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Possumhaw: A time to plant


Shannon Bardwell



"A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted." 


-- Ecclesiastes 3:2 




This fall will be different. Though the blue Prairie petunias are beautiful, as is the orangey yellow of the cosmos, the rest of the wildflowers remain a sorry disappointment.  


The two raised beds have remnants of a few daisies, a couple of purple coneflowers and some iris bulbs that grew tall but never bloomed along with a lot of nut grass and weeds.  


Mike Perkerson at Military Hardware graciously gave me a gift of zinnia seeds. They were the same seeds that Nick Hairston and Willis Pope use to produce massive zinnia gardens; zinnias that last well into fall. My seeds didn't germinate at all. It was not the seed but my pitiful lack of soil preparation. 


In years past, Sam used the big bulky tiller to break up the hard-as-a-rock Prairie ground. The tiller jerks Sam so much I hate to ask him to use it. Also, the seasons for tilling coincide with the best fishing seasons and this makes it hard on a man.  


While online surfing garden tools, I came upon a small electric cultivator. I clicked on reviews and read the following: 


"My wife is nearing 70 and one day she came into the house to say that she didn't think we'd be having a garden anymore. She was getting too old to hoe it. So I went out and got her this electric cultivator. It's just the right size and she can work it by herself with no trouble. Looks like we'll keep on having that garden." 


I located the cultivator locally and lifted the whole box. I realized I could handle it myself. It's electric so there's no gasoline to fool with and we already have plenty of extension cords. I presented my purchase to Sam, "I can do this myself. I can." And I did. 


My nephew, Mark, in California, sent me a Wildseed Farms catalog and I've studied it all summer while sitting in air-conditioning. This is what the catalog said: 


"In the southern and western portions of the United States, USDA Zones 7 through 11, the autumn months of September through December are most favorable to plant your wildflowers. Zone 7 dates are September 15 to November 15."  


I had never heard of fall planting for wildflowers. The catalog advertises "Southeastern Wildflower Mix" containing 23 different wildflowers including: Indian blanket, purple coneflower, scarlet flax, lemon mint, cosmos, five spot, Drummond phlox, tickseed, rocket larkspur, dame's rocket, African daisy, coneflower, plains coreopsis, moss verbena, black-eyed Susan, clasping coneflower, dwarf red coreopsis, corn poppy, sweet alyssum, evening primrose, showy primrose, Mexican hat and spurred snapdragon.  


As suspected, the catalog said, "In order to achieve a successful stand of wildflowers, it is very important that the soil is prepared correctly ... " 


Sam purchased and delivered Mr. Perkerson's remaining stock of topsoil, along with some peat moss, and cultivating has begun. By spring we'll be ready for zinnias


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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