Saturday, July 18, 2009

Preparing for an open garden

A week from now my garden will be open to the public at 56 Gordonhurst Avenue, Montclair. Everyone over the age of three is welcome.

If you want to dig strawberry plants, vinca (aka: myrtle, periwinkle), or oregano, bring a bag. I will provide trowels. I'm pretty sure the strawberry and vinca will transplant fine, but the oregano may be at an inauspicious time of year. However, it too is invading my lawn, and I'm glad for others' wrist work in digging it out. Good news: my hands are giving me lots less pain this year than for some time. I'm sure your volunteer digging can take most, if not all, of the credit.

I'm hoping there will still be raspberries for eating on site. There were plenty last evening, but the first crop is diminishing, and the second is just tiny buds. Our July tour is later than usual this year, and the season is -- odd. I hope that children of all ages will enjoy roaming in my raspberry patch, but don't count on it too much.

It is definitly time to begin cutting out some dead raspberry bushes. Those who pick raspberries adventurously next week will appreciate this effort. The thorns are especially nasty this year. I've had three times when I saw blood running down an arm or leg, which I believe is unprecedented viciousness from raspberries. Some might claim I'm older and more vulnerable than before, but I blame it on the incredible growing season. Those thorns are BIG! Hint: Generally speaking, raspberry owners cut down lots of dead plants in mid-summer.

I'm also taking down dead pea vines. This is seasonably correct, but the lack of pea harvest was not, generating new emotions.

Years ago when I said to my visitors that my yard is neater when they come than usual, a mature man asked me why I don't let the yard just look the way it usually does for the Open Gardens. Pat Kenschaft is rarely speechless, but that was one of those moments. I've thought about it lots since. I don't want anyone to conclude, "If this is what a non-poisoned yard looks like, I'm going to keep poisoning mine." I do want people to be able to see what I am growing, undistracted. The weeds need to be pulled some time, and why not before Open Gardens? Everyone cleans up for guests. Why? I guess it's some crazy need to look good.

Anyway, I'm hard at it and enjoying it. Does anyone want tomato plants at this late date? I suppose I could be diagnosed with Compulsive Potting-up Disorder. Shall I pot up the late-comers or throw them into the compost heap? There are, by the way, three now on my front steps for takers, each at least six inches high, in separate pots. I've noticed the past two years that the volunteers in my own garden die later in the fall than the ones I started in February. However, the volunteers that I nurtured this spring already have healthy green tomatoes on them, so current volunteers are behind even that schedule.

Weeding the driveway is more challenging this rainy spring than ever before. As I do so, I remember my mother's horror that people were paving over gravel driveways. She died in 1985, when it was taking off. It seemed to her a terrible waste of resources and also a hazard to drainage. It's probably time for the decadely renewal of gravel on the driveway, but meanwhile the weeds are having fun.

I look forward to seeing lots of you next Saturday between 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM. My new regimen means I'll be starting my last tour at 10:30, but the displays in the front yard will stay until noon, as will the other open gardens in this tour sponsored by the Cornucopia Network of NJ. Oh! You can read the CNNJ recent newletter and three others at

Three other gardens in Montclair will be open from 9:00 to noon:
Bob McLean at 51 Gordonhurst was my mentor; he began gardening in 1930.
Nick Diminni began gardening at 2 Bruce Road three years ago, and actually harvested grapes last year.
Carole Lane at 176 Midland has a first year garden, made with the help of Jose German of Green Harmony.
Jose German and David Wasmuth at 69 Grove Street will open their garden from 9:00 AM until 2:00 PM. Their beautiful property and vegetable garden are also party of the Montclair Backyard Habitat tour of properties certified by the National Wildlife Federation. A list of the other properties on that tour can be picked up at their yard.
Judy Hinds, with a square-foot garden at 156 Rhoda Avenue, NUTLEY, will also have her garden on the CNNJ tour. It will be open from 9:00 to noon.

See you next week!


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