Digging a hole to bury an animal last week gave me new respect for the plant world. Each shovelful brought up dusty, light brown soil, even to a depth of more than two feet. That’s expected, since it hasn’t rained more than 1/4 of an inch here for the past five weeks.
With their leaves flagging in midday, trees and shrubs don’t exactly look spry. Still, they are alive, even some spring-planted trees and shrubs which have had little time to spread their roots deep and wide.
Thirsty, young Asian persimmon
Appearance of a soil can be deceiving. There’s some water lurking within those pores, water held tightly by capillary attraction. After heavy rains or irrigation, all soil pores get filled with water, a situation as bad for plants, if it lasts too long, as dry soil. Plant roots need air as well as moisture; air …
The weather is bouncing me around, have me revel in the warmth and the worry in the cold — for my plants, fruit trees and bushes in or nearing bloom, leas sprouting. Note to myself: Do not plant peas on St. Patrick’s day next year.
Time to jump into the future, again. It’s autumn of this year and tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and other summer delicacies are on the wane. Does the vegetable garden appear melancholy and forlorn? No! It’s lush with savory greens that thrive in that cool, moist weather to come, vegetables such as kale, broccoli, cabbage, radishes, turnips, lettuce, and endive. (Right now I hunker more for tomatoes and peppers than cabbages and turnips but nippy temperatures and shorter days will, I know from experience, bring on the appeal of autumn vegetables.)
Planning and planting need to take place right now in order to realize my autumnal vision. First on the agenda will be sowing seeds of cabbage and broccoli, in early June, not right out in the garden but in seed flats from which, after about a week they’ll be pricked out into individual cells in plastic trays. A little more
I see a lot of gardens under wraps this morning, plants covered with upturned buckets or flowerpots, or blanketed under . . . well . . . blankets. Day after day of balmy temperatures have made it hard to hold back finally getting vegetable and flower transplants out of their pots and into the ground.
But temperatures just below freezing were predicted for last night (May 13th) and everyone got a wakeup call: Freezing temperatures, which could kill tomato, marigold, and other tender plants, are still possible. It’s all about averages; around here, there’s about a 10 percent chance of a frost the middle of May.
For a day every week or so, my yard smells like salad dressing. No, I’m not getting the lettuce dressed while it’s still out in the garden. Yes, that smell is vinegar. For the past few years, regular strength vinegar, straight up, has provided nontoxic (except to sprayed weeds), sustainable, “green” weed control on the edges of beds, in paths, and on my brick terrace.
I specify “regular strength” vinegar because our USDA has also been looking into vinegar as weedkiller. On the theory that if a little of something is good, a lot must be better, USDA research focuses on using more concentrated solutions of vinegar – even 20%. Those more concentrated solutions are more effective but you have to be very careful using that stuff. It burns. I’ll stick with salad dressing strength 6% solution.