I am a gardener. I find such joy in planting something with my own two hands, watching it grow and flower. I'm always sad when summer is over. But once it is, I spend the winter browsing garden catalogs and dog earring the pages of the plants I can't wait to buy come spring. I pore through garden magazines, research roses and read every good garden blog I can find. And when spring finally arrives, I feed the holly, prune the roses, and enjoy every last whiff of the lilacs.
You would never know this of me this summer, however. Because this year I took an entirely different approach and unwittingly conducted a research project on what not to do in the garden. I got busy with work (a good thing) and pretty much did the opposite of what every garden expert tells you to do. So here they are, the official results of my terrible experiment.
My Instructions on How to Have the Ugliest Garden in the Neighborhood:
- Want weeds? Don't mulch. I've found the best way to grow a garden full of weeds is to not mulch (turns out when the garden experts say it chokes the weeds, they aren't lying). I have preened, pulled and sprayed but there is nothing I can do to stop the weeds from quickly returning.
- And speaking of weeds, have you ever wondered what happens when you don't take the time to pull those little weeds? They grow up to be really big weeds. Oh, and I've discovered they flower. Flowers or no flowers, they're still ugly and an awful lot harder to pull out when they are 56" high. Don't believe me? See for yourself.
- Rabbits are always a nice addition to a garden. See how this little guy skillfully avoids every weed and concentrates exclusively on eating the pretty pink hardy geranium I planted last spring. Luckily for me, I have an entire hungry family devouring every flower he misses.
- And what about the plants the rabbits can't reach? Bring in the deer, of course. Rumor has it ours are being fed from a trough in a neighborhood backyard, but why not construct one of your own. This will feed the deer you already have and bring in even more. What garden couldn't use more deer! Don't worry, these hungry creatures always have room for dessert--especially if you have roses, tulips, or lilies.
- Once you have successfully lured the deer to your garden, don't spray your plants with any sort of hot pepper spray or Liquid Fence. Surprisingly, it does deter the deer. I've invested in this for years and complained that the deer still ate my plants. Haven't sprayed at all this year and the deer are eating my plants to the ground. I should note, the weeds remain untouched.
- Container gardening is all the rage right now. But why waste money on pretty annuals to fill your containers. If you leave dirt in a pot long enough, eventually something will grow.
- Japanese beetles, anyone? Amazing how much destruction they can cause. If, unlike me, you're having problems attracting them to your garden, put up one of those hanging yellow bags right next to your rosebushes. You'll attract hundreds of beetles, and some of them are bound to eat the roses instead of falling into the bag.
- And speaking of roses, I have babied mine in the past. I prune them in the spring, sealing the cuts with glue. I feed them monthly with rose food and Epsom salt, even give them a banana every once in awhile. I was always curious if all this work made a difference. Yep. It does. My neglect this year may have cost me half of my rosebushes. I can't joke about this one. It truly makes me sad.
So what else have I learned? I've learned that there are plants that are resistant to every bug, every creature, every dry summer (and every neglectful gardener). Liatris, snapdragons, lavender, butterfly bush, tickseed, boxwood, lamb's ear. You'll be seeing a lot more of these indestructible plants in my garden next year. Chances are you'll probably be seeing a lot more of me in the garden next year, too. And it looks like I'll have a lot of catching up to do.