OLG – Old Lady Gardner #14 – Fall has arrived

The fall equinox was just a few days ago but the weather seems to be racing its way to deep fall. The trees around me are still green but as I walk further from home the red maples are in flame, and the sumac is turning red up at the park.

The wind had been wild the last two days leaving a deep chill in my bones. The ills of old age has left me on blood thinners and other weird meds that I am sure make me feel much colder than it is. I had and have much to do out in the garden so wind or not I headed out this morning. The first task was to take down the fencing around the small raspberry patch and cut away the dead stems. Then I dug what was left and moved them to one of the new raised beds.

The first cut into the soil showed me the devastation of two years of drought here in the upper mid west. It was hard to push into the dry soil but once I got through the crust it was all just crumbles of dust. The roots around the raspberry stems were thin and dry. They looked like they had been laying out in the hot sun for days. I dropped them in a bucket of water to soak for awhile and then moved them into softer soil and watered the heck out of them. I am not sure they will make it but we will see. They are in a better location now but I worry the roots were already too far gone.

I will water them daily for awhile and see if that might help them revive. I am doing this with most of the larger plants in the back gardens now. A daily dosing of water. I don’t want to run a sprinkler when the wind is this wild. It will just blow the water away. So I pull the hose around the back yard to each plant. The young lilac bushes I planted earlier, all the new plants in the hill garden, the Hosta that are all over the yard and anything else that is drooping gets a direct hit from the hose.

I did not keep up a regular water routine in the back gardens this year and now I wish I had. I spend so much time on the front and then ran out of energy for the back. Now this area is dusty, weedy and looks to be almost all dead. Let’s hope my renewed watering will make enough difference before the frost sets in. All of this raises my fears of the quickly moving climate change. I see the difference in the big lakes and the dramatic fires in the west but to feel it run through my fingers. The realization that this once lush green yard now will only stay alive if I am here to run city water over it often, is very scary. I know the front garden beds did not produce well this year and I watered them almost daily. The soil there as I pulled out short stubby carrots today also was dry and dusty even have been watered just the day before.

I turned from that fear and repotted and brought in the deck plants. Tonight the hanging basket out swinging in the wind is also in the sunroom since I don’t trust how chilly it will get tonight. The next few days are suppose to be very cool at night. Temperatures dropping into the upper 30’s – not frost but getting close. All the Dahlia flowers have been cut and put in vases. The tubers dug up and drying waiting to be stored for next spring. These are the routines of a fall gardener but with in them are the worries of dry soil, produce that is not producing and temperatures that are very warm and then drop suddenly to cold, dry and windy.

There is more to do in the garden but…

The days are short, dark comes quickly and so this old gardener is now sitting inside with a light blanket to warm me up just a bit. I have switched the iced screw driver for a cup of herbal tea. The light in the living room comes on by 6:45 pm instead of 9:00 pm. The warmer clothes are being pulled out from the back of the closet and the hiking boots and socks now warm my feet while the worn out sandals plus the sneakers are in the back of the closet also waiting for spring.

My worry of climate change continues as I read another book about drip lines for watering plants, hardy native plants with deep tap roots that will seek water deep in the ground and wonder how to make this small garden land self sustaining and healthy as the world changes quickly season by season.

I hope and dream of fall rains and a good snow cover this year to feed the earth beneath our feet.

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OLG – Old Lady Gardner #13 – Fall Equinox

We have arrived at the Autumnal Equinox. This Thursday we can officially say it is fall. The days are shorter and the temperatures continue to drop (for the most part). Here is what is happening in the Northern Hemisphere.

“During an equinox, the sun crosses what we call the “celestial equator”—an imaginary extension of Earth’s equator line into space. The equinox occurs precisely when the Sun’s center passes through this line.

After the autumnal equinox, days become shorter than nights as the sun continues to rise later and nightfall arrives earlier. This ends with the winter solstice, after which days start to grow longer once again. ” (information from Almanac -)

For many they are dreading the short days and long nights. As gardeners many are saddened to see the flowers fade and the trees around us blaze out in one last shine of color and then go bare leaving us with long brown branches reaching to the sky. The grass goes brown and the veggie gardens are closed for the winter months – cleared of the summer growth and covered in crisp leaves to rest for a few months.

I am not a fan, any more, of cold winters. My hands and feet feel the cold way more than they use to. Old joints get creaky and I find the change harder to handle but…

I can’t help feeling excited as the trees slowly change from green to yellow or red. The flowers in most of my garden beds are slowing flower production and the greenery looks tired. I am ready to clear it all away. Some things are over grown and straggly and some garden beds never really took off this year so I am more than ready to let them sleep and try again next year.

Fall for me brings a flourish of activity. The deck plants need to be cleaned up looking for insects and spicers that might want to come in for the winter. (Note the Royal Spider that joined the Queens funeral this week – really google it.) There are gardens that I clean up by cutting down plants and clearing the ground for the spring bulbs to surface.

Other gardens stay as they are allowing the plants to stand and provide shelter for critters and insects for the winter. Then there are the tender plants that the rabbits want to eat all winter so they need to be fenced and mulched.

The plants that are not winter hardy and I don’t want to loose get dug up and stored for the winter in a cool dark place. That means the two large begonia plants will be cut back and the tubers (root mass) is stored in a paper bag till next spring. The Elephant ears also get pulled dried and stored.

Next (because I am crazy and I have a new sunroom) I am taking cuttings from some plants that are considered annuals here in Minnesota – things like coleus, and salvia. These cutting I place in water until they root and then plant them in small containers and hope to keep them alive until next spring when they can return to garden. I am also trying to root some hydrangea cuttings but that looks like it is not going well already. In all honesty the coleus and salvia might not make it either but it is worth a try. I could say it is about saving money but really it is just fun to see if I can keep plants growing all winter. ( Who knows I may try and take cutting from the begonia’s and see if they will root that was as well.)

Oh yeah – I almost forgot about the leaves. I no longer rake them but have a young strong fellow who mows chop them up and bag them. I then throw them on the garden beds. They cover the veggie beds, the peonies and a few other flower beds providing protecting for the cold winter. It is putting the beds to sleep.

All this activity happens starting at the equinox and ends in early November or before. It just depends on how cold it gets and how fast I need to work. I have already started taking cuttings from plants and pulled a few of the Elephant ears and are drying those. Next week I will begin the bigger clean up of the garden beds. I am starting earlier this year because creaky joints, and sore hands – basically aging – means this all takes longer than I want it to.

As always I look to spring so my last job of the fall is planting another round of bulbs – daffodils mainly because they are poisonous and the squirrels, chipmunks, voles and rabbits won’t eat them.

Then I rest! There is a fire out back in the brisk fall air. There is a fall quiet that arrives – the beauty of open land, the details of huge old tree branches reaching out in patterns across the cold blue sky and time to reflect. It is a time where I sit with a cup of tea, maybe a scone and watch. I watch for that first hard frost and then later the snow that leaves the world white and fresh. Those are beautiful moments that I can not wait to see each fall and early winter.

Ok, in reality I am running after my grandson who is three – the tea is sitting getting cold on the table and the scone is just a thought but a good one. We do go walking in the leaves swishing our feet and looking for milkweed to open and blow out into the neighborhood. We do go out and sit by the fire while he runs wild up and down the back hill and through the leaves covering the plants and throwing them back out into the yard but hey you are only three once and so I let him – we are the indulgent grandparent for sure! Somewhere in here we will make apple sauce and pumpkin shaped cookies with orange frosting everywhere and enjoy a Halloween party with all his little friends – an outdoor fire, apples, hot coco and more.

How can one not be excited about fall and then the silent long nights of winter where the garden magazines come back out and I begin to plan for spring once Little Man has gone home for the day!

With that I will end this writing and go put on a tank top – it is in the 90’s right now with high humidity since I refuse to cook in one more hot day we will walk to the neighborhood bar for a bit to eat.

Tomorrow they promise temperatures of 60’s and we can begin fall on Thursday. Tonight it is still summer!

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OLG (Old Lady Gardener) #12 Rethinking the Summer Gardens

The weeks have flown by and I have not found my way to my computer so posting here has not happened for a few weeks. I have no good reason why. I could say time was short but really time is just time. We use it in the ways we want to. In other words – We can usually make time for the things if we want to. I think I just needed a break and to spend much of the last few weeks doing odds and ends of things.

The garden is slowing down for the year. The temperatures here in Minnesota have begun to cool. The nights are in the 60’s or below. Last night our low was 49 degrees. The days warm nicely to the 70’s and the angle of the autumn sun leaves sharp shadows in the early morning and evening. It is a lovely time of year. Perfect for walks, sitting on the deck or gathered around a fire in the backyard for a late night chat with family or friends.

The veggie garden for me is almost done. This was not a good food garden year for me. I know of others who are reaping the great bounties of their garden now. Storing food for the cold months ahead. Last year I was part of that group. This year we are just enjoying small amounts of beans, carrots, lettuce, herbs and a few tomatoes here and there.

This is the point in which a gardener could turn grumpy and discouraged. This is when many people throw in the trowel and call it quits. I was almost there but decided to not take the negative route. I sat down with a glass of wine and thought out the issues. Why did this year fall apart? I am not going to say failed. We still got some food and Mason, my grandson, thinks it is a great success since he has been picking small carrots every other day and tiny cherry tomatoes to take home for dinner. I did put six small containers of tomato sauce in the freezer today. A friends tomato plant is over producing.

Where were the issues this year?

  1. Cold weather in the spring meant a late start to planting for me so I rushed things and did not prep the soil well. The main beds I use this year are old with four of them having tree roots coming up into the beds seeking any moisture they can. These beds need a good amount of compost to give them new life and they just did not get it this year.
  2. The weather was a big factor – year 2 of drought with a long cold spring and then above 90 degree temps for days. It has been hard to keep the moisture level up in the gardens without running a sprinkler many hours a day.
  3. The huge old elm tree has continued to grow and leaf out well over several of the garden beds leaving them now in shade most of the day. Not good for growing food. Veggies need full sun in the summer, which means 6 or more hours of sun a day. These beds are getting more like 4 to 5 and it makes a big difference. Flowers are doing well in those beds not tomatoes or other veggies. The plants grow but they are just not producing fruit. When they do like the tomatoes – the fruit is small and not ripening. They just sits there, green as can be.
  4. My own ability to work hard digging and pulling deep planted weeds has also slowed the process of change in the yard as well.

This was a year of coasting I would say. I did create a couple new gardens for flowers and have slowly begun the re do of the backyard. It is taking me longer than I thought to clear out two years of weeds and rebuild the beds. I am hoping over the next few weeks with cool weather to keep moving towards cleaning up the beds.

There are some things I can change like the soil health in the beds. It the weather holds into October I will clear the garden beds and add compost and chopped up leaves to them and let the soil settle over the winter with hopes of better luck next year.

I can’t change the weather patterns or the growth of the old elm. I am not cutting it down so I can grow tomatoes. That would be crazy! So like most gardeners that are good years and off years. This being the off year for sure.

Gardening is about patiences, trail and error and rolling with whatever comes your way.

We will enjoy the coolness of fall, the wonderful colors of fall flowers and leaves and look forward to winter for creating plans for next year.

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OLG (Old Lady Gardening) #10 Changes come slowly

At times things seem to happen quickly. There is a sudden change in our life and we find is hard to keep up with it. Then there are changes that arrive slowly and quietly. So quiet that it is hard to notice them or to have words to express them.

I have written for weeks about the changes I am making to the garden. I have shared the weeding and planting. I have shared my over doing and the days afterwards of aching joints and sore back that comes with age and arthritis. You just can’t keep writing about weeds and pain. Who wants to read that every week? So what else is really happening?

While walking home from the local bar and eatery I voiced this to my partner. I have nothing more to say I told him. I voiced that I knew there were some changes happening in me and who I was as a gardener but I have no words for that change. At least not yet.

What are those changes? I realize I am look to next years season and thinking about what goes into the eight raised beds. Maybe more flowering plants. I have always been a veggie gardener with a few flowers in some front beds. This year the flowers joined several of the veggies beds. It just seemed fun to have a splash of color in along side the green beans. It have been fun to have a pot, in with the raised bed tomatoes, that has a vine with bright red flowers on it.

Flowers seemed to be crawling into my gardens without me really thinking about it. My wondering is-is this because of the shade in my garden that is making it hard to grow vegetables? Is it due to the work load of veggies? Is it the need for heavy start up, compost and follow through with food production? Is is age and the ache joints?

This year in particular has been hard. I got started late due to colder weather. The early seed starting was difficult with construction at the house and seeds, soil and water everywhere in my bedroom turned office turned green house. I did not get the raised beds prepped well with compost or mulch after planting. The summer has been hot and dry so it has been a daily watering to just keep things alive. The struggles have left me with plants with lots of green but little produce. I will not be making salsa this year. There are not peppers to freeze or add to tomato sauce. We have gotten fresh tomatoes to eat and lettuce and herb for salads and beans. That is all!

On the other hand the flowers are colorful. Many have come up on their own and have only asked for watering on and off. The pots were filled early in the summer and have been left to grow giving us color and green foliage for the length of the summer and well into the fall I expect. This colorful display has only ask for water and a bit of weeding here and there.

As I watch what the seasons have given me and what my body has allowed me to do I find myself taking the steps to reducing the food production and thinking to what flowers could grow in the raised beds? Could they become cutting gardens instead of food gardens? Would it really be easier? Would I miss the veggies?

Maybe and maybe not – as we find ourselves busy with our grandson there are more nights that a quick meal up at the local bar looks better and better instead of preparing a whole meal here. If we watch what we eat – stay veggie oriented we can eat in a healthy way most of the time when out and about.

So slowly I am seeing a change in who I am as a gardener. I am seeing more clearly how I want to spend my time and how I am able to spend my time without pain and soreness. I have found painting and drawing plants is also a lot less painful than the deep digging I have been doing this year.

I know I can not yet give up having my hands in the soil but I may be modifying what that looks like and feels like as this year progresses.

Time to do some deep thinking about who I am as a gardener as I walk into my 70’s. Building compost bins, moving heavy rocks for redesigns, hauling compost and mulch for weeks my not be where I continue to work. Setting up native gardens that can run on their own to some degree might be a wise move over the next year or two.

We will see where all this thinking goes? The slow development of change is a struggle but interesting. It is hard to let go of things you love but make you hurt in some way. I find it strange how I seem to hold on to things that can be painful (both emotionally and physically). It all is a bit fuzzy to me right now. A bit like this summer picture somethings in sharp focus and other a bit blurry for now.

Change can be slow and not always fun but an important part of growing. Even when you are old!

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OLG (Old Lady Gardener) Moments in the Garden

Here in Minneapolis, Minnesota we have been dealing with super hot weather and no rain for what feels like months. Then this past weekend it happened. It turned cool, cloudy and the rain came. First in slow pitter and patters just leaving the scent of moisture in the air. Then a more steady rain fall – one not too fast but enough to begin to soak the ground. The dry hard earth was not sure what to do with this water and it pooling in places for a bit. Then the dryness let go and the moisture was absorbed into the earth leaving the rich smell of wet soil in the air. It felt like walking in a temperate rain forest for a short time.

It rained on and off all day Saturday and Sunday. What a joy for this water starved city and for my plants and for me. I had not realized how parched I felt and how excited I was just to sit and watch the rain from the sunroom room window.

Today the sun is out the morning dew is thick and the garden sparkles with water. The air is still cool. Our overnight low was 59 degrees. A delight for sure after 98 degree days and full sun. Today was my day to tackle another garden bed out back but a quick walk around the front found me deadheading flowers and cleaning up sticks, and bits and pieces of dried up plants.

Best laid plans of working out back were lost and I cleaned up the front beds and did a deep weed and mulch to one of them. I had neglected this area all summer. It felt great to pull away the dried up leaves and sun parched plants. The moisture of the weekend made the mulch wet and sticky and perfect to throw around the newly cleaned bed.

I am now stiff and sore from edging, weeding and mulch but my soul is happy to have this area clean. Funny how light we can feel when we take on a task we have put off for a long time. The task is never as hard as we thought but we just keep walking away from it. Once we face it we learn quickly how good it feels to complete it. In this case a new fresh look with the new enjoyment of moisture.

Below are a few early morning moments in and around a happy wet garden:

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OLG (Old Lady Gardening) #9 Hanging On

We have reached the midway point for summer here in the upper midwest. Everything points to the middle. The middle of summer, the middle of the year, the middle of a heat way all line up this week.

a Dahlia handling the heat wave

The goal of any gardener now young or old is just to keep things alive and growing. It means watching plants wilt mid day hoping they will rebound during the late night hours. I am not clear how many rebounds a plant can do before it just gives up. I expect it depends on how deep its roots are. It means early morning or late evening watering. It is the caring of all plants each day – every day. When under stress attention is needed. It is all hands on deck.

It seems our gardens are mirroring the lives of many young people these days. The world stress has been pulling people down and they are having trouble with the rebounds. They are needing the constant looking out for and care that is needed with our gardens or the environment as a whole. The young folks as well as everyone else are under a great amount of stress – politics, pandemics/viruses, guns, angry people, and unsettled home lives. There are those who are not rebounding. They have wilted before our eyes giving up and turning to a drug of choice to numb the feelings of lost and fear.

The first few weeks of July three young men in our area gave in to that lost feeling. We lost their bright souls and smiles to that drug of choice. Two of those men were past elementary students of mine. They were men with complexed lives to start with. One traveling from Ethiopia as a young child to live with an Uncle here in the US to bring a better life for him and his family back home. The other from a family of mixed cultures and found himself living between here and France. Both young men struggling to find “home”. Struggling with more that I ever realized. My heart is heavy for the families of these young men. Another set of losses this year.

In this mid summer depression of heat and loss I rise each day and water the plants. I seek hope in the rebound of the plants. The blooming of another flower even in the heat. I take time to check in with my own children who are now young adults navigating this world in break down. Each making their way. Each doing well but have and do still feel the weight of the current environment. They each have lost friends who have lost their way. They each have spend hours with friends helping them hold on and finding support to bring them around. They each have parents, partners, friends, family and therapists who help them find their way through the heat of these hard times.

Just like my garden and the need to be there is so important. If we are not there for the youth of the world they will wilt away. They like our gardens need a supporting hand to help then move forward in life. I feel more than ever the need for us to listen and be there for the young. It is hard for as I age I also feel the weight and fears of a changing world but a long life has shown me how to hold on and how to find support when needed. The young still need to learn how to travel these rough roads.

It is hard to see the garden fail and sometimes all it needs is a small amount care and it can pull through. It may also be true of the people around us. So as an old gardener says – check in often, water when needed and help move the weeds away so the plants can find the light.

Here is to weeding, watering and care for all!

P.S. If you are looking for a way to see and understand HOPE – you might take time to read Jane Goodall and Douglas C Abram’s: The Book of Hope: A survival Guide for Trying Times. It came out in 2021.

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OLG (Old Lady Gardening) #8 Chunking the work

It is July 5th and the heat wave has returned at least for today. The day started with a humid fog and burned off by 8:30 leaving heavy air but some moisture left in the ground. As a gardener I start and end my day with the weather just like my long gone uncles use to do on the farm. The weather is really what sets the tasks for the day. It helps gage how long I can be out in the garden and what tasks the plants can handle as well. On a cool breezy day I can work till I am to sore to stand up but a day like today I last about an hour before I realized I needed to be inside and hydrate, big time.

Hot Dahlia

July is the month where the garden is planted and we have moved on to weeding and a little bit of harvesting. This year I am behind so not much happening on the harvest line. Although I did pick lettuce, the end of radishes and a few peas. I also managed to pick enough basil for 5 small containers of pesto. (4 in the freezer for winter joy and one to eat now)

I am continuing to rehab the back gardens. The forgotten garden so to speak. I have been working my way through the areas most seen when standing on the deck. It helps to be able to look out and see some areas that look clean and neat.

  • So the peony bed is mulched and they are deadheaded.
  • The new raised beds are settled into place, partially planted and mulch laid along the path between the beds.
  • The over grown Iris bed has been cleaned up and a new one has been established. Let’s hope they take root and we have flowers next year.
  • The front bed around the new sunroom is planted and starting to actually grow.
Raised beds and new iris bed

My goal with each of these beds is to spend very little money (mulch is the big spender this year). I am working on using plants that are already in the yard that need to be thinned or split. If you have been gardening for awhile you can almost always find a plant that is over growing its place or a plant that is not happy where it is and could use a new home. If you look closely there are plants that are fading away because of a big thug of a plant has taken over. Then you get to decide are you moving the thug to save the little guy or moving the little guy to a safer home.

Here is where todays work began – moving plants into new homes. I decided to take on the stone patio/old fire pit this morning. Having looked at my garden notes over the weekend I realized I had done a lot of work but not really tackling the chunks of garden I had set out for myself. Today was the day to begin a chunk. The stone patio is a big focal point of the back gardens and it is a crazy mess. It has its own story.

We put this stone down about 15 years ago. It is part of the framing of the perennial beds along the north and east fence line. There was a pit in the center for fires. It was motived by our then high school son who wanted to hang in the back with friends (which he did very little off once it was built – that is how it goes). The fire pit never really worked very well. It was too shallow and when burning sent smoke right into the neighbors back windows. It sat unused and just collecting weeds for a long time.

At some point in the last 6 years I decided to make it into a rock garden. There were/are small rocks between all the flat stones so it seemed a perfect thing to do. Problem was I did not do my research very well and just began sticking in plants. I lifted stones, added some extra soil and put in plants. Some made it some did not. The weeds loved it – new fresh soil to grow in. Some plants were really too tall for this kind of garden. Some burned out because of the heat generated on the stones as the sun hit it all day.

Let’s be honest I had no idea what I was doing. I loved when anything grew but over time my taste has become more sophisticated. I now look at this space and think what a mess. There are 3 inch tall sedum in one area and then next to it spiky Sea Holly that is 20 inches tall and seeding everywhere. There are a few herbs that have gone wild and thuggish killing off other flowering plants. The weeds have filled in many of the spaces between the flat stones and the ants have found the sand under pinning of the whole space and moved in by the hundreds.

My plan was to just weed through all the stones this morning. Then dig out all the plants to put in new locations returning this fire pit to a fire ring. Sitting in the back of the garage is a new Solo Bonfire stove. A Christmas give from the kids. A perfect way to move this back to its original purpose. The fire stove is known to be smokeless and burn much easier. The plant idea never really worked so now is the time.

I began weeding and realized there were many small plants I should dig up and put somewhere. It was also hot, humid and sticky and these tiny plants were going to fade fast. So I dug a 6 inch border around the front edge of the patio, cleaned out all the weeds from that soil and began moving plants out into this new garden bed. I like the look of it and was grateful to use the plants.

The heat and sun were wilting the plants quickly and I was also fading just as fast. I, who could work in the sun for hours and never break a sweat was going under after about 45 minutes. There was sweat dripping down my red face. My breathing was heavy and I knew I had hit a limit on this mornings work.

So in this short time a small edge type garden was started with a few plants and a very small amount of weeding got done. I hope to return later when and if the weather cools a bit. The plants got a good drink and I headed in for one as well.

Sorry for the poor image but the shade came in. You at least get the idea that is area needs work. If you look very closely ther is a small garden edge at the front edge of the stones.

Small steps, little chunks of work. A while back I would have been disappointed in the small amount of work. Now as an old lday gardener I realize I am happy to have started it. I am happy that I finally have a plan for what to do with this area. Now through out this week I can finish weeding, move the plants and get new stones to fill in the fire pit area. I am thinking 4 new cheap chairs would be fun to put out there with the new Bonfire Stove.

We will be ready for cool weather and fall fires! Oh and the garden will look a lot better. Then on to tackle another chunk. Just don’t look at the grass that is now mainly weeds. That is work for another time.

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OLG (Old Lady Gardner)#7 Aging Body Over Heart and Soul

It is cloudy, a bit cool (68 degrees) and damp this morning. We had a touch of rain about 5:50 this morning. Enough to see the sidewalk a bit damp but not enough to penetrate the leaf cover from the trees. Also, not enough to feed the thirsty soil that I have been watering almost daily. I have a long list of garden jobs to do but I am inside just sitting.

I am guessing this is were the old lady part comes in.

Sunday I worked four long hours, in the sun but cool weather, to do a detailed weeding around the new raised garden beds. The area was deep in weeds, especially Creeping Charlie, with its long and tangled roots. It was four hours of pulling and digging since I learned quickly that good old Charlie has a vining stem that can set down roots anywhere it touches the ground. Then that root system also runs along underground sending up new shoots. If you leave any of it behind it will regrow (this is why it is all over my lawn and gardens – coming in from both sides of my yard – thanks neighbors).

Weeds

Monday I spent a good part of the day assembling a new garden cart to replace the rusted and rotting wheel barrel I have used for years. (It should have lasted longer but I don’t have a large garage or barn to store it in so it faces our Minnesota winters which can be wearing to say the least.) The directions for the cart were clear. The parts were well organized. I did not have quite the right tools and not the right use of my hands. So many hours later it was complete and ready to use.

It is now Tuesday – garden cart ready to go but I am not. Two days of heavy hand use created small arthritis flares. I pulled out the compression gloves and walked around last night looking like a rock star in fancy gloves. Today is a perfect garden day but my body and mind are not able to get there. My heart and soul want to finish the projects started. Which do a follow? Do I push through and work or listen to my body and slow down? If I slow down how will I get this garden back in shape? This is my week without litte man in tow. No three year old following me or causing distrubtions this week.

I have come to realize that the stiff and achy fingers of arthistis are followed with a tired body and a fogging brain. I now understand the craving for chocolate and caffeine. I am finding it hard to push through to another day of physical labor. So I am sitting here typing this blog. I figure typing is not as hard on my fingers as pulling weed and screwing in tiny nuts and bolts. Now with compression gloves on and a small soy chia (caffeine) on its way. I will work my way through this blog, update the garden journal, and do some on-line research for a new succulent garden that can handle Minnesota winters.

If I don’t want to face my aging body I can alway use the excuse that there are contractors here working in hopes of completing the basement remodel by the end of June. (we have a couple days) This project started in February and we are so close to finishing. I could say it is best to just be here in the house and not out in the weeds and dirt when they have questions I must answer. There are always questions.

We currently have

  • one carpenter finishing putting tile on the landing to the steps and other jobs
  • two sheet rock guys repairing an issue with the new windows we could not get open
  • one glass guy putting in the shower door
  • one project manager from the remodeling company we hired

Lots of questions!

I have choosen to listen to my body and slow down. This is a lesson I have been working on for sometime. I am sure I have written about it here before. Learning to set up tasks in smaller chuncks. I need to remember and understand that when you/I over do at this age you will feel it not just in the joints but your whole body then needs to rest and recover for a day. The turn around time is longer. (I also understand that arthitis or other issues can and do effect those who are younger and they need to think about being kind to their bodies as well. It is not just age but age is what is pushing these issues for me right now.)

Don’t get me wrong. There are lots of things to love about getting older. The open time and schedule without a full time job is a wonder. The wisdom that comes with having had many experiences. The understanding that I can say no or push back with things are not right with a project. I just want this age with a younger body.

Ok, today is about taking it easy, about doing yoga to stretch out tight muscles and thinking out the projects that I hope will happen tomorrow in small and easy chunks. Maybe even later today I can plant the new winter hardy hibicus plants that came in the mail last week. They are small and need to find a new home in the garden.

Nothing to do with the garden but…

Just for fun – here are some pics of the remodeling going on. If you have been following me this spring you know we started a basement redo in February.

Demo started in Febuary
Demo continues
Same room as above
New bathroom tucked under the steps and getting a shower door today
Laundry room

Oh, we also remodeled a funky screen porch. It is now a sunroom and will be where I can begin new plants in the late winter and early spring instead of my bedroom turned office turned plant room this year.

Sunroom – behind the chair are my shelves and grow lights for starting seedling. This summer it is hold my cactus plants and a few plants that like some dappled light.
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OLG (Old Lady Gardener) #6 Deep Summer comes early

Weather is always on the mind of gardeners. It can control how a gardening year goes. There are few things we can do to help things along but really we are not in control of what happens out there in the wilds of our gardens. This year seems to be a good example of that. So Natalie Goldberg’s statement posted at Two Writing Teachers today fits well. This is want I have been telling myself – there is no failure – just a big field to wander in.

I worked on and off all winter planning, designing and ordering plants. Spring came with cold weather lasting too long and now we are deep in summer heat and dryness. Looking around you might think we were moving into August not July.

Yesterday, we had high winds with temperatures at 100. The feels like listing was 106. There was little we could do outside safely. The plants one day later show the effects of a day of 100 degree winds. Many have leaves dried out and are dead. Some are curled up hoping to protect themselves and this is even with the rain we go in the middle of the night.

This clematis is in a more shaded front garden

So today I am working in short time frames given that our heat and humidity is still high but workable (85 degrees with winds still blowing but a bit more gentle that yesterday). I began running a sprinkler in back, which I never do, but now it is a matter of not losing the plants to dehydration. Rhubarb leaves are all curled up, the Hostas are wilting and the ground is cracking even with the rain. My Clematis has buds are drooping on the vine and look like they might just give up. There are very small raspberries but they look hard and a bit crispy. I am not sure they will develop into berries we will want to eat.

Given heat and age I started working early in the shade to weed and do light clean up. Next step was a water break for me and then the plants. Repotting a tiny tomato and some basil came next. More water with a few minutes in air conditioning. Little Man came and I pulled weeds around the sprinkler while he ran in and out moving his small plastic slide into the water stream to make a water slide. Red faced and dripping we sloshed into the house to clean up and have lunch.

While watching the sprinkler and Little Man I had this sad feeling and disappointment with myself. This garden is so far from what I imaged last winter. I have been moving forward but not in the way I had thought. A few beds have been redone or cleaned up but not according to my garden map. It has been more of my wander around and seeing what can I do in this small amount of time. Or what can I handle in the cold or now what I can handle in this heat. Plants have moved to new homes but not where I thought they were going to go. It is all mixed up and so far behind.

After hauling two large bags of mulch back up front by hand (my wheel barrel died yesterday) I covered one of the new beds and gave up for now. Cold water in hand I sat down to check Two Writing Teachers to discover Natalie’s quote.

Ok, new frame of mind. There are no mistakes. All that planning and drawing, the winter thinking was not a mistake. It was helping me see the possibilities of the yard. Now I am dealing with the reality of land, plants, weather and what I am capable of doing.

I need to keep this way of thinking in mind and also note that today is the first day of summer. We have reached the summer solstice. We stand today at the longest day of the year and so I have decided it is a summers beginning not a mid summers nightmare.

Coral Bells and Hosta

It will be interesting to see what really gets done by late fall frost. If we are lucky there will be raspberries, tomatoes and enough basil to freeze pesto for late winter night happy hours. Nothing like a fire, a glass of wine, cheese, crackers and summer garden pesto to start thinking about a new garden in winter.

Tomorrow I look at the garden with what has gotten done! Not what needs to get done. Tomorrow I think of possibilities and creativity when moving through the gardens. I will keep this thought in mind. There are no mistakes!

It might be wise for me to post this quote in my office as well. It might help me get back to my painting and drawing.

What does this quote spark for you today?

Peony
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OLG (Old Lady Gardener) #5 The Green of Summer

Greens with Purple Palace leaves hiding

Summer has hit in Minnesota. Today it is suppose to get to 96 degrees. Remember just a few weeks ago it was in the low 40’s and dipping into the high 30″s at night. It is 12 noon and we are at 90 degrees and climbing. I expect we will make that hot and humid temperature before the day ends. This means I was out early watering all the plants in the front gardens. Flower beds and veggies beds all got a long drink to help them make it through the day. The new garden beds in the back gardens are not planted yet and although that was on the plan for this afternoon I will wait till the temps come down a bit and the wind settles.

I am feeling grateful that the young guys who mow and weed wack the yard. They are out there working in the heat today – not me! This is one task that I turned over to someone younger this year. I have been mowing and hand clipping every year. (I don’t like the weed trimmer after having wrapped that plastic string around my ankle one summer. Don’t try it – it is not fun!)

These guys whip through the yard in 20 minutes – front and back. If I would be doing it the first 30 minutes would be the front yard. Then the back yard for 40 minutes and then I would need to start the trimming. You get the idea – it takes me a lot longer to complete these tasks. I am happy to write a check and hand it over each week.

But our topic today is green. The greening of summer is upon us. In Minnesota it is a wonderful event although for awhile I miss the color of flowers. June to mid July we find ourselves with a smaller amount of color. The spring is a wild burst of color. The flowering bushes – Forsythia, Spice Current, Lilacs, and more. The large trees are flowering way up in the sky with tiny flowers of reds and yellows that come raining down on us as the light green leaves begin to emerge. At the soil level there are all the spring ephemerals – Tulips, Daffodils, Bleeding hearts, Wild Ginger, May Apples to start with. These lists are things growing in my garden but if I go walking there is so much more to see. There is color everywhere and it is needed after the long months of cold, grey and white we deal with each winter.

Now it is mid June and the color fades, at least for awhile. I headed out to confirm my thinking on this field of green, I see out my air-conditioned window. The Hosta are at full size and are shades of green. The day lilies are all green leaves with no flowers for awhile. The trees are fully leafed out and there is swaying green limbs out there in the hot breeze. The spring flowers have faded away leaving the summer green perennials to grow and flower in a month or so.

Rose
Weiegela

So phone camera in hand I stepped out into the heat and my first find is the Weigela bush (Sonic Bloom) in full bloom – red with a touch of yellow. Wild branches everwhere. Proving my wrong about the green of early summer. In the south east bed there was the red Roses just coming into bloom and the deep reddish purple leaves of Heuchera Palace Purple (Coral Bells). Heading back to the south side of the house there was the sea of green Hostas and new Heuchera’s that are not in bloom yet.

Peony – White
Peony – Mahogany

The back yard and gardens are full of green lilic bushes and green grass and green weeds but there are the pops of color from the Peonies in full bloom. The bright white with a dash of red and deep pink shining both in the far back of the yard. On the north side there is a new peony bush that is deep red called Mahogany that has a touch of yellow. The large old fashion white peonies have not opened on this side of the gardens yet.

I left the back yard walking by another row of variegated Hostas (shades of green and yellow). In the front along the driveway were two smaller plants with purple blooms – both of which I have lost their names and will need to go look them up.

Then as I looked around I saw what is the promised of more summer color – the yellowish buds of Penstemon (Husker Red) that are getting ready to bloom. These blooms will be bright white. Over in the veggie garden there is a bed of Dahlias also developing buds that will bring the hot summer colors.

Dalhia bud
Penstemon – Husker Red

So although we have lots of green that signals summer there are flowers and color all along the way. Don’t get me wrong I love the green of summer but those splashes of color mean so much for those of us who know that the winter browns and whites will not be far off.

I guess that means I better enjoy this 98 degree day as well!

Happy Summer!

Do take time to find both the multiple greens and the high colors of summer flowers these days. A quick walk each day might surprise you in the colors you will find!

Summer Greens

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