The day the rapture was predicted but did not come

The garden in May

Although the meteorologists predicted 80% chance of rain and the doomsday prophets predicted the rapture would occur on May 21, in my corner of the world today, things were as perfect as they could be, and I spent my day happily poking about my gardens. Here are some of the things I did:

  • Inspected the grapes for the brown Japanese beetle larva I had seen earlier this week and picked those off. Pulled weeds around the base of the trellis. Dug out a few more asters and coneflowers to share with my office mates. Looked at the dried, shriveled, and skeletal leaves and debated whether I should spray the grapes again. Noticed that the new leaves coming on are very healthy and green, although many of the older ones are looking poorly. I don’t know if the worms caused all the damage or if perhaps the grapes also have some sort of disease. The “Garden Safe” spray I have is supposed to be a fungicide, insecticide, and miticide. Apparently grapes have a lot of problems. But even though the spray is billed as “Garden Safe,” it comes with warnings not to inhale, not to get on your skin or use in food-handling areas or when bees are foraging, which makes me doubt the safety of this product. The instructions also say not to apply to wilted or otherwise stressed plants; instead they recommend a 7- or 14-day preventive spraying schedule in spring and fall. The ingredients on the spray list .9% Neem oil and 99.1% “other ingredients.” Hmmmm. I decided to forego the spray for now and focus on building up the plant’s strength, so after picking off all the larva I could find, I added composted manure and fed each vine with an organic dry fertilizer, Plantone.
  • Inspected the rose for green sawfly larva but could not find any more (I had found two the day before and picked those off). I did find something that might be either a stink bug or a soldier bug, plus a small cluster of metallic eggs. I need to figure out which bug it is, because a stink bug is a pest (especially damaging to soybeans), while a soldier bug is a beneficial predator. Until I can figure it out or see some signs of damage on the rose, I just pulled off the leaf that had the eggs, took it around back to the deck, photographed it, and watched the adult bug fly off before I had a chance to inspect its belly and legs for identifying characteristics. I also weeded around the rose and added composted manure and fertilizer. I photographed the rose bush because it looks better than it has ever looked before. I’m not sure why the deer have not been a problem this year, but I’m grateful.
  • Added composted manure to the pot with the lemon plant and pruned one branch. The leaves are looking greener since I added calcium, Epsom salt, and fertilizer about a week ago.
  • Weeded along the sidewalk leading from the driveway to the front porch, cutting enough daisies to fill my two ceramic “paper-bag” vases that I got from the J Peterman Company years ago. Cut back daisies that were fading or were hanging too far over the sidewalk.
  • Pulled out dozens more oak and maple trees that were coming up all over the yard. Noticed how much leaf litter I still need to rake up from the corners of the gardens up near the house and under the yellowing daffodil leaves. Jim cut down a walnut that had grown taller than the lilac and was crowding the butterfly bush. He also dug out some wild grape vines that were suffocating the hollyhock and threatening to crowd out the peas growing on the small trellices.
  • Removed the cages from the square-foot gardens, where the brocolli is looking amazing! Took more photographs. Pulled weeds. Added a little composted manure around each plant. Later Jim harvested enough brocolli for a small serving each at dinner. It was delicious. It’s so amazing to watch plants grow from such tiny seeds into something so beautiful and nourishing. We have seen no signs of the dreaded cabbage caterpillar this year, although there was some other green worm that had chewed holes in a few of the leaves. I took photos of that to have as a reference to look up later on the internet, but I got distracted holding the leaf in the sun and watching the changing patterns of shadows and sun as the leaf turned in the breeze. It reminded me of watching a solar eclipse once through a pin hole with my back to the sun, when the light went all shimmery and there were shadowy half moons all over the sidewalk. I forgot all about the worms for a moment and was fascinated by the appearance of the bright yellow marigold through one of the worm holes—on the day when the rapture was predicted but did not come.
  • Jim ran the weed eater around what few grassy areas have not been taken up by perennial beds or vegetables.
  • Inspected the various gardens and tried to figure out what to do next. I’m liking my approach this year of staking out places for small 4 x 4 pocket gardens. For one thing, it makes it easier to decide what is weed and what is valued perennial. If any coneflowers or asters or shasta daisies or blackeyed Susans or chives or lambs ear or poppy mallow or lemon balm or any of the other self-seeding, aggressively spreading plants I have all over my yard encroach on the 4 x 4 space that I have designated as my new pocket garden and do not fit the new “plan,” then I either pull each plant out as a weed or dig it up and take it to work to share with my gardening friends. So far I have made two of these little gardens, both along the sidewalk leading from the driveway to the front porch. In one, I planted seven varieties of lavendar and edged them with purple and yellow violas. By having all the lavendar in one place, I’m hoping I will remember to mulch them so they have a better chance of surviving our cold winters. In the other I planted three rhubarb plants and edged that with alyssum. While weeding that space yesterday, I discovered a couple volunteer cilantro plants and one dill and decided to leave them, since they are annuals and won’t get in the way of the rhubarb this year. It will make the “plan” less obvious when the dill begins to tower over the other plants in an awkward way, but that will be temporary as it will quickly go to seed and be done.
  • While trying to figure out where to put my next pocket garden, I discovered a cute little poppy mallow with delicate fringed leaves that was struggling to survive under the marjoram and lambs ears, so I “weeded” around it to give it more air.
  • Looked in mild dismay at the asters taking over the space by the mailbox and inching toward the strawberry patch, plus individual asters coming up in farflung places. I need to figure out what to do about those. They are not difficult to pull out by the roots at this point, but I don’t know how well they transplant. When I pull them out and put them in pots for my friends, they immediately begin to wilt, but I suspect they make a strong comeback once planted in the ground. I am fairly sure that asters I have yanked out by the roots and tossed on a pile have on more than one occasion crawled off to replant themselves before I could get them on the mulch pile. I have heard that if you cut asters back severely in the spring (to 3-4 inches), they will grow back at a slower pace through the rest of the season. That sounds right. Perhaps I should give that a try. I have seen asters neatly trimmed in small mounds, and they look beautiful in the fall. I might try both approaches. For sure, I want to pull out the ones that are covering the surprise lilies that will bloom in August, but I want to be sure to keep some of all three varieties of asters. I love them for their late color, as they bloom right after frost and continue sending up their little blue stars from September to November, providing a last source of nectar for the bees to get through the winter.
  • I weeded the patch of new iris that I planted near the road, but I don’t expect them to bloom this year because I was late getting them in the ground last fall. I may go ahead and plant some annual seeds there—cosmos, probably, or zinnias—because that’s what my old neighbor used to plant when his iris were done. My other iris (the purple and white ones that I got from our first next-door neighbors here, ones she had gotten from an estate somewhere) have inched away from their original location and are now closer to the front sidewalk and in and among the strawberries and columbine. Only one has bloomed so far.
  • Pondered the situation with the strawberries. We have had about eight strawberries so far, with more coming on. They were delicious with my yogurt and blueberries and granola parfait. I have never done much with strawberries other than let them grow. Perhaps I should feed them or cover them with netting or mulch them. Wonder why they call them strawberries. Should I be putting straw under the plants now to keep the berries off the ground, or should I cover the plants with straw over the winter?
  • Weeded the areas around the trellises and tried to guide the pea vines up the trellis but did not tie them yet. I’m not sure if I got the seeds in the ground early enough this year, but they are looking good so far. I also have a new native clematis that my friend Krishna gave me, and it is starting to take off. I hope it is in a sunny enough area.
  • Started thinking about where to plant the eight new perennials I got from the Missouri Wildflowers stand at the market: two varieties of liatris, larkspur, wild ginger, blue sage, royal catchfly, queen of the prairie, and Indian physic. Some of these I have tried before with no success, so I need to make sure I understand their preferences for light and shade, wet and dry, before I put them in the ground.
  • Admired my handiwork and gave thanks for such a beautiful day on God’s green Earth.
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