April 23, 2012

Listen to your garden

JOLENE WALLACE, Cornell Cooperative Extension

---- — Can you see what's not there?

You're probably thinking that this is a trick question, that, of course, you can't see what's not there.

If I rephrased it to, "Do you notice what should be there but isn't?" it may make more sense.

I started thinking about this last week while I was sitting on my porch with my dog, Oliver. I have nine or 10 pots on the porch that I have flowering plants in from late spring through fall. Oliver loves to sniff flowers and last week was going from pot to pot sniffing the soil in each one.

After each sniff, he would look at me. By the time he got to the last pot, he was glaring at me, I'm sure of it. Ollie was noticing what was not there but, in his mind, should have been. I think the warm weather threw him off this year. If it's 70 degrees, there should be flowers to sniff, right?

We are all pretty aware of what is in our gardens. This time of year, we notice new growth on the evergreens, bulbs poking up through the soil preparing to bloom, our perennials breaking dormancy and beginning to grow, our lawns greening. These changes seem to happen overnight.

We feel energized and renewed by the signs of life happening around us and begin tending to the needs of our plants as they arise.

Again I ask you, can you see what's not there? How much attention do you give the plants that you don't see, the plants that break dormancy later than their neighbors in the flower bed? Are you mindful of them while you're pulling weeds, adding organic materials or dividing your perennials? Are you careful not to disturb their roots? Do you notice the evergreens that aren't putting out new growth when they should be or the tree branch that is not producing leaf buds?

If you want to nip problems in the bud (pun intended), you need to notice what's not there and give some thought to what is missing and why that might be.

I think that our gardens speak to us, but we frequently don't hear them. Now you know I don't mean that your tomato plant is going to holler, "I'm thirsty, water me now" or that your flower bed is going to tell you, "A little mulch would be nice," but noticing that slight wilting, or that first chewed leaf or that pale green that should be dark is your garden speaking to you.

Listen carefully and you will hear it. The sooner you hear it, the sooner you can attend to it.

Then you may hear your garden breathe a sigh of relief and thank you.


On Thursday, the Master Gardener volunteers will be doing a presentation on "Growing Vegetables at Home."

This presentation will be held 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the St. Patrick's Church basement, 138 Lake St. in Rouses Point.

This program is free of charge and open to all. We are being hosted by the Village of Rouses Point Beautification Committee.

For more information, contact the Cooperative Extension office at 561-7450.

Jolene Wallace is the horticulture program assistant for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. Contact her at 561-7450 or