July's Chores Bring  Rewards

Gardening requires lots of water ----most of it in the form of perspiration
Lou Erickson, British critic and poet

Some go for a walk in the woods.  We are going for a walk in the gardens.  This includes lawns, perennial gardens, annual gardens, vegetable gardens, and herb gardens.  Or maybe they are all mixed up!

Do be kind to that lawn. Don’t scalp it please! Scalping makes a lawn look ugly and is dreadful for the grass. It exposes the lighter non-chlorophyll part of the grass plant. Scalping a lawn makes it easier for weeds to establish themselves, as many don’t mind being cut short. After all, many weeds grow much more quickly than the grass. Cut only about one-third of the height of the grass at a time. If the grass is too tall you might even have to cut it more than once. The result should be a lawn that is about three inches tall. Leave the clippings. No they don’t cause thatch. Thatch is usually caused by over fertilization, poor soil, and debris buildup over time. Grass clippings are about 90% water, and provide nitrogen to the existing lawn. If you look closely at the surface of the soil you will even see that earthworms actually carry these little bits of grass downward. Neat, huh?

It’s July and hopefully warm. The tomatoes are planted and staked. The soil is covered to prevent weeds from emerging and stealing nutrients and moisture. Cover the soil? Exposed soil is wonderful for weeds especially the annual weeds that produce thousands of seeds. You have a choice here. You can let the weeds alone, but they will win. You can pull the weeds (after a rainstorm is a great time). You must get all of a perennial weed, as parts of the root will regenerate. (Why do you think that dandelions have a weeding tool named just for them?) Use compost, cover crops, black plastic, green mulches. Yes I have heard of commercial products, herbicides that kill weeds — well, actually they kill any plant. If this is your choice, just be careful not to get any of the product on your desirable plants.

Pinch those annuals! They are not making flowers for you. They are trying to make seeds so they can continue the species. In the case of annual vegetables you can choose how many cucumbers or peppers by pinching as well. How about those perennials? Keep them cleaned up. Remove old flowers and brown leaves. Not only will the garden look better but some perennials will reward you with a second bloom.

Gardens aren’t just for working in. There are creatures to see and enjoy in the garden as well. We have rabbits and squirrels in our gardens. There are also robins, which we see tugging on earthworms; hummingbirds and hummingbird moths feeding from the bee balm; grosbeaks in the elderberries; and honeybees visiting oregano and mint blossoms. Birds come to the birdbath either to drink or to bathe. We have several toad houses, and on occasion I have actually seen a toad in one. Usually we see toads under various plants, especially large-leaved ones such as rodgersia and rhubarb. There are also butterflies (and the larvae of both butterflies and moths) in parts of the garden, especially on the milkweed, the cosmos, the zinnias and bishop’s flower.

Whew! I did a lot of work out here today. It’s time for a nice cool drink in the gazebo.

Forever Young Magazine July 2005