An Alameda Garden: My Garden Has Me Down

Monday, August 10, 2009

My Garden Has Me Down

If anyone's wondering why I haven't been posting lately, the reason is simple: I'm a depressed gardener. While my garden would usually be a source of comfort and relaxation, it's been more of a stressor lately, just another thing that's not working out well and it shows. When friends have asked me how my garden is doing, I've answered honestly, "It looks like shit." That pretty much covers it.

The reasons it looks like shit are not uncommon and fall into three categories of varying degrees of severity at various times: 1) lack of time and energy for proper maintenance, 2) lack of money for supplies and more plants, and 3) aphids and their evil partners in crime, ants.

The time and money issues are, I think, slowly working themselves out. And in the past few days, I've decided to throw my budget to the wind, accept the fact that I'll never get caught up on my own, and hire some one-time help to clear weeds in the front yard and prune a neglected and overgrown camellia at the side of my house. I feel a bit better having made that decision, and will, I'm sure, feel much better when it's finally done.

The aphid problem on the other hand is a tougher fix. My plan earlier in the year to do absolutely nothing about the aphid problem in the hopes that the beneficial insects would really go on the attack resulted in my cherry tree being decimated, my plum being later hit so hard that it looks like it has peach curl, and several other plants getting the life slowly sucked out of them. The ladybugs have shown up and in greater numbers than I've seen here before, but clearly they're not up to the task. I'm still refusing to spray chemicals, although I have tried a few home remedy mixes that don't seem to have done much. I'm also hitting the plants with jets of water, which I honestly think just provides the aphids with a temporary Slip'N'Slide more than it kills or discourages them.

And their good buddies, the ants, are everywhere! Alameda's sandy soil must be ant heaven for them--fast draining and oh so easy to tunnel through. I finally realized that I'd never get the aphids under control without controlling the ants, so I've put Grants ant stakes all over the place. It seems to have decreased their numbers slightly, but I know this is an ongoing battle.

All this being said, there have been a few high spots in the garden this year, for which I am grateful. It's been the best year for roses that I've had so far, possibly because I finally have them situated in the best spots in the garden. The salvias (Mexican Limelights, Hot Lips, and Argentine Skies), bless them, have bloomed like mad and (with the exception of the aggressively sharp elbows of the Mexican Limelights) been maintenance-free. The kangaroo paw I put in last year has bloomed non-stop most of the year as well. The Bright Lights swiss chard has added a lot of color and produced enough greens to fortify at least a squadron, if not an army. And the green beans (Roma and haricot vert) have been delicious (in spite of the feeble bamboo teepees I built them).

So my goal now is to do what one should always do when depressed:
  1. Take a breath. It's probably not as bad as I think it is.
  2. Get some professional help. No gardener is an island (even if my garden's on an island) and there's no reason why I have to go it alone.
  3. Face my enemies head-on with the proper defenses. I'm off to buy a bottle of Neem this afternoon.
  4. Count my blessings. At least I have a garden to be depressed about!

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  1. Phew! I thought it was just me that had those feelings. My garden exudes the same problems from time to time and it can get quite depressing.

    The only solution I've found is to go and buy myself another plant. Hope this helps.

  2. Hi, Claire, would you feel better if I told you that you're the pillow winner on my giveaway?! You won! I'm announcing it on Tuesday, but email me your info and I'll pass it on to Michelle for your prize.

    Thanks for reading!

  3. Stuart, your advice about buying a plant made me laugh--first, because one of the things getting me down is that I can't seem to find time to plant some of the plants I've already bought, and second, because that's just what I did yesterday! I bought another beautiful salvia. Now I just have to get it in the ground before it dies!

    And Rhoda, Thanks!!!! Yes, winning one of those beautiful pillows you were giving away does make me feel a bit better. At least I'll have a comfy place to lay my depressed head on!

  4. For my own garden, I would add a 4th reason I'm depressed - I have no soil and I'm having to work with lava rock! I have little pockets of garden that I work on but they are too scattered to look good. I do get a few veggies out of my raised beds, but I have to make my own soil and there's never enough of it. And even lava gardens have bugs! Thanks for admitting what makes us "down" about our gardens, especially at this time of year.

  5. Try getting a sample of basich from a shaklee dealer. I've seen this product keep whole fields of beans bug-free.

    I use it to "wash" my miniature shrub collection down if we haven't had good rains.

    It is safe for your pets and the environment but it does kill soft bodied bugs.

  6. I've got the garden blues, too.

    I've been trying to adjust to gardening in the desert, but the cycles are so alien - I keep missing the important plants dates, and feel like I am constantly fighting the climate - oh, wait, I am constantly fighting the climate.

    I'm too much the Midwestern garden girl, and I crave the greens of the heartland.

    I'm trying to find plants that take the heat and dry and, with applied water, stay green and lush, but it's a battle.

    Top that with our monsoon season being exceptionally stingy with the rain, and I'm down in the dumps.

  7. Nice blog. Enjoyed going through it. keep it up the good work. Cheers :)

  8. Here are some gardening tips that might help you fight the ‘down’ feeling:
    * Use less-than-thirsty plants in your garden.
    * Keep turf grass to a minimum.
    * Group plants thoughtfully.
    * Water plants only when needed
    * Water at night, when evaporation is much lower and air is calmer.
    For more tips on water wise gardening visit

  9. Not related to your post, but I thought your readers may be interested in this interactive USDA hardiness zone map I've created


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