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.
What a beautiful post, Dee. Gardens ARE work, but it’s the most delightful kind that often turns into fun. Plus it’s an outlet for creativity and a place to see nature up close. Definitely worth the effort.
As you know, we in Austin are not experiencing one of those perfect summers (maybe we had it last year, with all that rain), but I’m glad that you are. Enjoy!
I agree with the no work garden thing … what is the point.
Mind you, being a fairly impatient person, Id be really happy if they did a “instant veg garden” or a “no wait fruit tree”.
Oh, what we would give for some rain right about now, after a month of fires and smoke! Gardening this year is very challenging. It’s finally settled down enough that we can go outside without a hepafilter mask strapped to our faces. These are the unexpected events that can happen out of doors. The garden still must be maintained while nature burns out of control. Very strange summer.
Your garden is lovely…really more than lovely…it is alive with wonderful blooms! I can tell you have worked hard at making it all come together. Gardening is a commitment and people don’t always understand that…now as long as we are educating people about how much work it takes to garden…can we educate some of those same folks to not buy invasive plants and urge them to tell the big box stores to stop selling them!…sorry, I got carried away!
Yolanda Elizabet says
Sing it sister! It is very annoying that gardening is sold to us as something easy and, of course, of low maintenance. Rubbish of course, it’s like everything that is worth while in life, you have to work hard to reap your awards.
Some other pet peeve of mine: those glossies that show _perfect_ gardens. There is no such thing!
Glad to know that your garden is now something quite close to becoming a paradise. Enjoy it while it lasts!
No perfect summer here, too much rain!
Okie Sister says
I can see your hard work and it’s beautiful!
Terrific post…I think you’ve really summed up country/gardening life in the middle of the country. Last year it was green and lush into August here, with lots of rain. Now it’s drought and dry wind and tough goin’ for many people.
Having grown up in Texas near the Oklahoma border, your post seems especially vivid. Lots of memories just looking at the photos…
Mr. McGregor's Daughter says
I love your story of girl gets garden, girl almost loses garden, girl gets garden back. A garden is like a marriage, ups & downs, so you appreciate the good even more. We’re having one of those great summers, but I fear it’s about to end. I just try to savor the good as much as possible. I also hate those “no maintenance” or “low maintence” gardens so heavily promoted. You want no maintenance? Buy fake flowers.
We tried our hands at a first garden in that terrible summer of 2006. It did not go well. Perhaps we’ll try again next year.
It always surprises me how many people think it is easy to have a beautiful garden, and like you said, we know better! I am right there with you with those ups and downs and am glad to hear yours is doing so great this summer. I too think the summer is a bit strange-not so hot and some rain. That is a nice change after last year! Love your writing.
Hi Tina, and thank you. It has been a nice change.~~Dee
I can relate to your ups and downs and NC has experienced the same woes. We roll with the punches don’t we? The triumphs are so grand though and the planning is what we eat and breathe. I always say..we’ll maybe next season as I watch an avalanche of borers plow through my vegetables.
Anna, one thing about weather. It will always change.~~Dee
Awesome post Dee. This really resonated with me. We’re having an idyllic summer so far, beautiful weather, almost enough rain, and the garden is thriving. It’s a moment to savor while it lasts, especially after last year’s oppressive heat and humidity, drought, 17-year cicadas, and the attack of the itch mites.
Hi Linda, glad your summer is also wonderful. We are supposed to have really high temps the next few days. Perhaps the idyll is over.~~Dee
My Toronto garden is also having a great summer. I think it’s a combination of plant maturity and the winter we had last year. We had a heavy snow cover (not the norm – it’s usually very cold with little snow which is hard on plants) so the plants were protected and got a lot of steady moisture in the spring as the snow melted. Most of my plants are at least 6 years old now too so I’m sure that helps.
Your garden is lovely! Enjoy this summer while it lasts!
Snow cover is a great boon for plants. We don’t get much here either. In fact, we usually only get a couple snowfalls in a season. I am so enjoying our summer.~~Dee
Great post. I need to remember the flush of this spring to get me through the dry heat of the summer.
Hi Deb, thanks. It’ll be September soon.~~Dee
Lisa at Greenbow says
Dee you are such a good writer and mind reader. I was just thinking some of these very thoughts today. Here it is mid July and we got an inch of rain. Almost unheard of and this morning I was able to be outside until almost noon before the heat and humidity ran me inside. This has been an exceptional year, so far. Gardeners learn to appreciate lovely weather no matter what time of year it is.
Thanks, Lisa. We’d better enjoy it because these summers are fleeting, and the hot ones just seem to drag on.~~Dee
Brenda Kula says
We need rain here! Just around the corner as we were driving to lunch today I saw a small fire had started right on our main street. Probably some fool with a cigarette. We called the fire department via cell, but they were already headed our way. And somebody had gotten out and started stomping at it. We have a cigarette ban here for 20 feet from every public place. Just enacted it. The other day outside of Drug Emporium I saw a man just ahead of me smoking. You know how they seem to want to puff every puff. So I yelled, “Hey, you’re smoking and you’re not 20 feet from the entrance!” And he glared at me, but put it out. My neighbor says I should start carrying a gun or I’m gonna get shot. But I’d shoot myself in the foot!
Oh, Brenda, I’m glad you told them, but be careful. People are nuts when it’s hot. I’m sorry about the drought. I know that well.~~Dee
What a thoughtful and good post, Dee. Even though one can read and read about gardening, nothing takes the place of hands-on learning each year. It’s a long and constant learning process as we deal with what the weather holds in store for us each year.
I’m glad to hear that you are having one of those beautiful summers … I’d love to see your garden one day.
Thank you Kate. I hope you get to visit someday.~~Dee
Aunt Jo says
We moved to OK in December of 2004 and experienced 2005 as our first OK summer. I was in heaven. Summer 2006 made me wonder what we’d done moving here. We hung in there and so has the garden.
Gardening is never boring and neither is the weather.
Aunt Jo, the one constant in Oklahoma weather is change, change and more change. I’ve adapted from year to year and quit worrying when something dies.~~Dee
This was a great post, Dee. We’re having one of those summers, too, and I am absolutely loving it. After last year’s heat and drought, this year is heaven.
I couldn’t agree more with what you said about writers and marketers treating the public like adults. I think too many do a disservice to would-be gardeners by pretending that there is nothing to it, that success is guaranteed if you follow this or that instruction to the T, or if you use this or that product. Nothing is guaranteed, but the time and work you put into a garden is often the biggest reward.
I think their attitude upsets me because as a novice, I tried so many of those “get a perfect garden quick schemes” which failed. I guess the old adage of if it’s too good to be true, it probably is still applies.~~Dee
Wow Dee, you hit the nail on the head with this post. I’m 3 years living in the
country now and I LOVE gardening, but it’s never “easy”. I don’t think there is
such a thing as “no work” gardens, except in our fantasies. LOL
But then we’d be bored, Brenda.~~Dee
Karen - An Artists Garden says
Dee – What a nice post.
I don’t think that this year we will get to experience that “Summers like These” feelings in the UK – but just an evening or two of it would be nice!
You are so right – I am not sure if there is such a thing as a “no work garden” – but then as I work as a gardener I am not complaining!
Karen, you are having one rough summer in the UK. In fact, from my reading, you’ve had two in a row. I hope things will look up for the remainder.~~Dee
What a lovely post! I really enjoyed this–
Thank you, Kate.~~Dee
I suppose the tough years weed out the ‘annuals’ from the ‘perennials’…if we stick it out when the going gets tough we must be in it for the long haul. And we must reap more than veggies or flowers from our work or we would give up when the drought or flood or the pest of the year arrives…I think that’s what it means to be a gardener.
Leslie, that was a good one. From what I’ve seen, we have a lot of annuals in Oklahoma although I don’t blame them a bit.~~Dee
Carol, May Dreams Gardens says
I’ll join you for some iced tea, Dee. We are also having a summer of abundant rain and everything looks good and working in the garden has been a pleasure. Contrast that with last summer when we had a moderate drought. By this time in the summer, it was no fun spending all the time watering. I guess that’s one of the lessons of gardening, other than it being hard work at times no matter what the weather, that it will be different every year, with new challenges, and of course, new triumphs!
Hi Carol, you just never know what the weather will bring. Thank goodness.~~Dee
Gardening is like anything else, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. It’s hard work, often dirty, but I couldn’t imagine being as passionate about anything else (except perhaps my husband). Cheers to your iced tea!
Thanks, Katie, and I agree with all your observations especially the one about husbands. 🙂 ~~Dee