Well, we have reached July. If you ask my husband or the majority of locals, they will tell you that summer in Seattle doesn't start until the 4th of July. And it's true. May and June are hit or miss when it comes to summer sun. The mornings are often cool and gray, but around lunchtime, all of that cloud cover burns off and it's nothing short of perfection in my book. But once you pass Independence Day, it's like God flips a switch and it is dry and warm for three solid months.
If you are a growing a garden on your homestead or wanting to start one for next year, there is an essential task for you to do right now. It's time to take an inventory of your garden landscape.
By now, everything is up, out of the ground and growing. And if you know what to look for, your garden is talking to you. Now is an excellent time to figure out what it's saying. So, here is my step by step guide to taking a garden inventory.
Step 1: Stop and smell them roses!
I don't care if your garden is on sprawling acres or a single pot on your patio. Enjoy it! You've worked hard to give those plants what they needed to thrive. Ignore all of the weeds for a bit and the large overgrown patch you just haven't gotten to this year (we have many) and take a moment to appreciate the beauty before you.
Step 2: Look at how far you've come.
In preparation for this article, I was out in my garden taking pictures. When I went to edit, a memory from last summer popped up in one of my media feeds, and it was a bunch of photos of the same garden from last year.
Holy smokes! I am astonished at how far this space has come along in just one year. Those baby perennials I acquired at my plant swaps have become established. The tiny evergreens have now about tripled their size. I get giddy seeing the difference, and it makes me want to keep going.
Step 3: Is everybody playing nicely?
If you planned your garden before you broke ground, and sourced your flora from a nursery or landscape center, perhaps this isn't a problem for you. I, on the other hand, was given most of my plants in my garden through plant swaps and ended up with more than I knew what to do with.
Quite frankly I had to hit up Pinterest to find out just exactly what a lot of them were. When you have a bare hillside, and your neighbor offers up a few dozen perennials, you say yes, dig a hole and put it in the ground. Now that I have had a chance to get to know my plants, I can tell when things aren't working well.
Here are a few things to look for:
- Are the plants leaning? That means they are not getting enough sunlight. They may be getting enough to grow and bloom, but if they are leaning, they want more sun!
Is the foliage healthy? There are a myriad of reasons for unhealthy foliage. It could be anything from the soil lacking the right kind of nutrients to bugs to Bambi having a picnic. The great news here is that with the power of the internet if you have a problem and have no idea what's causing it, look to the web! Better yet, tag @mykitsaproots on Instagram and I'll try to help you find the answer.
Did it bloom? The reasons behind this issue could be due to the same culprits as the foliage, but it could also have to do with routine care/pruning.
Does everybody have enough elbow room? It is so so easy to plant things too close together. Remember what I said about summer just now starting here? If your garden is looking crowded now, by September, it could be a ridiculous cluster of plants. If that's your goal, great! An example is if you're trying your hand at a three sister's garden. Those plants have a symbiotic relationship, so it works. Just remember it's about more than what you see above ground. Overcrowding can deplete the soil of nutrients, water, and sunlight.
Do you like what you see? There are a few plants that only lasted in my garden for one season. I just didn't like them. Sometimes my disdain is because of the vigorous nature of a groundcover or self-seeding poppy. Other times, I'm not a fan of the foliage or size for my garden. But don't feel like you need to trash it. Plant swap!!! That ajuga I didn't want to overtake my open landscape might be perfect for my friend who has a steeply terraced and limited front yard.
Step 4: Smile for the Camera!
I hope I'm not the only one that, come January, forget what I have planted. Or maybe I remember I popped hosta all over, but for the life of me can't remember exactly where they are. Now is a great time to take pictures. Then when winter hits and the Kitsap Conservation District puts out their annual plant sale order form, you can refer back to these pictures to see if anything new would work.
Step 5: Just a trim, please
Do any of your plants need a bit of pruning? It makes such a big difference to clean up plants that are getting leggy, have some unhealthy leaves, or have already finished blooming. If you're not sure how to care for a particular plant, Pinterest is great. I have a board entitled, "In my yard." Every time I get something new, I do a quick search for the plant I was given and pin it. Then, if I need someone to bounce ideas off of, I can go and see Penny at Henery Hardware in Kingston to ask for advice. Or you could hit up the WSU Master Gardener's booth at the farmer's markets.
Step 6: Make a To Do list for Fall
I already know that I need to find new homes for a few plants, trim up some tree limbs that are getting unruly, and divide some perennials that are growing beyond their dedicated space. Your list will look completely different than mine. But I do plan on taking my own advice and doing this activity myself. I'll make sure to share pictures and explain what I'm doing, so stay tuned.
Hopefully, this little activity will help you get your garden looking the way you want and next year, you'll be prepared to step up your game. Happy Gardening!