Gardening isn’t easy

Gardening isn’t easy. It isn’t hard, but it is work.

I think garden communicators should be more honest and open about that. After thirty plus years, gardening is fairly easy for me, but only because I know what to do, and when to do it. When I talk to my daughter, who is a new gardener, I realize how much experienced gardeners take for granted.

By July, it's difficult to see the structure in the back garden for all of the billowy plants.
By July, it’s difficult to see the structure in the back garden for all of the billowy plants. This is from a previous year, but the garden looks virtually the same except for vines on the arbor instead of roses.

In this terrible summer weather, take it easy and only work in the mornings and late evenings. Mornings tend to be better here because it’s cooler, and the wind keeps the mosquitos at bay. Wear sunscreen too if you go out. No one needs skin cancer. Most of my tan is Fake Bake.

The garden is chaos in summer and shrinking in on itself, but with a few tidying chores, I can make a beautiful September.
The garden is chaos in summer and shrinking in on itself, but with a few tidying chores, I can make a beautiful September.

I went outside this morning and worked in the border next to the house. It’s deadheading season–time to cut back perennials and roses so they will bloom again in September and October. While I was chopping the echinacea, gaillardia, Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria Blue’ and others, I began thinking about all the little chores I do without even thinking.

Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Mesa Bright Bicolor' blanket flower.
Gaillardia x grandiflora ‘Mesa Bright Bicolor’ blanket flower bloomed all summer as soon as I deadheaded it. I would definitely buy it again.

You can leave perennials and and tropicals, like coleus, to do their thing naturally, but that wouldn’t be gardening. Gardening isn’t very natural. We gardeners trim things to fit our spaces.

I chopped on Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ today, for example, because I want it to stay short and shrubby instead of looking like a Dr. Seuss plant.

We water, mulch, fertilize and chop. Left to itself, the garden becomes a weedy mess, and some plants, like morning glories, take over in July and August. Even after working outside, my garden still looks crazy especially when I travel. I went to England this spring and visited Wisley, Hever Castle, the Chelsea Flower Show and Sissinghurst, along with other wonderful places. I just returned from the Garden Bloggers’ Fling in Minneapolis to encounter our hottest weather of the season.

With temperatures topping the 100s, I and the garden are in survival mode. Click To Tweet

I’m just watering things and checking the irrigation system to keep everything alive. The garden is shrinking in on itself, and that’s okay as long as I remember to water. Most of the garden is on drip irrigation or soaker hose, but I still need to check on the lines to make sure it’s all watering evenly.

Alternanthera 'Purple Knight' in context with red coleus behind it. The chartreuse plant is another alternanthera.
Alternanthera ‘Purple Knight’ in context with red coleus behind it. The chartreuse plant is another alternanthera.

Speaking of water, or not watering in this case, I forgot about my small citrus trees. The ‘Meyer’ lemon was very sad yesterday with its leaves all curled up so I drenched that puppy.

First, don't forget to water your containers. like I did. Ha! Click To Tweet

When you water, make sure you soak containers until water runs out of the bottom of the pot.

I’ll be putting these citrus trees on drip before we leave again. After I gave the lemon tree a chance to recover, I repotted it today in a larger container. It was root bound which made it more susceptible to drying out. I then watered it again soaking the soil. Fortunately, it is recovering. It will lose some leaves, but will be fine. Good thing citrus are drought tolerant.

One of my containers on the deck with 'Henna' coleus, 'Princess Caroline' grass and some trailing plants. Crazy 'bout coleus
One of my containers on the deck with ‘Henna’ coleus, ‘Princess Caroline’ grass and some trailing plants. These are all watered with drip irrigation. This is from 2015. I was too hot to take pictures after I worked.

If you just started gardening this year, you might think you’re doing something wrong with your garden suffering so.

Gone are the halcyon days of spring, but they will return again in fall. Click To Tweet

Oklahoma always gets a second spring in fall, and all will be well. Trust me.  Go ahead, take a moment for that pity party, shake your fist at the weather gods, and then water everything thoroughly. Water in the morning to give plants a head start before mid-day. You may want to water containers twice, once in the morning, and once in the evening.

Don’t forget to feed those containers with an organic fertilizer. All that watering leaches fertilizer out of the pots.

I like Jobe’s organic all purpose granular fertilizer. Deadhead your perennials. Gently feed the garden by spraying it in the morning with a water soluble fertilizer like Fox Farm FX14092 Grow Big Liquid Concentrate Fertilizer NPK 6-4-4. I use an attachment similar to this Hudson 2100 Hose End 26 oz Sprayer that mixes the fertilizer with water. If you do these small things, your efforts will be rewarded in late August, September and October when gardening is fun again.

We have a lot of gardening season left. Get cracking.


  1. Linda says:

    So true on every count. We had a hot a dry spell followed by big storms and deluges. Now it seems like I am just dealing with storm debris and holding out for cooler weather. Gardening can get mentally and physically exhausting once that lovely spring weather is past. But a second wind always arrives.

  2. I lose heart for gardening during the dog days, and I don’t even live in Oklahoma! The heat and humidity is oppressive enough to make all garden chores unpleasant, even watering. I’ve looked ahead on the weather reports several times, just hoping to find a cooler time for working outside. Meanwhile, the weeds are turning monstrous! And deadheading is sorely needed. I might have to suck it up and just do it anyway.

  3. It’s very true, Dee. Experienced gardeners do certain things without thinking of them. Except when we forget. But I do find that an established garden, with the right plants in the right place, can take care of itself to some degree.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      So true Helen. It helps when your shrubs are established especially. Of course, I had to replace so many of mine so my garden is quite the mix of plants now. Some are old and some are new.

  4. Yes, when the temperatures are like they are now one does wonder why one gardens…and the mosquitoes make that exclamation point.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      I had to laugh at that last bit Lisa. So true.

  5. gardenannie says:

    How far back do you cut your Salvia farinacea? I saw a garden center that sheared theirs back to 2ft tall. I dread doing it for fear it will take too long for it to rebloom. So, I just cut the dead blooms off and end up with tall, floppy Salvia.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Annie! I cut it way back in half. I know that seems drastic, but it works, and then it’s lovely for fall. I once had a friend who bordered her gardens with this salvia, and she taught me how to cut it back.

  6. Cindy, MCOK says:

    You know I’m struggling to keep gardening down here in south central Texas. I’ve hit my annual “I’m gonna whack it all back and see what happens” wall!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Oh me too Cindy! I feel your pain. I hate this weather. I hate summer. I like spring, fall and part of winter.

  7. Beautiful gardens, Dee, despite your heat. You can see the hard work it takes. We are in the mid-nineties and that is hot and humid here. Work is like you, a lot of cutting back. Best for the struggling plants.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Yes, less surface area for them to perspire or something like that. I’m sure I’m not saying it right. I’m trying to help them put energy in their roots. Good luck on your whacking back too.

  8. indygardener says:

    High summer and you are right, time for the garden to go into a survival mode for a few weeks, then when cooler weather hits, its a new season! Good reminders!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Haha, more than a few weeks here Carol dear. Try eight or so, but I get what you’re saying.

  9. There is always more to learn about gardening, thank goodness. Every year the weather is different, so every year the plants behave a bit differently, and we have to figure out the best response: cut back, pull out, stake, weed. I guess that makes gardening “not easy” but to me that is part of the pleasure. I think the biggest difference between the newbie gardener and the veteran is the level of anxiety!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Yup, learning is what makes gardening endlessly fascinating. We just never know.

  10. Very good points! Most summer days here in the north, our weather is comfortable enough to do garden tasks throughout the day. This latest heat wave with heat indices in the 100s has me spending more time indoors during the middle of the day. Love your last paragraph! It was fun to chat with you at the Fling, Dee. 🙂

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Beth, it was lovely to get to know you better too. You’re a sweetie!

  11. LaDonna says:

    Thanks for the reminder! I didn’t grow up gardening, and maintenance is something I really am not good doing! I need lessons! Most books talk about new planting, and I think have that part down. I look forward to more suggestions!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      LaDonna, you’re so welcome. I’ll see what I can come up with as far as ideas as we go along. Planting is the easy part isn’t it?

  12. Lots of great reminders….this gardener is working in the heat too trying to take some control or she is deluding herself really….just holding back the weeds.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      I think we all delude ourselves. LOL. Thank you Donna.

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