SPF of 50, light-weight gardening gloves and I always have my foam cushion handy for my knees when I’m down on all fours digging or planting.
Yesterday was no exception. I had on my wide-brim hat, a purple t-shirt, my blue gardening gloves, charcoal sweat pant cutoffs (to accentuate my pale white legs), dress socks and my gardening clogs. What was different was that I had a friend stop by who walked into the back yard and surprised me. He looked at me with a horrified, yet amused, look on his face and told me that I was some gardener. I said thank you as I took off my hat and ran my hand through my thick and sweaty hair that was sticking four inches up into the air. You know the look….the one that looked like you curled your hair with dynamite sticks. This was not one of my more handsomer days.
After my friend left, I got to thinking that most gardening blogs that I read never really show the actual gardener in all of his or her glory, unless the picture is a staged one taken by a photographer. You don’t really see what the gardener looks like or what the gardener is wearing in the many posts that are out there from our vast gardening community. Do we not show ourselves very much because, like me, we tend to look a little on the crazy side? Or perhaps, unlike me, most gardeners look great and wear nice polo shirts, jeans and comb their hair before spending the day out in the garden? So my fellow gardeners, it is time to confess…..what do you look like when you have a long day of gardening ahead of you?
Since my garden has taken on a second life, I have been keeping the Havahart trap armed and ready for action. I’ve come a long way since catching that first woodchuck. I no longer scream when I discover a critter inside the trap. I have a process down that when I see that I’ve trapped something, I call this man who comes over and removes the critter to a place far, far away. I still am too scared to release the critter by myself. I also have the perfect recipe down to put inside the trap–two chunks of cantaloupe, two chunks of apple, a carrot, a stalk of celery and two cabbage leaves by the entrance to entice the critter to enter the trap versus the garden. It seems to be working although recently I’ve mixed into racoons versus woodchucks. I know what kind of destruction a woodchuck can create in a garden. What about the racoons? Does anyone have garden issues caused by racoons? I can’t say I’ve ever heard of garden woes caused by racoons, but I’m sure there are stories. At best, the racoons have gotten into our garbage can and made a mess, but I have never seen them among the rows of vegetables out in my backyard.
There is a part of me though that is still sad every time the man takes the animals away. It’s sort of a feeling that I’m putting the balance of nature in my backyard out of whack. That I’m disrupting some sort of backyard ecological balance. Isn’t nature all about survival of the fittest? I’ve read stories on other blogs of people battling nature in order to grow a garden, so I know I’m not alone. I guess it’s just another one of the tough and crazy decisions you have to make when you start a garden.
When I returned home from my time in Las Vegas over the 4th of July and found that woodchucks had eaten my garden down to nothing, I truly thought that my 2012 garden was finished. It was leveled. In my mind, there was no way that the plants could ever recover. I mean, remember this picture of the green bean patch?
Looking at the destruction, I figured there was no way that these stripped stems and branches could ever recover, let alone produce vegetables to eat. I was wrong! Nature (as I have said many times before) always surprises. Well, Nature has surprised me again and I am glad to tell you that with a number of hot and sunny days coupled with some rainy days thrown in the mix as well, my garden has come back from the dead. Not only has it quickly grown back, but I have also picked vegetables to eat in almost every grouping that I planted this Spring. Take a look at a few shots of the destroyed green bean patch as it looked this weekend. Pretty amazing recovery, huh?
Not only has the patch grown back, but the plants have bloomed and started to deliver delicious green beans to pick and eat. I would have never dreamed of picking a single bean back around July 4th.
The next hardest hit grouping were the tomatoes. The woodchucks had done a fine job of eating them down to only their stem and branches. Not one leaf could be found. The tomato plants looked like weird little stick designs. It was hard to tell that they were ever a tomato plant. Not anymore. The tomato plants have flourished given our weather as you can see in the shot above and they are trying their hardest to give us as many tomatoes as possible before Fall begins. Take a look at these little fellows.
I don’t want to forget to mention the eggplant, turnips and beets as well. They were mowed down to the top of the soil by the evil critters and have come back with a vengeance. The eggplant, in particular, are now closing in on two feet tall!
So here is one of my learnings from the 2012 garden. Never give up on Nature. Just when you think you are down for the count, Mother Nature seems to always pull a fast one to bail you out. Who says you can’t perform magic tricks in the garden? My garden is proof to show you that Mother Nature is quite the magician.
I’ve always believed that getting the best results out of gardening starts with simply listening to all the advice that exists out there and then just doing what feels natural. You do what feels right in the pit of your stomach. Sometimes this feeling makes you do things that no one has told you to do and might seem a little crazy to the ordinary man, but you decide to do them anyway. Most of the time, following your gut helps yield successful results. It makes you feel that you know best about what works in your garden. You are one with the soil. When doing something out of the ordinary gets you great results, you begin to share your ideas with others and you hope that they will follow what you are telling them. Sometimes you feel like a scientist when doling out your advice and sometimes you feel like a quack. I realized that there really aren’t a lot of hard and fast rules out there for gardeners, but there is loads of advice. This weekend I started to think about all the gardening advice I have received over the years and then I started to wonder how much of this advice was simply old wives’ tales that I have been told time and time again and how much of the advice that I follow was based on fact?
Most of the wives’ tales I know about the garden came from my Grandma. You know what I’m talking about. Those old gardening tips that are sort of urban legend, like a proverb, and are generally passed down by an older generation to a younger generation. Such “tales” usually consist of superstition, folklore or unverified claims with exaggerated and/or untrue details. I can think of two things that I was always told to do in the garden by my Grandma that I’m not sure helps or not. Garden wives’ tale or not, that is the question!
The first is to always remove all “suckers” from your tomato plants because all of the plant’s energy will go to the “sucker” and not to the growing fruit. A “sucker” is the little stem that grows out from between two healthier stems. Think of it as a little stem that is growing from the middle of stems that are in a “V” formation. I think this makes sense and I do it all the time. Too many branches on the tomato would require more energy to keep the branches alive and growing. By simply pinching the “suckers” off, less energy is utilized for stem production and this energy instead goes into the making of a tomato that is bigger, sweeter and juicier than if you didn’t attend to those little “suckers”. So in my garden, you will always see perfect “V” formation tomato stems. Also, think back to the old days when I’d be in the tomato patch with my Grandma and she was screaming out “SUCKERS” for all to hear!
WIVES’ TALE OR FACT: FACT–in my humble opinion
My Grandma’s next rule had to do with toads in the garden. Finding a toad in your garden was one of the luckiest things she could imagine. I agree in concept that toads eat bugs and so having a toad or two in the garden is helpful in keeping the bug population down. However, my Grandma said if you ever removed a toad from your garden, your garden would suffer from blight. To her, toads were like her garden soldiers. Toads were good luck and you didn’t want to curse yourself by removing one and making it angry. For whatever reason, my garden is a toad haven. Even though I don’t really believe the curse warning, I never remove one. Why take such a risk? I have enough problems in the garden with woodchucks and all of that. Why would I deliberately try to anger my toads and make them whip up a nasty curse?
WIVES’ TALE OR FACT: TALE
So suckers and toads are a couple of the wives’ tales/facts I remember related to the garden. Sure there were others I remember not pertaining to the garden (i.e., Never sleep with the curtains open when the moon is full. If a moon beam hits you, you turn crazy.), but that’s another post. Are there other garden wives’ tales out there or any hard and fast facts that we should all adopt in our routines? If you have one, leave a comment and let me know what it is. This Summer, I’m needing all the help I can get when it comes to gardening.