This unexpected spell of warm weather totally turned my job list topsy-turvy. My goal had been to get all 1600 plus bulbs planted before the storms that are forecast arrive. However, when the thermometer reached 65 degrees F, it was just too good an opportunity to pass up!! Stain only works well in warm weather, and this might be the only chance to get this job done. “Make hay while the sun shines” is a fitting slogan that could read “Stain potager boards while you can!”
First a bit of background. The potager is now 7 years old (Amazing how fast the years have flown!!!) and some of the beds, especially those in the south end where water tends to stand the longest have deteriorated to the point of needing replacement. Normally, I’d plant the bulbs and worry about building beds next spring but a number of things are spurring me into action. First, there’s Covid, of course. Who knows what new variant may come round (the new one spread from dogs that’s in Haiti and Malaysia?) and what stores may or may not be open? Or, how the price of lumber will be by spring..it’s high now, but will probably go higher. Most pressing is that I have a group coming to tour the potager the first week of May, so next spring will be especially busy. Anything time consuming that I can get crossed off the list this fall will be a blessing come spring. And, I’m getting older and slower….
“Build 3 replacement beds” certainly looks simple on the job list. But first it requires a trip to town. So, one morning when it was too cold to plant bulbs comfortably, I headed to town and purchased 12′ long 2″x 8″ boards, stain, a new brush for the roller, wood glue and screws. That sounds simple too, but shopping for the supplies means a three mile hike up and down aisles to find them, loading, driving home, unloading. That purchase was $97.07! Once home, it required changing clothes, which meant looking for the old jeans and sweatshirt that already have streaks and spots from the last time I stained wood. That was months ago when I re-stained the top rail of the potager fence and its front gate but fortunately I actually knew where I’d put them.
Finally ready to actually work, I had to find the measuring tape, the circular saw, extension cords, the stain tray and old roller, a pencil, and the “T” square. Now, I could blame the lengthy time it took to locate said items on D moving them to new, obscure locations but the reality is that it’s most likely that I was the last person to use any of these items. We won’t dwell on the possibility that I forgot where I left them. I started to look for the saw horses, but remembered they are in the greenhouse holding up a bench that’s filled with empty pots and flats, so I just abandoned that plan and made do with whatever I could find in the garage: the stool I use when I give talks, a cardboard box, a drying rack, and the stack of pots that I’ve been using to collect black walnuts as I pick them up. “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Finally, the boards were cut into 6′ lengths, and one into 3′ lengths. Don’t jobs always sound so simple, and then turn out to be much more time-consuming?
The first coat of stain went on quickly, but I had to stay close and remove leaves from the nearby cottonwood trees that wanted to stick to the fresh stain. So, I began cleaning and planting bulbs in the nearby Deck Garden. Here’s the area where I started.
Bulb planting is not nearly as simple as it sounds either. Frost-killed annuals must be removed, along with any weeds that have newly appeared or were hiding under the annuals during the last weeding. Finished perennials must be trimmed back as well. Holes are dug, and if bulbs from past years are discovered, sometimes they are just given a sprinkle of bone meal and recovered, but more often they are overcrowded so require lifting and some thinning before being replanted. It’s a slow process and this small section was not even finished before the boards were dry, ready to be turned over and stain applied to the second side. As the day progressed, the boards eventually received a second coat on both sides, and the section in the photo was fully planted with “Tang Dynasty” tulips. Most of the bulbs lifted were daffodils, which will go into former Berry Row turned Daffodil Row.
So, now it’s back to full-speed (as full speed as I get these days!!!) bulb planting before the rains come. I can build the beds and move them into place after a rain, when it is too muddy to plant. The edging that is only partially done can be completed anytime the ground isn’t totally frozen. Later on, the mums will be cut back and a layer of mulch added. The take-away message here is that a gardener needs a list, and needs to priortize that list depending on the season, but it’s also essential that the gardener be flexible enough to abandon that priority list when an opportunity arises, such as an unexpected 65 degree day in November. My job list is made, but it’s definitely not chiseled in stone. If there’s a 65 degree day again, maybe I’ll stain the lattice work on the gazebo while the plants are dormant! Nothing is really simple!