Friday, July 13, 2012

lessons from the garden

Weeding and Watering.

As you may have determined by my last post, I have a laissez faire approach to weeds. If they are pretty and behave themselves, they may stay. If they're ugly, they get ripped out right away. Likewise, if they encroach, smother or otherwise impede the growth or flourishing of the lawful plants (read: beans, tomatoes, peppers, cabbages, basil, herbs, recognized flowers, etc.), they will be uprooted.

Today was an uprooting sort of day.

I learned last week, to my dismay, that a half hour or so of water every other day (or so) may dampen the top of the soil, but does absolutely nothing where it counts: deeper down, where the roots are. Another 15 daylilies had arrived from our friend Don at - what IS his farm's name again? Lily-something. The queenmum will surely supply it in the comments. Anyway, digging deep holes to place them in revealed the water shortage. A half an inch down, the soil was bone dry. I'd been making much of how much time I spend in the garden watering and etc., but it sure hadn't accomplished anything! Note to self: if you're going to water, you have to water. Water like you mean it.

Out this morning, watering like I mean it, I learned another lesson: weeding helps with watering.

As I watered, I absent-mindedly pulled out some grass and the occasional ugly weed. Their roots not only brought the dry soil to the surface, but also left an avenue for the water to soak down into the soil. I crouched down, then, with the hose, watering and weeding at the same time. Three hours later, my compost bin is full, my legs and back are a bit sore, and the garden looks refreshed - but the soil probably still needs another couple of hours' worth of water on it!

How I wish it would rain. . . .

More than ever, I appreciate the parables in which Jesus talks about gardening. Preparing the soil, pruning, good and bad fruit, dealing with seeds, fertilizing, weeding, watering - He talks about it all. And as I do all of those things in my little garden, I think about how He is doing all of those things in my life, in the lives of those around me, and all the way up to our country, other countries, and the whole world. There is a time for everything, isn't there? Well, I see some weeding and some watering in our future. And I'm going to spend some more time re-reading the gardening parables.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

iron root

Some years ago, I attended the funeral of a wonderful old woman who came from the Tidewater Virginia area. It was a hot, summer day, and we drank lemonade, ate cucumber sandwiches and told stories about Nan.

Walking around the old church grounds I spied a beautiful purple flower in the lawn, growing in the grass. The pastor clearly thought I was a bit strange, but readily gave consent to dig one up and armed me with a spoon and a paper cup with which to do so. It was no easy task, but I finally succeeded in getting a plant with a bit of some root to it. I prepped it for travel, and popped it into the ground when I got home. Some days later, it seemed to have disappeared. Oh well. Probably just as well. I had no idea what it was, and was vaguely worried lest it have invasive weed-type qualities. With those wire-like roots, they could cause a problem. I would always remember the day of Nan's funeral, and didn't need the little purple flower to remind me.

The next year, two or three sprigs popped up which I suspected were Nan's flower. I left them in place, even though they did not bloom that year. The year after that, there were considerably more sprigs, with flowers. They were pretty! There was only one problem that I could see, and that was the roots. They are incredibly difficult to dig out of areas they have strayed into, into which you do not wish them to roam. The plant stands a foot tall, and seems to spread by root as well as by seed, as they began to be seen popping up well beyond the reach of the first transplant. I begin to suspect I have a problem.

"Does anyone know what this plant is?" I posted on facebook a week or so ago, with a picture of the plant in question. The picture above, in fact. Almost immediately, a friend posted a possible identity. "Wild Petunia?" she questions.

I hadn't even heard of a wild petunia. But at least I had a place to start my research. "Weed with purple flower" hadn't given me anything. "Wild Petunia," however, turned up immediate pictures that confirmed that my flower was indeed a wild petunia, or Ruellia. As I continued reading, my worst suspicions were confirmed. Although there are Ruellias which are lovely and well-behaved, mine apparently are not.

Note to self: Before you go to all the trouble of digging up and transplanting something you suspect might be weed-like in its growth habit, do some research first. If it has a common name like "iron root," by all means DO NOT PLANT IT.

Next up, the Ruellia relocation program. I think I have just the spot where - if they can survive - they may happily spread out and make themselves at home. I hope they make it. Actually, I hope I succeed in digging their iron roots out of the cucumber patch! I'm sure I will. Anything associated with Nan wouldn't even think of ever making a nuisance of itself.

And I've learned a valuable lesson.