July 28, 2018 9:59:36 PM
These dog days have me in a funk, all but beating the joy out of my little garden.
Mowing, watering, pest control and other endless chores can be real downers; however, unlike Sisyphus, the mythological ancient Greek doomed to ceaselessly roll a rock up a mountain, I'm always looking for ways to lessen their toll.
I don't have a lawn, so that's not a personal challenge. But I do go out every morning to carefully inspect veggies for pests and try to keep ahead of perennial morning glory vines that sprout everywhere from bits of roots that get left in the ground.
Biggest chore this time of year is watering. Because my shrubs and most flowers are tough enough to outlast whatever Nature doesn't send their way, I don't spend much time dragging a hose. But to prevent some of my potted plants from being victims of my neglect, I trudge around with a couple of water buckets filled and refilled from my 300-gallon roof-connected rain cistern.
When a spigot does get opened I enjoy running the slightly coolish water over my flip-flopped feet for a little faux chilling. Warning: drinking from a hot hose, like eating too much red meat or constantly spraying carelessly with Roundup, has been remotely linked to slightly elevated health problems. Just saying.
Watering tips from a Seasoned Gardener: Water stuff twice, a few minutes apart, to soak it deep, and you won't have to water as often. And mulches help even potted plants.
As for watering the lawn, don't be counterintuitive - your lawn can make it without weekly irrigation. Really. If you want to water more than once a week, do it two or three times, an hour or so apart to soak down deep. Then leave it alone for a week or two.
My other big summer chore is pest patrolling. Aphids and whiteflies I can largely ignore, letting lady beetles, lizards, hummingbirds, wasps and spiders manage the worst of them. But the caterpillars are starting to win, and close behind are stinkbugs, grasshoppers, squirrels and other beasts that are pretty hard, if not impossible, to control.
Trouble is, over-zealous spraying can kill beneficial critters, too. If you just have to use one, read the label to make sure it's safe to use and to check if you have to wait between application and harvest. A favorite "demotivator" saying is, "Before gambling on beating the odds, make sure you can survive the odds beating you."
Also, on top of even organic pesticides being not entirely safe, this kind of warfare can easily cost more than would produce from the farmers market!
Anyway, the mid-summer garden is at a transition point. Spring-planted veggies and some flowers are peaking, in need of protection from pests while waiting for harvest. It will soon start to decline in the heat, humidity and drought. I guess I could keep most of it going with some TLC in the form of water, deadheading and pest control.
But because we Southerners have such a long warm season -- long enough to have two complete back-to-back gardens -- it's already time to start planning, if not outright planting, the late summer garden for a fall harvest. We can plant tomatoes even into early August and get a decent harvest before fall's first frost.
So I'm gonna go for it. Pull up some too-far-gone stuff, stick something new in their lightly reworked holes. Fertilize, mulch, water. Keep an eye out for bugs and weeds.
With a resigned sigh, I'm headed back up my steamy metaphoric mountain to look for a rock to roll.
Felder Rushing is a Mississippi author, columnist, and host of the "Gestalt Gardener" on MPB Think Radio. Email gardening questions to [email protected]