This year’s contenders for the one word description of my garden—baked, thirsty and hungry— are misleading. It wasn’t a garden party year. The word I picked covers the year to date and any garden situation that develops, and is ignored, before the end of the year. It’s no surprise to my neighbors the winner is...neglected.
As a newbie neglectful gardener, it was inappropriate and deceitful to call myself a Master Gardener. Lucky for me it was the perfect year to be deceitful, and rotten to my garden—I blamed the drought for everything.
The drought affected the production of my heirloom tomatoes. (More like infrequent watering and use of organic pesticides and fertilizer.) My summer squash didn’t make it because of the drought. (They never make it: Squash 0, Squash Borers and Cucumber Beetles 100.)
I told one neighbor, who never saw a cucurbit plant grow anywhere but the produce aisle, that the Cucumber Beetles, "held insect orgies in my yard all summer because they like it hot." (Never mind cucumbers need watered daily and ours were watered, oh, maybe twice a week.)
My flowerboxes are a garden highlight. I enjoy trying new combinations of species nobody can pronounce and different cultivars of old favorites. I routinely receive compliments but this year’s flowerboxes, designed with dirt and straggly, purple sweet potatoes vines, only gathered comments.
“What happened to your flowerboxes?”
“What do you mean? Which ones?”
“The ones directly behind you, hanging under your front windows.”
“Oh, my God! This drought is unbelievable. The flowers died overnight.”
“Where did the plants go?”
“The plants? The plants! It had to be the chipmunks. Our cat can't catch anything but grasshoppers. The chipmunks must have dug the plants up and eaten them, roots and all. They'll eat anything this year...because of the drought.”
“Are you going to replace them? We love looking at your garden when we drive by.”
“Oh, no, no, no; the Solenostemon scutellarioides and Osteospurmum jucundum compactum are too expensive to replace and need watered daily. As you know, we're in a drought. There's a water shortage!"
Prior to the drought, I realized 2012 would be the year of the “wild” garden. I knew I'd have to let things go because of my physical injuries and full time care of our two year-old granddaughter. I promised myself I'd seek beauty in the garden and ignore its flaws. Anything I did in the garden, however small, would be an accomplishment, including keeping Eden from running off into the woods.
Later in the year, after seven months of pain and complications from an unhealed fractured shoulder, I found it harder to find beauty amidst the plants that needed pruned, deadheaded, watered, transplanted, fertizlized and divided. I needed blinders when I went outside so I didn’t run down the hill and jump off the pier into Tablerock Lake.
I learned if I didn’t let go when I needed to, I’d be forced to, which released nothing and collected misery. I'm relieved it's fall. Since my surgery at the end of June, I write more often with less pain and do a little work in the garden. My peppers are still producing and a Southwestern-colored blanket of oak, maple and hickory leaves covers my neglected garden.
Causes Jules Jacob Supports
CASA of Southwest Missouri, Master Gardeners of the Ozarks, University of Missouri Master Gardeners, Missouri Court Appointed Special Advocates Association...