Commentary

Kew Gardens

Royal Botanic Kew Garden
 
I was in London in late May, tagging along with my husband who was there on business. While he was in meetings I took the Underground to Kew Gardens one lovely morning…and OH MY GOODNESS! Three hundred acres of heaven (to me).
 
Originally Kew Gardens was formed by Lord Capel John of Tewkesbury in the mid-1700s. In 1840 the gardens were adopted as a national botanical garden. Today it is the world’s largest collection of living plants. I walked around for 5 hours in awe the entire time. It seemed as though every tree and plant was labeled just for me. I loved the greenhouses (including rooms of carnivorous plants) as well as the open areas with tidy paths leading throughout the gardens.
 
I enjoyed the student interns’ gardens: the clever way they supported vines, the layout of the plantings, etc. I asked one intern where they kept the gardens’ compost. Apparently it’s enormous and kept behind-the-scenes; also its manure is collected from the Queen’s stables. Royal poop for the Royal garden? Only the best! That tickled me.
 
With a goofy smile on my face and very tired feet, I rode the tube back to the hotel loaded with stories for my somewhat mystified husband. It was one of the highlights of my trip; a “must-see” place to visit if you’re ever in London. 

Paula Barber
GDOGC Member

The Want to Do list

Garden Chores: The WANT TO DO List by Evelyn Hadden

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Many natural occurrences are ephemeral, and our busy lives make it hard
to keep a promise to “enjoy that later.”

What strikes me as the most common thread among all the diverse gardeners I have met or read is that so many don’t unwind much in their own gardens. Of course, we all have that (perhaps infinite) list of things we want to do to improve our gardens. What a shame, though, if that list gets in the way of enjoying the garden as it is here and now, of really sensing what is going on there, not just doing stuff.

My TO DO lists — in the garden and out — have been known to run on for several pages. They nag me at times, making it harder to enjoy the present moment. Yet if I don’t write down what I want to do, I worry that I will forget, or worse, my own brain reminds me incessantly to keep me from forgetting.

Recently I was brooding over a lengthy TO DO list and had a brainstorm. It’s not the number of items on the list, or even the individual items, that cause the burden. It’s the unspoken “should” in that title. There is a duty, even an urgency to it, a sense that if I haven’t already done all of this, I have failed to meet my obligations.

So to get rid of that nagging feeling, I’ve relabeled the list. Instead of writing TO DO at the top, I now write WANT TO DO. The items on the list are, after all, choices. I have come up with most of them myself, based on my priorities and desires. They are not life-and-death matters like “run from giant dinosaur”; they are mundane and optional chores like “plant lilies beside the shed” and “prune the trumpetvine” and “edge the paths.”

Even the chores on my non-garden list, like “pay bills” and “laundry” (which I have to do), feel different when they are written under the title WANT TO DO. Why yes, I want to pay my bills. I want to clean my clothes. Accomplishing these small tasks will bring me satisfaction.

Considering my list now feels much different than the old TO DO list, which prompted sullen thoughts like “how can I ever finish all this?” and “why did I agree to that?” and “I need a nap.”

So I share this trick with you, my gardening friends, in hopes that you will feel freer to take more breaks and appreciate all that you have already done. Happy summer!

Garden Chores: The WANT TO DO List originally appeared on Garden Rant on June 4, 2014.

Book Review

Book Review

Coffee For Roses – A Book for Every Gardener

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by Ann McCormick on June 16, 2014

I love this book. Okay, in the spirit of full disclosure it is written by a dear gardening friend and I’m quoted in the book but I still LOVE this book. And you will too. I promise.

The author C. L. Fornari is a garden radio host and self-confessed out of control plant lady. In her book Coffee for Roses, she debunks 70 myths about gardens, gardening, and the plants we grow in them. It’s really hard to tell which ones are my favorite so I thought I’d just give you a taste of which garden myths C. L. tackles.

“You can leave the burlap around the roots of a shrub or tree.” Once upon a time, burlap was an all-natural material that decomposed quickly so leaving it wrapped around tree roots was not a problem. That is no longer true. Today’s burlap and the other materials used to wrap rooted trees and shrubs will interfere with the growth of healthy roots and may strangle and kill the plant. Remove any outer covering around the roots of any plant you purchase. Just because the wrapping or pot is labeled bio-degradable doesn’t mean it will quickly (in a matter of weeks or months) decompose and allow roots to grow through.

“Always put a layer of rocks or clay shards in the bottom of a pot for drainage.” Wrong, wrong, wrong! Yes you need drainage but the rocks or clay shards don’t make it happen. It only reduces the amount of life-giving soil available for the roots. The hole in the bottom of the pot will handle drainage just fine without them.

“Trees need deep root feeding.” Now think for a minute about the trees in a forest. Do you see little elves or gnomes flitting through the trees drilling holes so the roots deep below can be fed? No you don’t. That is because the bulk of the tree’s feeder roots are in the topsoil, the first foot or so of material around the tree. Deep roots are indeed necessary but their main purpose is to hold the tree in place. So if in the natural world trees don’t need deep root feeding, your trees don’t either.

“Watering plants when it’s sunny causes burn spots on the leaves.” Oh really? And do you see the same phenomenon after a natural rain storm? No you do not. This myth probably surfaced when magnifying glasses became more common and people began noticing that water droplets have a similar convex shape. The logic was that convex water droplets are natural magnifying glasses that can concentrate sunlight on leaves. But if you remember the last time you played around with a magnifying glass, you had to hold the glass a distance away from the spot where you wanted to concentrate the sun’s rays. Placing the magnifier right next to a piece of paper (or a leaf) will not cause a burn spot. Ditto on watering on a sunny day.

Finally, the one that had me open-mouthed in disbelief - “Biennials bloom every other year.” On the surface this may sound right but C.L. is referring to the notion that some plants bloom in odd-numbered years and others in even-numbered years. She was once asked, “Do you have odd-year foxgloves?” Yes, individual foxglove plants have a two-year flowering cycle but that doesn’t mean that all (or even half) of them are synchronized to bloom together. Perhaps this was inspired by the insect world where certain insects coordinate their mating years to coincide. If you’ve ever lived where cicadas thrive, you know about their 13-year or 17-year mating cycle. Biennial plants do not have a similar cycle.

These are just a few of the bits of garden lore C.L. Fornari examines in Coffee For Roses. You will also learn why adding sugar to the soil won’t make vegetables sweeter, misting houseplants in the winter is mostly a waste of time, and amending the soil in a hole when you plant perennials or shrubs might not be such a good idea. This colorful and very enjoyable book is available everywhere. Buy a copy for yourself and one for a friend. You’ll both get a laugh out of it – and learn a thing or two about good gardening in the bargain.

P.S. Where did C.L. quote me? In the chapter about lemongrass repelling mosquitos. Enjoy lemongrass in Asian cooking but don’t expect it to keep mosquitoes away. For why this doesn’t work (and what does work) you’ll just have to read the book. :>

Check out Ann’s blog: http://herbncowgirl.com/coffee-for-roses-a-book-for-every-gardener/


ORGANIC TOMATO PLANTING AND MAINTENANCE

This is a very thorough article on tomato growing.  Thought you would enjoy it on the front page temporarily.
tomato
TOMATO TALES
by Mike Schmitt
 
1. Tomatoes must have at least 6 hours of direct sunlight and preferably 8 per day.
 
2. Tomatoes will not set blooms unless nighttime temperatures drop to at least 70 degrees. (Don Lambert)
 
3. You should not put the plants in the ground until your soil temperature is consistently above 60 degrees. That would normally be sometime after the 2nd week in March but could be later. (Marie Tedei)
 
4. Tomatoes are the only plant I know of that will sprout roots along their stems if you dig a deep hole and cover up the stems. These additional roots will help feed the plant.
 
5. One method of planting them that works well is to cut most of the leaves and stems off the main trunk and just leave a 4 or 5 leaves at the top. Then plant them in a trench with the top portion sticking up out of the ground. This gives them many more roots to help feed the plant. I typically just plant them in a very deep hole and have not tried the trench method.
 
6. If you want to try to extend your crop of tomatoes later into the summer, place shade cloth over them starting in early to mid June, depending upon when the hot temperatures really get kickin. (Sic). (TOFGA conference.)
 
7. In my planting hole, I use diamnotaneceous earth, worm castings, soft rock phosphate, horticultural corn meal, and a little Epson salt. I put this at the bottom of the hole place the plant on top of it and also sprinkle a little on top of the root ball.
 
8. I then sprinkle horticultural corn meal on the surface of the soil as an anti-fungal agent and water the plant in with water, liquid seaweed, compost tea, apple cider vinegar, & molasses.

Read more: ORGANIC TOMATO PLANTING AND MAINTENANCE