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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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