by Charlene Burgi
Much has been written about the gardener, but I would venture to guess not much has been written about the negligent gardener. Perhaps there are articles out there regarding such subjects, but this gardener chooses to read the positive rather than admit to failings.
| Green countryside of Bavaria
Nonetheless, confessions are needed. Upon return from my three-week sabbatical from the garden, I was faced with several sorely neglected areas. The neglect went beyond a short absence while exploring gorgeous gardens abroad. Or did the memories of those pristine gardens serve to heighten the contrast with the picture that greeted me at home? Either way, work lay in wait.
The discomforting knowledge of neglect coupled with the usual autumn “things to do” and winter protection preparations left this gardener wondering where to start. To further complicate my tasks in the garden, during my absence orders of garlic, tulips, winter seed vegetables and spring bulbs arrived, and hard winter freezing temperatures occurred that melted half of my vegetable garden and annuals. Ah, life in the Lassen mountains!
First things first: The garlic needed to get into the ground immediately. Ideally, the Moroccan Creole variety I had purchased would have been in the ground by September. While working in that area, I decided some tulips coming up between the garlic cloves might add for some interesting color in the spring. And while I was at it, why not add the 90 anemones—whose bulbs sit a mere one inch below the soil surface—for a burst of added attention? Mission accomplished within a very short period of time.
The next-in-line task involved saving garden hoses from winter exposure. Years of cold will cause good hoses to crack—even in Marin. I disconnected the majority of the unneeded hoses, allowed them to dry out and brought the looped hoses into the protective cover of the garden shed.
Perennials and annuals also called out for attention. Summer foliage and spent roses demanded pulling or pruning. Perennials in need of dividing took a back seat as my focus went to dealing with the melted tomato plants, picking green tomatoes and covering the fruit with newspaper to continue ripening in the house. To my surprise, a tomato hornworm worked on what little foliage remained below the walls-of-water tomato protectors. That big, green, sausage-like worm continued dining as the plants hit the compost pile.
Did I fail to mention I let the automatic irrigation run while I was gone? The water plus warm days did wonders to germinate every weed seed known to mankind. Grasses grew where no grass is meant to grow and put the green rolling hills of Bavaria to shame. Even the thick layers of mulch failed me. Someone suggested I turn the horses and donkeys out to help with this task. If I could only teach them to graze selectively!
Meanwhile, it is autumn—a beautiful time to enjoy the fall colors emerging. Fall’s crisp, cool nights and warm afternoons are perfect for gardeners—even us frazzled ones.