Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Garden Report #94

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

Murphy on his way to his first formal
• Writers write: I was sitting with Ingrid Thiessen at The Folk Festival. She mentioned that by this time of August, she is losing her enthusiasm for all things growing. I get that. We approach our gardening season with such gusto in May, that carries into June and then there are the hot days of July. Now we are into the ‘dog days’ of August. We ask ourselves: “Do I really want to get up at day break to water? Do I really want to cultivate the shrub beds, one more time?” I get it. I am not immune to rolling over when the alarm clock rings, wondering if I really have to get up. And when I come home from work, pinching my geraniums is not always my first priority as is a hot shower.

     I reached down deep this week. I reminded myself of the edict from Vince Lombardi, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Okay. Truth or dare? Truth. I did not quote any football mantra. I just decided to settle into a few hours around the yard and boy, oh boy, I had let a few things slide. I got out the scissors, the pruners and the hedge clippers and went to town. Things looked better or at least, a little neater. Then I fertilized the lawn, the shrubs, the containers and the flower beds. That felt better for me and hopefully the plants, too. The white fly had migrated from the Virginia Creeper to my beloved tomatoes and they got a shot of Endall, an organic. No one screws with my tomatoes. All in all, it was only three hours and it was fun, once I got started. Getting started is always the hardest part, at least for me, but once underway, things flow and I remember why I garden: There is no other hobby, art or craft, that can leave one feeling so good after the sweat has dried. Gardening is not illegal, immoral or fattening. But it is addictive, that much all of us will vouch for.

• Readers write:

     • We have not heard from Marsha Kennedy for quite some time. When she writes, she always has some nice things to say. “I have been quiet all summer. I have been neglecting my garden. My garden became wild, though still beautiful in a chaotic way. I frown at the plants that have become bullies and feel great satisfaction at yanking some out when passing through the yard. Gardening takes diligence and discipline. Thanks so much for another Garden Report. When reading your Report, it makes me feel like I live in a small town, with wonderful people surrounding me. Thank you for being our community's story teller. Thank you for your generosity. You deserve a big hug.”

     • Ted Bowen relates to the funny side, as well as the importance of a yearly prostate check up for us men. He writes “A few years ago during my annual physical, Dr. Joan started to slip on the glove. I said, "I really hate this; do we have to do it?" She replied, "What about me - do you think I like it? Now spread 'em!" And I did.”

Reader Michiel Verheul
     • Michiel Verheul owns a lovely greenhouse in Alberta, supplying plugs to production houses. He also acknowledges that us men have got to take prostate cancer seriously, and do what we can to combat it. He writes: “Could not agree more on the prostate thing. I have mine checked every year. Good for both of us as ten seconds of discomfort (not even pain) far outweighs the agony of the disease. Prostate cancer is one of the more curable if caught early. I am sure it was the same with mammograms forty years ago and now women realize it saves lives. Us men are just a bit slower to catch on. Keep up the good work.”

     • Roberta Nichol has decided to switch careers and become a comic, rather than a folk singer. When she read that my first grandchild is going to be a girl after raising three sons, she just had to be funny. “So we have a little girl joining the McDonald clan? How sweet! I'm really happy for you two. Now Rod, this means that you'll have to soften up even more, and tap into your more gentle, female side. You have a little princess coming soon, so you best be prepared. No more running around in your underwear, inside or outside. You must be a sterling role model, an example of what you would like to see her marry someday. The jig is up, Rod.”

     • Keith Carpenter gardens in the Vancouver area. He had a bit of a giggle last week. “Thank you for the laughter at the expense of the big box stores. The ‘expertise’ that they give I find, too often, trickles into the independent garden centers and ends up shaping the views of how the real garden centers should do business.”

     • Gail Aubin of Carman, Manitoba has an opinion regarding speaking French. “Regarding the French topic: I am pretty good at holding my own, en Français, so I will tell you my take on this. French is like English: You may not understand a Scots brogue or a Southern twang. The same with the French language. I find that some Manitobans, Quebecois, other Francophone Canadians and European French have that same ability, to stump us a bit. It is very thrilling to go to the Quebec country side and use this lovely language.”

     • Marg Hryniuk has something to share and a question. Here it is: “Have you noticed a bigger, better crop of sowthistle this year, or is it just my imagination? I think the bellflower battle is lost, but the scentless chamomile population seems to be reduced. Again, maybe my imagination?” Any thoughts from other gardeners?

     • Kathleen Livingstone is a first time responder. “Hi Rod. I’m a new subscriber. Love your newsy newsletter.”

• Garden Tip: Good gardeners share. I have written the preceding line many times. Reader Jack Lyster told me this story. He went out to Van Décor for some repairs on his truck. Van Décor is run by reader Ian Cook. Ian has a large garden. After he repaired Jack’s truck, he gave him some vegetables right out of the garden. Good karma all the way around.

• Garden Tip: Now this is not really a tip. More or less bragging. My tomatoes are ripening at a fast and furious pace. I have not only been giving them away but the other day, so many were ready to go that I made a lovely pot of tomato soup. Added ingredients included fresh basil and rosemary from my garden and then I finished it off with a squeeze from half of an orange. The orange in the tomato soup was a gift idea from veteran chef, Mieka Wiens. Bless her and her culinary skills.

• Garden Tip: If not already done so, your last application of fertilizer, whether for your lawn or for your shrub beds, must go down right away. The usual cutoff date that we use is August 15th and that has passed, or didn’t you notice? Fertilizing too late into the fall stimulates new growth that is susceptible to cold damage. What you want to happen is for your plants to naturally harden off and slowing down the growth is a part of hardening off.

Galardia cultivar-good choice for the sun
• You can’t teach an old dog: I called Number Three Son in Edmonton. I went out of my way to be nice and polite to him. I put on my best manners. After a minute, he said “go ahead Dad. Get it over with. Growl. Bark. Do what you have to do.” I did not disappoint. After all, I am part Scot and part bulldog.

• Folk Festival: Sunday night was packed. Simple statement. How packed? The lineup to get in began at noon and wound its way down Victoria, up Scarth and headed west along 12th Avenue. The gates didn’t open until five p.m. People were jammed in, this side of the sardines metaphor. Same thing as last year when K.D. Lang was the headliner. The Festival will soon have to deal with its success, which is great. Much better too successful than wondering why people are not supporting it. I remember when fifteen hundred was a big crowd. Arlo Guthrie brought quite a few of his family, including three daughters and at least half a dozen of his grandkids, to perform on stage with him. When he said the ‘family band’ would be accompanying him, he was not being flippant. Very good show from him and the kids. Emmy Lou Harris closed the festival and I had been salivating, anticipating her performance since March. I was disappointed in that there were some of her hits missing from the show. No doubt, as an artist, she gets tired of singing the tunes that made her a major act, but her audience, or at least the people sitting around me, wanted to hear them. This was not my favorite festival music wise, but as I have written before, I pay my money and I take my chances. As usual, there were some really great filler acts, in between the headliners, as the stage crew set up. Good vibes sitting with good people, many thousands of them.

• Garden Tip: I have written this before but gardeners need reminding. Good gardens are always built in layers. A little bit here, a little bit there and then a pinch of a spent flower accompanied by the pruning of a branch. If you are not renovating, changing, improving your garden, in other words moving forward, then rest assured, you are going in the other direction.

• Not nice, but poetic justice: Those readers who volunteer in any community group will be able to relate to this story. Several years ago, I was the volunteer treasurer for one of our many community groups. Not big bucks at all. Our budget was five hundred for the year. I did the job for two years. After the second year, we were wrapping things up. I got a phone call from a woman who was a part of this group, but who had never attended any of the business meetings. And as far as I knew, she had never contributed any money to the group. Got the picture? So, to no one’s’ surprise, she says to me: “My husband and I were wondering what you did with all the money?” There was an easy answer for that question. I said “Gee…I wished you would have attended all of those business meetings you missed. Everything was explained and accounted for at them…but thanks for calling.” And I hung up. Now you know why I have never run for political office or the diplomatic corp.

Bud Boughen's Yellow Twig Dogwood
• Speaking of polite/not polite: My friend, the late Bud Boughen, was a very hard working member of the nursery trades. He owned Boughen Nurseries in Nipawin. Bud was easy to get along with, provided you didn’t cross him. Every now and again, he would get a call, asking for his advice. Some such thing as “are birch trees hardy here?” Bud would give his answer and the caller might respond “no they’re not.” Rather than argue, Bud had a unique way of handling the caller. He would simply ask “then why did you call me if you already knew the answer?” That left more than one person scrambling for something to say.

• Not polite, but to the point: I had a family doctor who had a sign up in his office. It read: “I am sorry if my diagnosis does not concur with the one you downloaded from the internet.”

• Garden Tip: Just a reminder, it is illegal to prune elm trees before August 31st in our province. This is to reduce the spread of Dutch Elm disease, which if not controlled, will destroy much of our urban forest.

• Garden Tip: Still getting lots of emails regarding Forest Tent Caterpillar. The two controls for this insect are Ambush and BTK. Chanting mantras will not work, sorry aging hippies.

• Not surprising: I stopped by a job site that a reputable contractor was working on, just to say hello. The job site is not in my neighborhood. I asked how things were going and he said that the customer was fine, but one of the neighbors was always complaining. I pointed to one of the many houses close by and asked if it was that neighbor. It was. He was surprised that I knew which house the complaints were coming from. I am not psychic. I wished I were, then I would take in more of the horse races. What I did know was that particular neighbor complains all of the time. And to anyone who will listen. Amazing how we get known for certain things, regardless of where we live.

• And the award goes to: Writing of complainers. There is a woman I know who complains about the smallest of things. I knew that I was in the midst of greatness when I attended a funeral, as did she. After the service, there was a tea and a lunch. We were in line together. She complained that the caterer had not cut the grapes off of the stems, leaving them intact as a bunch. Wow! In my worst day possible, and I have had more than one in my lifetime, I could not possibly find that to be a complaint. And the award for ‘World’s Most Insignificant Complainer’ goes to…

• Is it just me: Has anyone else noticed that the fifty pound bags of water softener salt are a lot heavier than they were thirty years ago? I used to be able to lift them, no problem at all. Now I get someone else to do that for me. And the big bags of peat moss. I used to unload a semi of those things and stack them neatly. Now, I ask someone to help me get two into the back yard. What is going on here? Do you think they are filling them much heavier to give us more value for our money? Must be what’s happening. It couldn’t be me, or could it?

Goats eating weeds in Wascana Park
• A good plug: I trust that all of you have been reading CJ Katz’s restaurant reviews in The Leader Post, every Wednesday. She explores some out of the way joints and fortunately for us, the paper gives her enough space to get into the nitty gritty of what’s being served. All members of The Good Eaters Club should take note: This is required reading to maintain your membership.

• Things do change with time: I have been back to work on a few projects since April 2nd. I am only supposed to be working part time, as in three to four hours a day. Some days I get carried away and I arrive home after nine or ten hours of work. My Mrs. said to me “you come home dirty, tired, exhausted, grumpy and crabby because you overdid it. So what’s changed from thirty years ago.” I thought it would be obvious to her. My moustache is now white, whereas thirty years ago, it was reddish brown. That’s what has changed.

• Farmers’ Market: There has never been a greater choice of vendors and products than this past week. Wow! I always enjoy a good visit with Albert Hodel, one of the Hutterite vendors. Albert is selling a sweet, Spanish onion which is a Walla Walla. Albert and I agree that Walla Walla onions are amongst the finest. They grow so well in our area and taste great. Lots of green and yellow beans and a bit of corn is showing up. There is a vendor who is selling a garden relish that she cooks up. Very tasty indeed, from a place called Rocky Acres Orchard.

• Garden Tip: Chatting with Mike Liske from The Classic Landscape Company. He wants gardeners to remember this: No matter how much money you spend on your landscaping, you still have to look after it to make it work. Price paid does not relieve you of the need to water, prune and fertilize. Another thing Mike points out is that even with the best of irrigation systems, the garden still requires managing. You cannot set the timer and expect to do nothing else. Sometimes, you have to turn your system off and water by hand those plants that need watering and not water the ones that are wet. I have written before, watering is an art and a science and it requires forethought and experience to get it right. Good gardeners pay attention to the proper way of watering.

Sorry for the sideways shot-I couldn't get it turned aound
• Garden Tip: If your daylilies are looking like this, they are too thick and need to be thinned out. You can give them away to friends and neighbors or replant them, either or. Most books will tell you to move your daylilies in the spring, but my practical experience has taught me that you can move daylilies even in the heat of August.

• Once a Dewdney Avenue boy: I grew up on Dewdney Avenue, a stone’s throw from Taylor Field, so you know I have green blood. ‘In the Huddle’ with Rob Pederson and John Lynch is the best football show in Canada. Better than anything that TSN puts out. It is a one hour show, starts at seven p.m. on Tuesday nights, Channel Seven, and it always has great guests. We watch it (or should that read I watch it) religiously. A football show with brains and no clichés. Watch it, I say. Unless you are a Blue Bomber fan. In that case, take two pills and call me in the morning.

An inground fountain
 • Symphony under the big sky: The RSO has a great program planned for today, right behind The Royal Saskatchewan Museum. It’s free, it’s a good time and we will see many of you there. Enjoy the real cannons in The 1812 Overture.

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in sun drenched Regina

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