It hasn’t been a particlarly snowy winter and here in Naperville the cold tempertures have settled arond us. As we shiver outside in below freezing temps it’s hard to think of it ever ending. Some of us break hibernating in our homes to escape go to a tropical paradise. How can we prepare for spring in the dead of winter? I have always found that this is the time of year to assess your garden and make plans for new designs, planting schedules, or regular up keep. I also like to take this time to figure out what if any vegatables I may try to grow. If you are blessed to have a spacious sunny yard you may try rotating what you plant year to year to give the ground a chance to regain minerals. If you live in a small space you could try contianer gardening. Some vegetables are made with the idea of container gardening such as patio tomatoes. What are you waiting to do this spring?
When you read the title of this blog did you think, weeds? Alas you are mistaken. I am thinking more of bonding with people than of weeds that seem to find their way into a garden. A lot of what you see in commercials or in stores are meant to make gardening easier. Some of those inventions are great! I love the hose that has holes already pierced into it so that when you turn on the hose, the water sprinkles out therefore more effectively watering the garden. I also think some ideas are not so good to help those whom I lovingly term “gardening challenged”. For instance, I recently saw a commercial for one of the big hardware stores advertising a twist on grass patch. Instead of the grass seed it had flower seeds. I don’t approve of these mixed bags and feel that they tend to add undesirable seeds into them. Those who have a hard time growing things will be discouraged rather that delighted by what grows. What i s lost sometimes in these fancy inventions is what it means to be in the garden. I have mentioned before that I love the fact that my mom inspired me to garden. There is real bonding there in the fact your working together, in that you have a common interest and a common goal to see what you are doing succeed. When two people work side by side to create beauty there are boundless rewards. My kids have loved spending time with me planting vegetable seeds and watching them take off. One year we tried our hands at growing string beans. The satisfaction they got when they watched it grow and later were able to pick, cook and eat the beans was pure magic. This year one of my children are growing parsley and basil from seed. He checks on it everyday to see if it needs water, how it is growing and watching its progress. It’s hard to describe how it feels to garden with someone you care about. I think it is a very basic emotion. It’s not something you can buy, or try to make up, it comes naturally. Which in the end, is the point.
When I think of mint I have mixed feelings. As I mentioned in a previous post, it can be a bear in the garden. I almost feel a sense of anxiety when I see some one purchase this harmless looking herb. That little 4″ pot of mint could take over a garden quickly, and how! Sometimes, one may not even realize that they have purchased mint and wonder why it is spreading every where to kingdom come. For example, I know a lady who loved to garden and one day decided to give lemon balm a try. When you rubbed the leaves, it smelled lemony and delicious. She even found an intriguing recipe for lemon balm cheesecake! It seemed she was destine to have the plant. So she happily bought the lemon balm and was thrilled to see how well it grew, and grew, and grew! Soon it was popping up everywhere. It hadn’t even made a good cheesecake, too savory. She decided to pull it out and six years later she still finds it growing in unusual places, little did she know that lemon balm if you hadn’t guessed already was in the mint family. On the other hand, I think it is pretty safe to keep in a pot or an area of your garden where it couldn’t possible spread elsewhere. Did you know there are 6, 700 species of mint?!? Twenty to thirty of them grow in temperate regions. Among my favorites are mojito, chocolate, pineapple, apple mint, peppermint to name a few. Pineapple mint smells strongly of , as you may guess, pineapple! The smell is so exact it is amazing. Chocolate mint tastes lovely in a glass of sun-brewed tea. Mint is great for cooking with too. I just had a delicious spring roll with meat, and some other veggies with mint. It was a surprising and lovely combination. Mint is very popular in many different ethnic dishes as well. So you can understand why mint is such a conundrum? I think my final ruling is to place it carefully, it would be a shame to avoid it entirely, and after all you only live once!
Most people have heard the saying “losing yourself in nature”. I find that a trip to a local forest preserve or other botanical gardens quite refreshing. It is almost as if as soon as I place my feet on the soft dirt of the forest floor or prairie path I immediately feel calm. That is why many garden. Some people do it for the purpose of beautifying their property, or under pressure of the neighbors to make it look better but most find gardening addicting in the best sense of the word. As a garden designer I see the potential and beauty of every garden. The gardens in which only a few bushes and a tree or two dot the landscape I see as an open canvas. The possibilities are endless. For people with a mix of different beds, a new challenge occurs as I figure out what to change or keep. When I weed someones yard, I find my mind still and peaceful as I marvel at the little things I see. When I pull up a dandelion or watch a little bug make its way to wherever it may be going I think of the simplicity of nature. Such a far cry from the hustle and bustle of society, back to basics I say. So this spring, grab a shovel and dig!
For a gardener one of the strongest curse words in the garden is not what you’d think. For me and many fellow gardeners it is the word “weed”. Sure some are pretty and you almost hate to pull, others like crabgrass I pull with vigor and a sense of accomplishment. Every year the weeds and I have a showdown, I do my best to wipe them out, they do their best to invade every inch of garden space. It seems to me that a different weed has a starring role each year in being the most prevalent and #1 undesirable in the garden. Of course I have to admire their tenacity and will to survive and adapt. I have gotten creative in trying to squash the little buggers. Once I spied a dandelion sprouting up in my garden. I grabbed a decorative chicken and placed it right on top thinking “I’ve got you now!” only to discover later that it is doing just fine thank you and merely pushed its leaves out around the chicken. This round went to the weeds. I hate to use chemicals as they are more harmful than beneficial. Of course there are times I have to use them but I prefer the old fashioned method of yanking those suckers myself. It is therapeutic to weed, I have almost a zen like approach to it, and find it peaceful to do even this monotonous task. I make this promise to weeds everywhere, watch out, you never know when we gardeners may be by with a shovel and an agenda to yank you!
When one of my plants dies, I truly feel a loss. A part of me was in that little plant. A part of my part of my hopes and dream for that plant is gone too. When I walk up and down the aisles of plants at my local garden shop I feel like I am on a mission, and I feel inspired to try a new experiment. I pick the right one (or 5) and take it/them home. I peruse my garden and see where the perfect fit for the newest member of the plant family will be. Once that is established out comes the shovel, gloves and other garden materials to give the plant the best chance possible. You hope and water and imagine what the plant will look like when it reaches full maturity. When it works out that way it is a wonderful sight, but when it doesn’t, when no matter how hard you try the plant doesn’t thrive and eventually dies it is hard. When we garden a part of us goes in that soil, but fear not to try again. That too is a part of gardening, try and try again, find out what may have gone wrong, but mostly don’t give up!
What is more lovely than a gentle rain or a rumbling thunderstorm? I find peace when listening to these sounds, and the wonderful smells that a good soaking rain can bring. However, any gardener can tell you that it also brings satisfaction that you know your garden is getting a good drink. I swear my garden looks much more refreshed and revived than anything from a garden hose or sprinkler can deliver. I can almost see smiles from the plants after a storm. How fun as well to see the little birds playing in the puddles or the children splashing around? You won’t hear me singing “rain rain go away” I love the rain, there is something mysterious and invigorating about the it. Of course we all love a good warm sunny day but enjoy the rain, for sometimes, a rain storm is as lovely as a perfect sunny day.