Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Gardening can be a challenge

Azaleas
Springtime Azaleas 
One of my favorite summertime tasks is watering the gardens. That is a good thing, because it never seems to rain at our house. I cringe when I hear news of flash flood warnings, 30 miles to the north or south of us. Here, nary a drop. This lack of rainfall is becoming habitual. We sure could use the rain.

While watering is my favorite chore, calling what I have 'gardens' may be a misnomer because since moving to the Ozarks, I have been completely garden-challenged. I used to pride myself on having a green thumb, but that was in Illinois, the land of perfect tilth in a rich, deep layer of topsoil. I really do miss Illinois dirt.

I have gardening successes now and then, such as my herb garden that is sporting a rosemary plant so healthy it may take over the entire back yard or the vinca that stands up to anything and grows and spreads wherever it can. I let it have its way, because it is alive, pretty, green, and has flowers. Besides, there are snakes living in it and I see no reason to disrupt their happy home. I can also grow hot peppers extremely well, which is one of my favorite things to grow and to eat. However, high achievement generally is not the norm. When I set out my first plants with all the hope and expectation of a new, novice Ozarks homeowner, I never counted on the animals that live in the woods eating everything I put into the ground or the extremely hot conditions that turn healthy plants into crispy critters, or the nitrogen-starvation in the soil that prevents anything other than trees to grow in my woodland landscape.

Still, I try. I will conquer this gardening thing!

I thought I solved my tomato gardening escapades when my husband built a lovely raised bed garden for me. Last year, I actually ate tomatoes, albeit not as many as I had hoped. Tomatoes will generally grow anywhere, except at my house.

The current condition of the many different heirloom varieties I've planted are now just sticks. Something is eating them, although I have no idea what. I can't find a single tomato hornworm, and I have checked at various times of the day. Thankfully I have tomatoes planted all over the place in pots on the deck, the patio, on the stairs--places the deer haven't gone yet. I refuse to be tomato-free this year. Whatever is eating the leaves is very curious. There are little drills in the dirt that look like ant hills, but with a large shallow hole the size of a marble in the center. I have no idea who is making those. I don't even know if they are coming from the surface and escaping under ground or if they are living under ground and coming up.

Flowers don't do much better at my house. My husband and I just spent some quality time moving landscaping bricks from the backyard herb garden. He recently enlarged it, to accommodate the rosemary. He used landscape timbers. Our aim was to build a small retaining wall, since our front yard is heavily sloped. We have tried various plants, but so far, the only thing that grows are lilies, daffodils, and irises. But there is another problem. The deer help themselves to every flower they see. They have even walked on the front sidewalk and onto the porch to grab something.

flower gardin in the making
A flower garden in the making
comfortable doe
Deer just make themselves at home here. I'm flattered, but stop eating my flowers!
I just planted some cone flowers--native plants--thinking they will do well. I've tried amending the soil with bone meal to add phosphorous and blood meal to add nitrogen. The plants were actually showing signs of life. I watered carefully every day during the hot weather. I woke up one morning and the flower heads which were just about to show color, were gone along with most of the leaves. It is my rogue deer friend, Sarah. Not only does she drink from the bird bath, as state in a previous post but she helps herself to flowers too. She and her friends have eaten every living thing that I've put in the ground. We have sprayed all kinds of natural products that promise to repel deer and snakes and chiggers and ticks, apparently to no avail.

This is disheartening, but it is also a learning experience. I will not give in. I will grow beautiful flowers and vegetables if it kills me.
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