The discouraged gardener

Do you like getting advice about successful gardening, and looking at professional-level photographs of beautiful blooms?  This might not be the blog for you.

I generally try to, at least publicly, deal with my negative emotions with a sense of humor.  As you may have guessed.  But I need to be real for a second.  My garden is kind of sucking right now.  I don’t think I have ever, in a personal garden, dealt with so many annoying factors on so many plants at once.  You know what is maybe the worst thing about it?  I live next door to such a nice family, and yesterday the lady said hi to me and I just casually asked her if she had spider mites all over everything in her yard, because I sure the hell do, and she told me that actually, there was all this stuff in the yard when they move in ten years ago and she doesn’t know what any of it is and doesn’t do anything to take care of it.  Her yard looks AWESOME.  Meanwhile, every single time I go outside I see another dying plant.  And, I keep adding new plants, and they keep looking terrible.

Let’s think this through.  I have over twenty years of home gardening experience.  I have a degree in Horticulture.  I worked in commercial horticulture for years.  I have read a bajillion books, nerded out on all the websites, followed all the Instagrammers, and joined the Facebook pages.  I AM JUST SO INHERENTLY HALF-ASSED.  I don’t really need any advice about most of my tragic garden, I know what I’m doing wrong.  Although I will accept advice and also sympathy, but not judgement please.  I just needed to vent for a minute.

So what’s going on out there right now?  Well.  I have this vine maple that rather suddenly got some brown leaves and then even more brown leaves.  I was actually surprised that there was a vine maple in this full sun bed because I would have imagined it would do better in a shadier situation, but the internet tells me I am wrong, so my theory that it was sun damage was wrong.  I went to just cut back the dead branches, and then found that the branches were not, in fact, dead after all.  Just the leaves.  I see a very small amount of stippling and very, very small amount of webbing, so I suppose it does have the currently ever-present spider mites, but I really don’t think that’s what is doing the damage.  The stems are a bit sticky?  I just don’t know.  I ended up taking off all the brown leaves and leaving the branches, maybe it will put out new healthier growth?  It’s not truly my tree since I rent, so I’m not ready to heavily prune it yet because I don’t know how much the owner cares about the eventual shape of the tree.

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This just doesn’t look like spider mites to me.  
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But this does.

 

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Vine maple glow-up.

This vine maple is in the crabgrass bed, with the strawberries I didn’t plant right away.  The FIRST batch of strawberries I didn’t plant right away, because I AM SO HALF-ASSED THAT THERE ARE TWO BATCHES OF STRAWBERRIES I DIDN’T PLANT RIGHT AWAY.  These strawberries are actually not looking so bad, whereas the ones in the strawberry pot, yikes.  Anyway so this bed as the dying vine maple, the brown strawberries, the kinnickinnick with the aphids, whatever the hell that ugly perennial was that is now past bloom and covered in powdery mildew, and the oregano that went to seed and I did not realize would then completely defoliate, the half dead ratty sandwort, and the really beautiful when I bought it Campanula that the big kid did not notice so she did not water it at all for the first week after I put it in the ground.  It was in the high 90s that week.

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I see this every time I drive into my driveway, and it just makes me cringe.
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Wondering if this oregano will self-seed.
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See how pretty the red parts are? They are galls caused by aphids and I had to cut them all off.
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Wondering if something else is going on here.  Those crunchy black parts are only where the plants are meeting the rocks, maybe they don’t like the heat from the rocks? Is that even a thing?

Right in the middle of this gruesome bed is this tall, healthy plant that iNaturalist tells me is Fagopyrum esculentum, common buckwheat.  I…really don’t care for this plant.  It’s the one plant in this bed that is thriving other than the crabgrass, and it’s basically a weed.  Sigh.

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Buckwheat? Seriously?

 

 

The spider mites really got to the Veronica that is at the end of the driveway and is the first plant you really see as you enter the yard.  I had to pull out about 2/3 of the whole plant that was just straight up dead, and cut what was left way back.  It’s brutal.

I’ve spent all my gardening time over the last two days laboriously planting teeny tiny bare-root sedums.  Someone on Next Door posted they had sedums to give away so we scooted over there on the way to run some errands and grabbed the trays and brought them home.  I didn’t realize until I went to plant them that the lady had pulled them out of the ground individually and I guess shaken all the soil off, then laid them on the trays.  Each of these is just the tiniest, barely rooted bare root fragment of sedum.  But, as I said to my poor husband, I’m willing to sacrifice a lot of time in order to save some money.  And truly, if they take, they are perfect for what I’m doing with them.  I think.  Remember the garbage can area that is two unidentified unhealthy shrubs and a lot of Malva that I pulled?  Well, I put the sedums there.  It’s a pretty sad soil, covered in crushed rock.  I just dug holes, dropped some decent potting soil in, laid in like five sedum fragments, and covered the roots with the ground soil and the rocks.  I also put them against the fence on the other side of the sidewalk there, then today I put them all around the gravelly perimeter of the patio.  I STILL HAVE SO MUCH SEDUM LEFT.  I have no idea what I’m going to do with all of it!  And the lady is so nice, after corresponding a bit, she has invited me over to her house tomorrow to get MORE sedum, and also to do a garden tour to see what other extra/dividable plants she might be able to share with me.  I can’t turn it down but holy cow.  Do I just throw the sedum at a rocky area and run???

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Like 1/6 of all the sedum in the garbage can area.

I guess somewhat finally, while I was planting and weeding today I noticed a little area full of tiny seedlings, most of them don’t even have their first true leaf yet.  I honestly have no idea what they could be.  I’ve had some suggestions from Instagram, but nothing that sounds correct to me.  They are near the bindweed, but don’t look right for that, plus I’ve been keeping the bindweed way too small to seed.  They are closest to a crocosmia, but the seedlings are dicots.  They are near a birdfeeder, but no birds go to the birdfeeder so they wouldn’t be scattered seeds.  I’m stumped, so I’m leaving them alone for now, but I’ll probably regret it when I figure out which awful invasive I’ve let live and start feeding its taproot.

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Oh, finally finally, a note on pictures…again.  I just really wish they were higher quality.  My iphone is great to grab when the little one is doing a funny dance, but for a carefully composed shot of the teensiest first baby leaf, it’s terrible.  I really like photography and have done it as a hobby in the past, and this is just super frustrating to me.  Right now I just filter the hell out of everything on Instagram and then shrug my shoulders, but I’m hoping to get a macro lens for my phone for my birthday which is FRIDAY.  I have a feeling I am getting lots of garden and bunny accoutrements, which is perfect.

And that’s that!

 

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AKA the broke-ass gardener

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So I was putting some strawberry plants into a strawberry pot, and I was reflecting on the name that I’ve chosen here, and how there are lots of other words I could have used to describe my gardening style.  I think “half-assed” is a pretty good umbrella descriptor, because I think maybe some of the other adjectives one could use are just facets of half-assedness.  Contributors to my half-assedness.

I was thinking about it because these strawberries looked truly awful.  Perhaps it makes more sense to go to Portland Nursery and get some beautiful packs of strawberries that don’t have a single brown square centimeter, then immediately put those plants into a brand new pot with fresh, perfectly amended soil.  But see…we’re broke.  Like, not scary broke!  We’re fine!  I think.  But I want (NEED) lots of things (especially plants) for our house and yard, so I really have to be strategic.  NextDoor and my neighborhood Buy Nothing group have actually both been hooking me up lately!  So the other day a neighbor posted that she wanted to get rid of her strawberry pots, and I immediately was like OH MY GOD ME PLEEEEAAAASE ME because my kids are genuine freaks about strawberries, and also I have done pretty well with them in the past, and also strawberry pots are cute.  Then the very next day, a neighbor wanted to get rid of strawberries.  Perfect!  The only issue is that I was picking up the plants yesterday, and the pot today.  But, like…it’s free!  And I’m half-assed!

I genuinely don’t remember exactly what the plants looked like when the lovely woman gave them to me, but they were definitely in rough shape when I planted them, after a night in my trunk.  Veeeeery wilty, some dead brown leaves, and the roots seemed very crispy and dry.  But I dunno!  Strawberries are, in my experience, pretty badass, so I planted them and watered them in, and we’ll see what happens. Thanks, people of the world, for giving me free things.  I will try not to destroy them.

I’m also, in case you wondered, the sloooooooow-assed gardener.  This is definitely the main reason I am not in commercial horticulture anymore.  I really hated having to make a quota of how many grafts an hour.  I never, ever hit my goal.  Like I made it twice in all the time I was doing it.  Today, I veeeeeery sloooooowly weeded what I am calling the garbage can area.  It has a nice ring, right? It’s got these two little shrubs that are doing so badly, and those two little shrubs are surrounded by Malva neglecta.  Weeding Malva is so demoralizing, because it’s actually really pretty even when it’s just leaves, and then the flowers are sweet too, and also, it’s got one of those stupid fragile taproots that just breaks the second you pull on it, and you know there is no way you are getting it all, and it’s going to come back immediately.  Much like that bastard field bindweed that I am constantly battling.

One thing that’s been really nice lately is that my big kid has been actually helping in the garden.  Like, not pulling one weed and then wandering away (although that also totally happens), but really sitting down and working, and listening and learning!  But it was as we were pulling that Malva that I discovered my new favorite super-identity – The Lopsided Gardener.  See, my brain understands science.  Pretty well at least.  I think because I can get away with understanding big concepts, and connections, and I don’t know, my brain just likes it.  I am not so good with disciplines like history.  So we were weeding and I was explaining taxonomy to her.  She really, really did not get much science in elementary school, which is tragic, so the idea of Genus species was pretty new.  So, my poor, poor daughter says to me, “Who speaks Latin anyway?”, and I say, “Oh, nobody anymore, it’s what they call a dead language.”  And she says, “Oh, well who did speak it?” and I sat there in increasingly uncomfortable silence, until she says, “The Romans, right?” AND I SWEAR TO GOD I SAID, “No, silly, Rome is in Italy, the Romans spoke Italian.”  And my genius child persisted, “But then why did the Romans use all the Latin stuff in Percy Jackson?” and I was beginning to be horrified and thinking, “Wait, was it the Romans?  Uhhhh, it was someone…ancient, so like…the Greeks, but they would have obviously spoken Greek….” Until my husband, who is very, very smart and much better educated came out, and luckily he is also very sympathetic so I was able to laugh as if I was not dying inside and say, “Hey, I know this is dumb, but who spoke Latin?” and the poor guy said, “The Romans!  Who do you think spoke Latin?!?!?”  This all has very little to do with my gardening, but I thought it was funny.  Also, literally the very next day I told the same kid that Napoleon was Italian.  I think I had Napoleon mixed up with the word Neopolitan.  I wish I was kidding.  You do not want me on your pub quiz team until it’s Life Sciences Night.

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I started this post three days ago and I kept thinking of other “The __________ Gardener” things but I can’t think of any of them now and it’s very sad. I am just now finishing because I’ve been dealing with this “bunny condo” debacle that I won’t even go into, and I only have one picture of the Malva and one of the strawberry pot, so I’m adding a picture of the bunny because she’s cute.  Perhaps more people might follow me on Instagram if my pictures were not all of weeds and dying plants?  Just a thought.

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The Half-Assed Blogger

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Here’s a nice picture of the beautiful, awful bindweed I discovered today after I thought I pulled it all yesterday. Posted from Instagram where I am “halfassedgardener”

So here’s the thing.   I would not consider myself to be a “digital native”.  In fact, I’m probably not even using that term correctly.  What I mean to say is that I am not very comfortable with a computer or anything associated with a computer.  I don’t know what words mean, what acronyms stand for, or how to make things do things.  And yet.  I like to write, and I like to take pretty pictures of plants.  So here I am, having a blog that nobody reads!  Hi, five people from yesterday!

This is just to explain that I have this blog, a Facebook page, and an Instagram account, and none of them are the same, and they aren’t very good.  I am actually even more half-assed about this venture than I am about my gardening, which is really saying something.

As previously mentioned, I started this blog in 2012, maybe before “homesteading” was such a loaded term.  And maybe just as more people were actually starting to do that in a serious way!  I did have ambitious goals, but I was never realistically going to have a “homestead”.  I was just being folksy!  But the thing is, that term is kinda played out now, and also people are legit doing it!  Like, on my block!  So I have to retire that term for myself, out of respect and self-respect.  So at first I was going to be “the half-assed human”, because believe me, I am half-assed in all areas of my life.  But, I just realized that I will be writing about my garden like 90% of the time, and also half-assed human just sounds weird.  So, I settled on “The Half-Assed Gardener” . I don’t like it as much as the half-assed homesteader, but it will do.  This is where things get complicated.

WordPress will let me change the name on my pages, but not in my actual site address.  So my pages say gardener, the address says homesteader.  So far I can’t get Facebook to let me change the site name so it’s homesteader over there.  Instagram let me change though, so I’m gardener there.

Oh and finally, I really enjoy photography, but I have a lot of conflicted feelings about it, but more importantly I don’t have the time to really play with taking or editing pictures, nor do I want to spend money on a fancy app.  So a good 90% of the time my pictures are nowhere near as nice once they are on the site as I thought they were going to be.

So, that’s it.  Half-assing everything, as usual.  Just a brief explanation of why everything I do is janky.

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And a beautiful, awful web, sign of spider mites.