by BIG BAD WOLF
A collection of various short stories and poetry.
|Some basic tips for growing your garden, hedgerows, and other things.
Many of us grow plants. For some, this consists of some flowers along the side of our house, right out in front, to make the place look nice. For others, it’s a vegetable garden out back, with beans, squash, peppers, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, carrots, and what have you. Some grow trees, some of which produce fruit, some are just beautiful and others serve to block the wind, snow, and prying eyes of certain people. Others grow bushes, which may grow fruit, look beautiful, or act as a barrier. Other folks better double-check the law books. Some grow plants because it’s a fun activity. Some grow plants to make money. Some grow plants for food, or medicinal benefits. Some folks spend quite a while preparing to grow their plants – research, preparation, scoping out the various nurseries and garden stores, digging just the right hole, pruning it correctly, taking good care of it – only for the thing to die. Others just go out, buy what looks to be a bad plant, dig the hole too deep, toss the plant in upside-down, bury it, come back a few months later, after neglecting it for that long, and find out that the plant has survived, and thrived even.
Now, first up, before we dig up the earth, and place our plants in the ground, let’s figure out why we want to plant them. For instance, let’s say that you are an experienced gardener, or have always grown plants, and let’s say, forty years ago, you and your spouse/lover planted a few hostas, which have done well the last four decades, during that time, the love of your life passed away, and you treasure those plants as something to remember them by. Slight problem, you just got a new neighbor, and they have some highly active kids, and you and the old neighbors got along so you never bothered to put up a fence. Your hostas are now in danger, especially if those kids don’t recognize them as the beautiful plants they is, and think they’re just a weed with big leaves. What you want to do is keep them safe, and what you need to do is put up a barrier. Now, putting up a fence, that solidifies you as uncool, and possibly a mean grouch. That being said, putting up a row of berry bushes, such as blueberries or thornless blackberries, or something to that effect, that makes those kids think that you are nice and friendly. In fact, with their parents’ permission, and with them watching, perhaps you can get those kids to help you out, and, while you’re subtly teaching them the respect for property lines, by saying that the berries on the side of their home belong to them, and those on your side belong to you, you might pass on down the love of gardening. You might even become friends, which might prove useful when they ask about the weeds with really big leaves.
Of course, while marking the property line, whether using a plant designed for that purpose, or using something that has colorful leaves or flowers, or fruit as attractive, and friendly, alternatives, is one use of plants, there are other reasons – beauty, organic food, spices, herbs, seasoning, shade purposes, hiding flaws in a home’s design, and more. Perhaps the plant is a tribute to a loved one. In any case, most people have a reason for growing the plants they do.
Now that the reasoning behind the plant has been established, it’s time to do some research. Once you figure out what it is you, and those kids, want to plant, you need to figure out what is required to grow it. Now, perhaps you already know what is required, but those kids might not, and besides, you could always brush up on your knowledge. Libraries are a good place to start, as one has access to books and computers with internet access, either of which will hold the information you need. Does your plant need sun, shade, both? Does your soil need modifications for it to grow, or is your soil alright as is? Check the PH level of your soil versus what the plant requires – do they work out? If modifications are needed, what do you have to do to make your soil good for the plant? The answers can determine if you can grow the desired plant or not.
While this is going on, do some planning. Whether you are the sort who gets out pen and paper to make a detailed diagram, or just some general ideas, you need an idea of where to plant things. This is important in the case of berry plants, as well as fruit trees – while most of them are self-pollinating, some either require, or produce better fruit, in terms of quality and quantity, when two or more varieties are planted near each other. This is why, in many apple orchards, you’ll find the occasional humble crabapple tree off to the side of those fancier varieties that everyone loves to eat, cook with, or turn into cider and apple juice, while ignoring the plainer fruit of that shrub thing that the owner of the place let grow in his majestic garden, not realizing just how important that plain shrub is. This is because, most plants in certain varieties, due in part to various processes – growing cuttings, tip/air layering, and grafting, among other techniques, all have a similar genetic makeup. So, think about long term longevity, and when you are buying those plants, be sure to have, at least, two varieties, if not more. As it is, you can use these different varieties to make the production time of the flowers, or fruit, extend for some time – between June and September, or longer depending on your area’s growing season. Sometimes, you can use an odd one to make people look twice – like pink blueberries or yellow raspberries – everyone has seen blue blueberries, but not many have seen pink, and while folks have seen plenty of red raspberries and black raspberries, and blackberries, not many have seen yellow raspberries, or purple for that matter.
Now that research and planning is out of the way, it’s time for the next step – site preparation. For some, this is simply removing the grass, digging a small hole, and perhaps amending the soil with compost, fertilizer, and other things that are needed. Others, they might have to go to a few further lengths, and dig up a large strip of land. A few others will just make a special bed for the plants, especially if altering the soil would prove to be too much. In any case, most nurseries and garden centers will have the materials needed. Also, while you’re there, take a look at the plants with the kids, and see what the place has to offer – you may need to visit a few places in the area, within fifty miles of your house to be safe, because local nurseries, greenhouses, and garden centers tend to have that plants that due best for your area. Granted, it is possible to get plants that would do well from farther away, but it is best to use plants that do well in your zone. If only light alterations are needed, perhaps you can buy a few plants while you are there. But, if it takes some time for the soil to be augmented, it is best to hold off on buying plants, although you can place a hold, or pre-order some if it turns out that the place is out of stock for the season, or if augmenting the soil takes longer than a few months. Once you return home, work on preparing the site, sand, compost, and all the other stuff needed to improve things. It is best to be in good physical condition for this part, and have those kids, and perhaps their parents, help you out. If need be, plant a cover plant, which will help break down thing for your targeted plants, and make things easier for them.
Now, once things are all set, the soil is good, PH is good, and all is figured out, it’s time to get your plants. As mentioned, buy from locations within fifty miles of your home, to ensure your best odds of success. After taking them home, place those plants, while still in their pots and packaging, in the area you plan to put them, to try to imagine what they’d be like. For instance, let’s say you bought a dozen blueberry bushes – 3 Bonus, 3 Nelson, 3 Jersey, and 3 Pink Lemonades – you need to set things up for good cross-pollination, or you can keep the varieties together, or however you’ve planned it out. Once you are satisfied with how the plants are to be placed, dig a hole, usually slightly larger than the pot, gently remove the plant from pot, carefully place the plant in the hole, and backfill with the soil, or compost, or whatever you are using. After this, water your plant, to help get it established.
During the summer, it is usually necessary, depending on the weather, to water your plants at least twice a week, depending upon the plant you have. You must also weed around it as well. Now, depending upon the variety you have, it is not usual for a plant to produce flowers or fruit during its first year, in the case of a perennial anyways, as an annual plant will flower, and then die, while a perennial plant will take up to a year, or more, to produce flowers. Of course, everbearing varieties are known to produce twice a year, including a small crop during their first year.
If you’ve done your research, you will know if, and when, pruning is needed, as well as how to prune the plant, what to use for mulch, how to maintain the soil, among other things.
Eventually, within a year or so, you will be enjoying your flowers and your fruit, and instead of having kids run into your yard, they stop by those blueberries, and enjoy a handful or two, which keeps your hostas safe from harm, allowing you to relax, that is until you hear the moving van pull up to the house on the other side of your property line, and a family of five starts moving in. Thing is, they also have kids, and some of your bulbs are planted on that side of the property, and these produce some very rare flowers, that might be picked by those kids because they think their mother would like the flower. Hmm, perhaps they’d like some raspberries to pick instead, and you already have some experienced helpers, who can help teach the new kids, and perhaps become friends with them.