Friday, September 3, 2010

Rule Breakers

Gardening has as many rules as the Bible and some consider those rules as set in stone as those taken from the mountain by Moses.

Unlike those in the Bible, gardening is a human sport & many rules beg to be broken.

A rather elderly (meaning older than me) woman has been laying huge hunks of cardboard & layers of newspaper on her garden for many years. She then proceeds to put 8 inches of mulch on top of that. When she plants something, she simply digs out a hole. She never has to weed or fertilize. Over and over for a couple of decades, this rule breaker has made the perfect garden soil. Mind you this was before the words “green and organic” were popular.

In our Zone 5, always dig tender cannas & gladiolas in the fall – it’s the rule. This year I have volunteer glads & cannas in many locations. One is the area where our foundation had been torn out and the soil returned. They’re rule breaking little beauties.

A garden must be planted by May 1st to have a bountiful harvest. This year has proved a rule breaker with some of the best tomatoes and sweet corn we’ve had in years. The weather can make rule breakers out of all gardeners.

Plant bushes & trees in the spring for the roots to become established. As long as there in one month before the ground freezes, planting in the fall can actually cause less stress on a new transplant. Breaking this rule also allows visualizing the setting since you’ve recently seen the summer foliage/flowers/light conditions.

Iris must be dug up every few years and divided. I found the most beautiful patch of old yellow Iris “Flavescens” at an abandoned road site. Developed in 1906, I expect this patch was about that old & I’m sure it hadn’t been divided, cleaned or fussed over. It does the same in my garden with rule breaking abandon.

Let out your inner child in the garden and take a chance every now & again. Forget that little voice that says, “You’ll kill it!”

I’m not saying take an expensive hybrid & throw caution to the wind, but, a little playing around with the many garden rules can bring beautiful surprises. Without that spirit, no one would bother hybridizing.

Without the spirit of adventure, we’d never see cottage gardens, plant exchanges, or plants thriving in that little egg shaped garden by the old police station.

"There are no green thumbs or black thumbs. There are only gardeners and non-gardeners. Gardeners are the ones who ruin after ruin get on with the high defiance of nature herself, creating, in the very face of her chaos and tornado, the bower of roses and the pride of irises. It sounds very well to garden in a "natural way." You may see the natural way in any desert, any swamp, and any leech-filled laurel hell. Defiance, on the other hand, is what makes gardeners." - Henry Mitchell (1923-1993, one of America's best, and funniest, garden writers)

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