Well, the obvious reason would be that I raise a lot of plants for a lot of garden space. While I love perennials, annuals provide the continual color that I love during summer. So, as long as I am able, I’m seeding and planting lots of annuals.
The second reason that “planting” takes so long is that it is actually a process that includes a number of steps. With existing gardens, first of all I edit. That means I remove volunteer seedlings and plants that have expanded too much.
For example, here in the Addition Garden (yes, I need to think of a better name, but it’s based on location, adjacent to the master bedroom suite that we added) that means removing a number of black-eyed susans (on the right and much too close to the front edge) and sections of the fast-spreading Sheffield Hills “mum.” The black-eyed susans weren’t even initially planted in this garden, but migrated from the Deck Garden by bird transport, I assume. There are also too many Verbana-on-a-stick, that wonderful tall, purple verbena that butterflies and I love, especially late in the season. Last year it was cleome. The most rampant self-seeder this spring appears to be this rue. Having to edit out all these seedlings is a strong argument for good deadheading throughout the season. Editing varies from year to year, depending upon winter conditions and how well I deadheaded and if I did the final garden clean-up in autumn.
The second step is weeding, although this doesn’t usually take long, because I’ve usually done a thorough weeding one or two times before, while the weather was still too cool to plant most annuals.
Step 3 is actually planting, working compost and organic fertilizers into each planting hole.
Step 4 is establishing a good edge. I use my trusty, invaluable Cobrahead weeder in an upright position to make a 3-4″ deep trench. This will establish an air barrier that will keep grass from spreading into the bed. You can see white grass roots exposed in the above photo, illustrating Step 5, which is to make a “V” shaped trench by pulling the Cobrahead along at an angle. The soil that is loosened is thrown into low spots in the bed, being sure to first remove any encroaching grass roots that may have sneaked into the bed, usually in “growing space” created over the winter as mulch washed into the trench.
During Steps 3-5, an additional step is often required. Within this digging of planting holes, edging and trenching, often these ugly white grubs are uncovered. They are usually only in the first 1-3″ of soil, because this time of year they are moving into shallow areas. Soon they will surface as large beetles, which we call June Bugs. If I am feeling no time crunch, I toss the grubs into a small plastic container and give them to the neighbors’ chickens, or put them in the feeder for the birds. Generally, I’m in too much rush so I simply smash them with my Cobrahead. Moles love them, too, but I’m not about to leave them for tunneling moles to find. If you find one, look carefully because clusters of eggs are laid together, so several grubs hatch in the same general locale.
Step 6 is to use my garden shears to trim the grass neatly along the edge and to clip it short as the lawn nears the edge. Yes, I use scissors for this initial trim. Once it is done correctly, I can use my battery-powered weedeater to maintain it, but I can’t create that clean edge I desire with a machine at first. It takes scissors. This is the look I want!
Usually the next step is to water all the newly planted material, but with rain in the forecast nearly every night, this hasn’t been necessary often.
Step 7 is to mulch, but I haven’t been able to do that because we’ve had too much rain, and I can’t get the truck even close to any bed. So, that step is delayed, and I’m just hoping it isn’t delayed so long that a new crop of weeds emerges and I have to repeat Step 2!
Step 8 is to sprinkle critter repellent along the perimeter of the bed. Last year, I skipped that occasionally, and ended up having to replant zinnias again thanks to troublesome rabbits who just bit them off and dropped them, without even eating a leaf! Plant after plant…it was very annoying. I didn’t grow a lot of excess plants this year for replanting, so I’m relying on the repellent…which has to be sprinkled often because of the continual rain.
Last step is clean-up. Removing all the weeds and grass clippings to the compost pile, stacking all the empty flats and pots and returning them to the greenhouse to be filled again, or stored in the barn until spring. Then I record the plantings in my garden journal. By this time, it is usually evening (or raining) and I’m ready for a glass of wine. Sometimes I even remember to take a photo of the completed project. Here’s that part of the Addition Garden, all ready for mulch. You can see all the plants leaning strongly toward the top of the photo, as well as my hat, which I couldn’t keep on my head because just as I finished, the wind began to blow strongly….Yep, rain incoming….again.
When all the gardens (there are 9) have been weeded, edged, planted and mulched it’s time for a party! This is essential, and usually happens in a timely manner before the crunch of pea-picking, elderflower syrup making, and deadheading start claiming my time. With the rain delays, it may be later this year…so maybe I’ll just serve elderflower “champagne” and pea hummus, and flower shortbread cookies. Oh! But you’ll have to wait. That’s another post!