Get Your Gardening Tips Here!

It’s that time of year again. The flowers and vegetables are mature, tomatoes are ripening, Jack Frost is breathing over us from the horizon. Time to take a good look at your gardens, maybe do some fall planting or transplanting and reflect on what you’ve learned from this year’s gardening mistakes and triumphs. I’ve got a few tips that might prove helpful to you as you update your list of summer gardening do-s and don’t-s.

First of all, if you must grow hollyhocks, then plant them in a sunny spot, so they don’t have to lurch up to 8-9 feet tall, groping for the sun over a tall fence. Of course, they work well in corners framed by tall fences and so they grow and grow and grow and then bud and finally in early August they bloom (if they haven’t already been completely consumed by slugs and fungus).

our lone standing hollyhock

our lone standing hollyhock

Then they fall over, squashing the tall marigolds or whatever else you’ve planted for show under their canopy. So … Tip #1: Have a few bungee cords handy to tie up the hollyhocks when they fall over, because they surely will – like, for example, on August 10th if your mother in-law is arriving for a visit on Aug 11. I was shocked when I glanced at our back corner garden. “Hey, where did all those hollyhocks your mother planted disappear to?” – I queried my husband, David, who was relaxing in his chair on the deck. I went charging back there to find the hollyhocks lying complacently on the ground. “Geez! You’re freaking kidding!” David quickly arrived with several bungee cords and magically affixed them all vertical again.
Hubby saves the day

Hubby saves the day

They looked pretty good, 40 feet away, from our chairs on the deck, which is where we stealthily reposed with his mother while she was here.

I guess cutesy, decorative, knee-high, wrought-iron, tomato-cage-like, fence sections would work too, there’s probably a name for these, but I didn’t feel up to going to a greenhouse in the middle of August asking the clerk for ‘cutesy, decorative, knee-high, wrought-iron, tomato-cage-like, fence sections’ to prop up our hollyhocks. So, Tip # 2: If you plan to grow hollyhocks and don’t want to spring for bungee cords (no pun intended) you might invest in the above props if you know what it is I am actually describing. If you already have them, and/or have had them for years, then, never mind.

Moving on to the next subject, I planted several rows of a lettuce mix in May and I have harvested it a couple of times. It was tasty! When the lettuce got to about 4-5 inches tall I simply clipped it back with a pair of scissors. Then I soaked the leaves in a large glass bowl in the kitchen sink, being careful to pick out every 2-inch piece of grass that had been blasted into the lettuce out the side of the lawn mower earlier that evening. That’s right. Dinner was delayed by yet an additional half hour as I picked the 100 or so pieces of grass out of the fifty or so leaves of lettuce I had harvested for our salad. Tip # 3: When you are mowing the lawn you might consider either attaching your grass catcher or positioning the mower along the garden so as to project the grass clippings in the opposite direction of the lettuce. This is a prudent pro-active step if you wish to keep the duty of salad preparation to manageable proportions and to keep from sending whoever is making the salad off the deep end.

I re-harvested the lettuce a couple of times until it got too bitter to eat – okay the lettuce was done now, and I could dig it up and plant seeds anew! This was the end of July and there was still time to grow another batch. But I didn’t. Instead our family went on that 4-day trip to Coeur D’Alene. Which brings me to Tip #4: Never leave your garden unattended for more than 24 hours. Because you can’t afford to lose precious time, energy and attention necessary to battle the weeds, fungus, insects, slugs, drought, pets, birds and squirrels. You play, you pay! Get your butt out there and work in your garden every day!

No, I didn’t plant more lettuce. I just left it there and it grew really big. And ugly.

Meet 'Jackomena'

Meet 'Jackomena'

I don’t want to hurt myself pulling it out. The lettuce has gotten so big and nasty that we are just going to leave it there and let it freeze to death. Which brings me to Tip # 5 : Leave it to ‘Jack Frost’ and ‘Old Man Winter’ (five-plus months worth here) to eliminate any mature obnoxious plants that you may or may not have planted.

Tip # 6: If you think you have a problem that may be due to soil conditions you might consider having your soil tested. If so, you should send the soil samples off now because it can take several weeks to get the results back. I remember this every spring when it’s too late to do it, maybe because I really don’t want to know what’s in our soil. We’ve had some pretty strange things crawling out of our soil and growing out of it. I know you can test for such things as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and iron but I’m starting to wonder if our vegetable garden soil might contain hormones. Like maybe I should have our soil tested to see if it contains unusual levels of … um … testosterone??

Just a thought. I dug this, uh, ‘stud-man’ carrot dude up yesterday, trying to make more room for the baby carrots. Baby carrots? Maybe I should dig up a few more carrots to try and figure out what kind of wing-ding’s goin’ down underground in our carrot patch.

Tip # 7: One can always consider running in the opposite direction from anything remotely associated with ‘the garden.’ Focus your energies reading in your chair on the deck, doing crossword puzzles, spending time on your computer planning long, relaxing summer vacations and pleasure cruises. Long, relaxing vacations and pleasure cruises? Really? Yeah, but, wouldn’t I miss our hollyhocks?

Would you like to hear my tips on gardening attire?

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