Warm southern breezes touched by the sun. Just enough rainfall to make the perennial border sing with color; the vegetables abundant and crisp; and the Bermuda grass still green in July. Dragonflies and butterflies zip and swirl in an acrobatic dance above the flowers, while their plant eating cousins only nibble, not destroy.
This summer, I don’t think there is anything I could do to hurt this garden. For this moment in time, it is as close as Oklahoma comes to paradise.
Summers like these fool many into thinking gardening is easy. Those of us in the trenches know better. Gardens are lovely, artificial creations which take time and effort to design, plant and maintain.
Summers like these don’t often come. Another half inch of rain fell this evening. That’s not normal for July, but there is no normal here.
When I moved to the country, the first few years, sweet corn-on-the-cob summers followed verdant springs. Weeding was a pleasure, and I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about.
We ate from the garden the entire summer, and I rarely went to the store. I believed I’d mastered vegetable gardening. I set my sights on something more difficult: roses. Because they were different and their overblown appearance seemed more suited to countryside, I collected antiques with gusto. I dug trenches around each bush three times a year to feed them and sprayed every week. The results were splendid, and I was hooked.
Then came the humbling years. Drought crept in, and winter turned into summer with no spring at all. Soon, the chocolate cake soil in the raised beds resembled alligator skin. Temperatures were out of control. In 2006, Oklahoma City measured eight straight days over 100 degrees; with 105 and 108 not unusual during July and August. Bugs especially liked the drought conditions. Grasshoppers invited their extended families to feast on my tender plants.
The garden was triple its former size, and suddenly I needed to water sections of it everyday. I scoured books and magazines trying to educate myself on the least expensive, most efficient way to water. Soaker hoses eventually won, and I got a dose of garden reality.
It didn’t temper my enthusiasm though. I watched the garden’s progress and noted the only plants doing well were the salvias, sages and echinaceas, prairie plants which had existed in Oklahoma long before some of my ancestors stepped down from their covered wagons.
Last year, the drought in central Oklahoma ended with monsoon rains which drowned the sages and salvias, gave the roses blackspot and mildew, and rotted established daylily clumps.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of reading articles and advertisements which promote the idea of no work gardens. I love gardening. I eat, breathe and sleep it from the end of February until October. During the other months, I dream about what to do next.
I think writers, editors and marketers simply want more people interested in the pleasures of growing your own (insert whatever you like here,) but their methods aren’t fair, and I’m not sure the public is buying it anyway. Are they hoping garden fever will take hold once the new gardener eats their first tomato, or snips their first bouquet?
Instead, why don’t we tell treat the public like adults and tell them the truth? Then, when they bite into that tomato, they will appreciate it all the more because by their own sweat, they’ve earned it.
I’ve learned two things about weather and gardening. Weather is cyclical. Some years it’s hot, and some year’s it’s dry, and some years, you get a summer like this. I think I’ll got outside with a glass of iced tea and enjoy it while it lasts.