It’s always a little embarrassing when someone asks me a garden question. I don’t like to but I can usually fake an answer. It’s kind of like taking care of newborns, right?
Burp ‘em. Change ‘em. Feed ‘em. Jiggle ‘em. Love up on ‘em.
Well, it’s the same with plants. Prune ‘em (after they’ve stopped blooming). Spray ‘em (with watered-down bleach). Water ‘em (or don’t water ‘em so much). Move ‘em into the sun (or away from the sun).
Ignore ‘em (and watch them take off).
OK, I do a little more than that. But not much. On a regular basis, I sprinkle the soil with crunched-up egg shells, old coffee grounds and water used to boil an egg, cook carrots, make pasta.
With a shovel always in easy access to the backdoor, I travel to various parts of the garden where I bury leftover banana peels, spinach stems, apple cores, corn cobs, watermelon seeds, peach pits, onion skins, zucchini ends and the occasional batch of shrimp heads (these go very deep).
But that’s about it. I’m a survival-of-the-fittest type person, not an emergency room attendant. It’s cold, I know, but I don’t get attached. I can only do so much. If something can’t survive after applying the above procedures, I say “so long; it was nice knowing you; I’m sure there’s something else down the road just as nice.”
There are high maintenance people and high maintenance plants. I’m not particularly attracted to either.
Then again, if someone would visit my garden they would know all this.
They would know I don’t know anything about plant disease. I don’t plant in rows (too boring). I don’t use insecticides (too smelly and who knows what else the nasty toxic potion is killing). I don’t use anything that comes in a plastic bag (too expensive; too much shlepping). I hardly ever plant annuals (too much trouble for something that’s only going to come up one season).
I don’t prune the lower yellow leaves off banana trees (I’m partial to the color, especially stripped with lime green), yank the sad and droopy sunflower faces (I’m hoping the dried and spent seeds will fall into the garden, ruminate, rest up over the winter and reappear in the spring). I don’t thin the vagrant pokeweed trees that for some reason have chosen 38th Street to reside.
I no longer weed the clover. It’s sweet; it’s small; it’s earned a place in the garden. By accepting its presence It means one less thing to remove.
I’m also starting to leave the wild geranium (or crane’s bill). It’s polite. It plays well with others. It has that triple bit of red at the center of the leaf. How can you plan that random spot of color? You can’t.
Same with the purple pokeweed berries, my favorite out-of-network visitor. You have to just give it room and let it flourish.
Same with sugar cane. This time of year, snapping off a branch is easy. Deciding where to put it is not so easy. Remember, I tell myself:
It’ll grow 12 feet tall.
But when it comes to shrubs, bushes or grass I don’t know much - except that I might be starting to grow partial to grass. I’ve fought grass all my life. Too suburban. Too neat.
Now I’m thinking it’s peaceful. What does this mean?
Though I don’t know the names of shrubs, I know what they mean. They’re buffers from neighbors. A fence by any other name. A must-have.
Same with crepe myrtle trees. They’re must-haves. They were the first thing I saw driving into Savannah after being away for the month of June. It was stunning. They’re a plus to this city. I think the Chamber of Commerce ought to play them up.
(Do we even have a Chamber of Commerce? I hardly ever hear about them and I bet they spend a chuck of money, but is it on crepe myrtles?).
While it may be the year of the crepe myrtle it’s a slump for the banana trees. They set fruit early and then rotted on the vine. The moon flowers and the castor beans are in the same slump. Both sprouted fast and furious but never got off first base.
For my money, it’s still seeds that create the biggest bang for the buck. Three days ago, itching to make some changes in the garden and trying to get a leg up on fall vegetables, I yanked some spiderwort (not to worry about that coming back; trying to rid your garden of that plant, even if you want to, is not unlike going for total eradication of horsetail. It can’t be done) and broadcast some arugula (or rocket) seeds.
Bingo. I may not know my insecticide, my shrubs, my fertilizer but sometimes I hit it right. This morning, three days after I planted them, I saw the faintest of germinated seeds.
And that’s the truth. There’s no faking it with seeds.