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Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Gardener's Diary Archive: Abandon hope, all ye who garden here, July 7, 2016


As the hundred-degree days slogged on through June, I stayed inside. My potato plants nearly died; four of the 18 nandinas I transplanted did. One of the boxwoods came down with box blight and I have to go cut it down and sequester the remains: though little understood a healthy box go brown in a matter of weeks?- it is well-known that the spores, allowed to remain in the soil, will hang out up to six years, hoping for a replant, before giving up.

Elizabeth Lawrence, writing A Southern Garden in the 1940s, remarked, "Most Southerners need an introduction to their gardens in summer. I think they would be pleased if they could once break with the tradition of abandoning the borders to weeds when the flare of spring has passed."

That is where I am. Out the windows- through the slats of the blinds, which remain drawn most of the time- I can see grass coming up through the straw in my herb bed.  I have not turned any of the compost beds. I need to consolidate two of them, and move one of the winter fire twiggeries to a more out of the way location.

My front yard is full of dandelion seedheads, white and fluffy and ready to spread thousands more close by. I pulled 3200 dandelion heads in May and June, and gave up after the little bastids started putting out new tall and spindly, War of the Worlds type blossoms, waving, mocking a foot in the air. I am now reading about salads in James Beard. Heeding Noel Coward's counsel, I leave the noonday sun to mad dogs and Englishmen. By the cool of the evening, my back stiff from hunching over the computer all day, all I want is dinner and an hour or so of television.

Considering summer, Miss Lawrence also counsels, "Drought is a problem that must be faced sooner or later, for weeks when there is too much rain are sure to be followed by weeks when there is none.There are two ways to face the rainless weeks. One way is to water and the other is merely not to.

The last fortnight we have settled into the summer routine of short afternoon thunderstorms, and, while they give little relief of a humid day, the rain containers stay full. That keeps the water bill down, if the number of mosquitoes up a bit. Most of the peter peppers on the deck are setting flowers. A peace lily that has sulked and attempted suicide since I divided it in two seems to, finally be resigned to grow back out. My potato plants hang on, grimly. Each has put up one or two leafy shoots that flourished, then wilted and died. I check them daily, as I do the gold dust plant (aucuba japonica, also known as Japanese Laurel and Spotted Laurel) I have been trying to get started in a pot in my neighbor's yard. She resolutely refuses to water it; I admire its pluckiness. Of five clippings I put in the pot a few months ago, it is the only one left.



Mostly, when I have taken time from trying to  keep the wolves away from the door- Henry Bemis Books made it through June, just- I have turned my mind to indoor projects. I am thinking to try and root some more gold dust plants for some indoor color, as I read they adapt readily that way.

I've also tried some ideas from a post I put up on a sister blog- Cooking With Waldo, in April. Titled "Food Hacks!", it details ways one can use parts of vegetables one ordinarily tosses after bringing them home from the groceryto grow more of the same.

So in my kitchen window, three shot glasses now contain the bottom inch of scallions from the Food Lion. You just put them in water, let them have light, and they go up like rockets. Unhelpfully, the article doesn't say whether I can just clip and regrow, hydroponically, or whether they will be happier moved into a pot, or even outdoors (the heat again).


Next up, celery: you cut off the bottom, let it rest in warm water for a while, then transplant it. Voila! Now all I need is another jar of mayo!


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