Garden work is blessed work, but it’s still work. That’s why garden tasks are called chores.
Last Sunday, in Oklahoma, we had a high of 68°F, so I worked my tail feathers off in the two beds facing the street. It was dirty, dusty and glorious.
Why dusty? Oklahoma is in the midst of another serious drought. Pray for rain. Do a rain dance. We need rain.
When I posted some of these photos on Instagram and Facebook last week, one friend thanked me for giving her permission to cut back some of her perennials.
Okay, consider this post permission to do some work outside when the weather is good. There’s nothing like getting out in the garden on a beautiful sunny if windy, day–it is Oklahoma after all–and working with garden shears, hand pruners, and loppers to get your late winter juices flowing. Below is a little beforehand video I posted on Instagram of what I was going to do. Also, herein are photos of before and after and what the garden bed looked like last summer.
About that dead perennial foliage.
Now, some people will tell you that you need to leave all of the dead perennial foliage up to protect pollinators, and while it is true that pollinators and other small insects nest in stems, the part of the garden where I was working is a fraction of my whole garden.
I have to start now on the good days to finish everything.
Watch out for the phlox bug.
Too, there is a nasty phlox bug, Lopidea davisi, that causes garden phlox a lot of problems. I have several large stands of tall phlox in my garden so I’m cleaning it up early. I haven’t seen this bug in my garden yet, but I’m being careful. My friends with the phlox bug cut back their dead foliage after the first freeze and bag it to prevent the bug from overwintering in place. See my friend, Gail’s blog, Clay and Limestone, for more information about this pest in Tennessee.
About the roses.
There are five roses in these two garden beds. I went ahead and cut them back now. The old standard was to cut them back in late February when they were dormant. Well, with the way the weather now behaves, my roses never go dormant. We have very cold days followed by very warm ones, and the roses and I are completely confused. So, I cut mine back. I’m not telling you to cut yours back. Mine will be quite stressed, but most are grown on their own roots, and I’m not that worried. The only one I didn’t touch was a David Austin, The Alnwick Rose. It’s considered very hardy and disease resistant, but it is on grafted wood so I didn’t want to take a chance. Normally, I plant grafted roses on the east side of my house, but I’ve run out of space, and this was an impulse purchase last spring. I’m hoping that even though I removed the dead foliage from perennials surrounding it, it won’t die.
If it does, it does.
So, basically, I pulled up my dead tropical plants and cut back the grasses, perennials, and roses. I then put most of the dead stems and foliage in my compost pile.
Then, I took three Advil.
A word about my shredded leaf piles.
When I posted on Instagram and Facebook about how my son and I shred leaves, I received a comment about how we were decimating the Monarch habitat and how important butterflies and other pollinators are to our environment.
Sigh. Those of you who follow me regularly know I love Monarchs and other pollinators. I’m not trying to ruin their world. I even raise Monarch caterpillars and plant several types of milkweed just for them.
Oak leaves are extremely fibrous, however, and they smother many of the plants in my front flower bed so I do blow them out and get them off of my fescue lawnette. The rest of my grass is all just prairie Bermuda–not planted by me–and it can fend for itself. However, the fescue needs special help as do the shade beds out front. I hope I don’t sound too cranky, but my property has piles of leaves left in situ all over the property.
I care about pollinators. I really do. I also care about my garden. Shredding leaves make great, free mulch.
It’s all about balance.
Sometimes, I get completely stalled about writing about garden practices anymore. It seems like someone is always waiting in the wings to catch someone else “doing it wrong.” I do my best, and I assume you do too.
With that in mind, what are you doing in your garden in mid-January? If you live in the middle south or Texas, you might be doing the same things I am. In fact, in Texas, I imagine you’re way ahead of me.
Let’s do this garden work a little bit at a time so we don’t kill ourselves. It’s one of my garden resolutions for this year. I’m also simplifying things. I’ll let you know more about that later.
Have a beautiful week my friends!