Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Neglected Garden

This past summer (2016) has probably been one of the hottest we've had in this area. Although the temperatures hovered around 32-37 celsius for weeks on end during late June and July, we also had next to no rain during these times. It certainly felt drought-like here.

Because of the lack of rain, I chose not to set up any of my water features this year. It's difficult enough to keep them water-filled in a normal summer, but during a summer with almost no rainfall, and constant sunshine it would be a daily chore I wasn't willing to spend time on. Besides the chore of doing it, there would be the issue of paying for it. In our town, you pay for water used ... twice. Once when it comes out of the tap or hose, and when it goes down the drain, you pay again. Whether it actually goes down the drain or just evaporates, you're billed twice.

Because of that, most of our neighbourhood watered lawns and gardens sparingly, or not at all. Most of those who watered, only watered vegetable gardens and, like us, neglected the grass and flower beds. Worse yet was the constant dust as the grass and some plants died, and because of the unfortunate fact that there seemed to be double the usual amount of construction in our neighbourhood, you could breathe in the dust and actually feel the grit in your mouth. The plant leaves always seemed to have a covering of dust, and watering only turned that dust into a thin paste, rather than washing it away. It hasn't been a pretty summer, but it certainly has been hot.

The heat I don't complain about much - I love the heat. I love the sunny days, but they really do need
to be tempered by a little rain. Our backyard has been too hot to sit out in for most of the summer. We have a tiny postage-stamp of a yard that's enclosed on three sides by a 6' tall wood fence and on the fourth by the red brick wall of the back side of the house. Because we ended up turning the entire backyard into a wooden deck (so my husband could use it when he was in the wheelchair) there is pretty much no green-space back there. It turns the yard into a massive furnace on really hot days. The little strip of "garden" at the back edge got neglected because it was too hot to work in. It doesn't (didn't) have anything planted there anyways - a forsythia (which we'll take down next year) I brought with me from our old house; a trumpet vine (radicans) I dug up from my mother's place years before we moved here; and a pussy-willow tree we planted 2 years ago in the hopes of drumming up a little shade.

This year, the shrubs produced a nice covering of shade over the bed in the back yard, but none are big enough to cast shade into the yard, where we badly need it. We're considering replacing the forsythia with a maple or other shade tree in the spring.

The front garden was neglected up until a week ago, when I started realizing there was much more weed blooming than plants blooming. Because of the heat and drought it looks as though I've lost some plants I've had out there since we created the garden ... the perennial pinks appear to have turned up their toes, and the oriental poppy I planted two years ago seems to have died. To be fair, the front garden is exposed to sun pretty much all day, being southward facing and does need watered to do well. Over winter the snow cover was less than usual, and we had a short period where it all melted in late winter and bulbs started sprouting, but then it snowed again and we had an ice storm and so young sprouts were damaged.

<sigh> I've always loved to spend time in the garden, but this year ... not so much. Too hot to spend extended periods in that blazing, unrelenting sun and not enough water even made the weeding tough. Last week I began a revamp of the gardens, pulling out all the weeds and deciding what to move and what to trash. Nothing is blooming, save the fall asters which are just beginning, so it's a good time to start it. Enough time for moved plants to re-establish roots, cooler temperatures are arriving and the nights are cool enough for recovery. Rain is called for during the coming weeks, hopefully keeping the transplants well watered.

Hostas have been moved from the front (much too hot for them out there) to the back bed. Now that the trees have shaded the bed back there, the hostas should be protected from the constant sun. I've got a big batch leftover and I hope I can find nearby homes for them.

Now ... time to go digout the roots of the dead plants and move some living specimens into those spaces. I'm cutting off the end of the garden out front and shortening it a little. Right now, it reaches almost to the road, where the winter snows get piled. Every spring it's full of sand and salt with some plants being damaged. I'll shorten it about 3 or 4 feet, moving those plants up into the empty spaces. Hopefully, that will save some weeding time too ... the biggest problem will be the bulbs.

Next spring I can imagine tulips springing up through the grass!

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