To be commanded

A gardener in Mykonos, Greece, tending his plants.  May 2008

A gardener in Mykonos, Greece, tending his plants. May 2008

“Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.”Francis Bacon

This seeming paradox is one that every gardener knows well.  We can exert a strong influence over our gardens, if…

If we observe the individual traits of our plants, our local soil, and our weather.  If we are regular and disciplined in tending them.  If we practice preventive measures such as weeding and pest control (I prefer organic methods as much as possible).

Even if we do all of these things, however, there are no guarantees.  Maybe that is part of the fun of gardening; we never know quite what to expect.  But if we hope to achieve good results, we must obey as much as we command – perhaps more.

At this time of year, I’m sure I’m not the only one whose thoughts are turning toward getting outdoors and working on lawns, gardens, flowers, vegetables and other plants.  Which commands have you learned to obey, and which to issue?

One year ago today

A losing battle

14 Comments

  1. We just have to put whole of our heart in gardening or any work. We shouldn’t think about the results. Because it all depends on Nature.

    • Sarvjit, this is so true, and it applies to many other pursuits as well. If we get too caught up in worrying about results, we can miss the fun of the process, which is also how we learn.

  2. Jack

    I’ve learned that it’s better to wait until you are certain that your tomato-growing green thumb rock star of a brother is out of town before you raid his prize Cherokee Purple stash??

    • Hee-hee, sounds like good advice to me! 🙂

  3. raynard

    Julia, “If I may, If I might( put up another bird feeder( hummingbird) and “I call it”instant plants( you know “no seeds half way grown). Your picture reminded me of all the field I use to see outside of the bases, I was stationed at in Germany.( Dont get me started about this Super Bowl “it’s that GroundHog’s fault talking about more snow tomorrow. I digress .. be blessed

    • Hee-hee, all I know about the Super Bowl is what I just read on Steve Martin’s Twitter feed, and it was pretty hilarious there. That’s about as close as I want to get. Maybe this will be the year that I actually hang up the hummingbird feeder we got almost four years ago! I hope the snow forecast was off for tomorrow, but if not, stay warm!

  4. Well said: there are no guarantees. Like life. I hadn’t really thought of that analogy before, but it is so true.

    I mostly whisper to my garden, please grow, please grow with a few anti-pest deterrents thrown in for good measure. Like you, I prefer organic and harm free. Just today I planted bulbs in a pot, then duct-taped the netted bag they came in over the top of the pot to keep the squirrels at bay till they have a chance to grow.

    • I need to try forcing some tulips or at least growing them in pots the way you describe. The first year we moved to Virginia I didn’t know about all the critters and I planted all sorts of tulips and then didn’t understand why they never came up. The daffodils did fine, though, which is good since they are my favorites. We tried burying our hostas in pots thinking that would keep the voles out, but the rabbits get the foliage no matter what we do. I gave up on tomatoes after I read that the only way to beat the squirrels was to leave them food every day so that they would leave the tomatoes alone, and even that is not a sure thing since it might just draw more.

      • It’s all a learning experience, isn’t it? I’m glad to hear they left your daffodils alone. My tulips are trying to come up here and there, but with a fair bit of missing (eaten) foliage. Still, I persevere. Our local supermarkets sell bulb kits for forcing indoors. They come with the pot, the soil and the bulb, so very little fuss to get one going.

        How interesting to hear that the squirrels ate your tomatoes. They like our pumpkin foliage, and lots of seeds, but they ignore the tomatoes. Go figure.

        • Yes, until we came to Virginia, I had never heard of squirrels eating tomatoes. I asked a friend how his tomato garden was coming along, and he said “I have the happiest squirrels in the neighborhood.” Then when I tried to grow some, I found out what he meant!

          • I’m fascinated by the difference in squirrel’s appetites. That is really something. It’s also too bad, as there is nothing quite so tasty as a tomato from the vine.

            • I really hated to throw in the towel on trying to grow tomatoes, because they are so, so tasty when home-grown. No comparison with anything bought at the grocery. Our neighbors have a fairly impressive, presumable squirrel-proof enclosure around their tomato plants, and I might eventually try to rig something like that up after Jeff is retired and has time to help me with it. He’s pretty good at keeping things growing.

              • I read an article a few years ago indicating that 70 years of perfecting the tomatoes appearance inadvertently took away the flavor. They suggested growing heirloom or cherry, neither of which have been affected.

                Jeff’s a gardener, eh? Very nice.

                • I like cherry tomatoes because they have been the easiest to grow, and seem to bear a huge crop for a long time. The first year we were here, we had a “volunteer” cherry tomato plant grow up in our flower bed by our driveway. We decided to leave it alone and see what would happen. That thing bore a ton of tomatoes which we ate for months, and no squirrels ever got any of them. I don’t know why. Jeff thinks it may have been that there was so much else around there they were eating up, that the tomatoes were not as tempting. But that didn’t help us a few years later when we tried to grow larger ones.

                  Jeff is not really a gardener (yet) but he is very disciplined and methodical at caring for things such as houseplants, lawns and families. 🙂 Until he got sick he was always very good about planting shrubs I would buy, and even moving them from one spot to another if we thought they weren’t doing well. He pays a lot of attention to what goes on outdoors and notices things that totally get by me. He loves working outdoors so we have always thought our shared hobby in retirement will be gardening. I am praying we get to realize that dream. We have even talked of having a small greenhouse someday, although I’m not sure they would allow us to put anything else on our land since much of it is adjacent to (or contains) areas zoned as protected wetlands (because of proximity to the creek). But at this point I’ll just be happy when he is able to go back to doing all the things he used to do.

                  We both find it very therapeutic to work outdoors. We have happy memories of all the work we did clearing the overgrowth from our wooded lot when we first moved to Virginia. One January we literally worked up a sweat several days outdoors, clearing fallen trees (Jeff really learned to use a chainsaw) and generally cleaning and clearing away. We knew we couldn’t do that kind of work in the summer!

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