We are in our last week of May. Memorial Day gives us a long weekend to prepare for June and everything that comes along with June. It’s been a nice and long spring, relatively cool with just enough rain to keep the plants pretty squared away. I like to hold off on mulching until the rains become less frequent and the temperatures begin to heat up. I would rather see the soil around our plants thoroughly dry out between rains. Memorial Day is usually my magic date to get prepared for the summer months coming our way.
Last weekend I pruned what needed pruning in our yard, including my Knockout roses and my Drift roses. Roses put on a spectacular show this year all around town. I believe the Knock-outs earned their name this year, because they were absolutely Knock Out! I let every last bloom fall off before I pruned the roses back about one third of their height and width. This will give them plenty new tips… more tips, more blooms. I expect to see a new flush of blooms forty to forty five days from when I pruned them. I used this opportunity to feed my roses with an organic, slow release fertilizer called Milorganite. I also used cotton seed meal and Ironite. Roses are notoriously iron deficient, so when you see the interveinal chlorosis or yellowing between the veins in the leaves you can green them up really quickly by using Ironite. Ironite is a granular application that is safe to use on just about everything that gets yellow. Other plants that I keep Ironite around for are gardenias, petunias, and cast iron plant. I use it as a preventative once a month to keep plants nice and green.
After pruning and fertilizing, I spread pine bark mulch around everywhere to help keep the weeds at bay and to keep moisture in as we approach the dry season. I applied the same fertilizer and mulch to those plants that weren’t in line for a pruning, such as my limelight hydrangeas and Japanese yews. They had suddenly taken a big growth spurt, which uses a lot of energy, therefore, I felt like I should help them out. We are finished (ha ha) planting our pots around the property, so we cut the bedding plants back slightly and gave them a heaping helping of some organic fertilizer. Espoma Plant Tone is my go to for them and our veggies. Mimi finished planting our vegetable garden over the weekend. We feel like it’s just now time to plant eggplant, okra, and peppers. We never have great luck growing them until our weather has stabilized like right about now.
The next thing we look forward to right about now, is hammering tree fertilizer spikes into the ground every three feet under the drip line of our giant oak trees. The drip line of a tree is that area farthest from the trunk of the tree with branches over it. Out there is where the little white fibrous root hairs are. Most of the roots directly under or near the trunk are for stabilizing the tree and don’t have as much to do with nutrient take up. We’ve been hammering tree spikes into the ground for twelve years, and we are convinced that it’s making a huge difference with the health of our trees. That’s an old trick that my father taught me a long time ago.
Those fertilizer spikes have been around since the sixties. I helped him hammer in more spikes than I care to count. When our kids still lived with us we would make an annual thing out of it. We would turn up the music, everyone would grab a case of spikes and we’d knock out areas in the yard together before moving off to another area. It was really fun when they were younger. They were enthusiastic about it… heck, every kid likes to be told to wear a thing out with a hammer until it’s completely underground or at least beat to pulp. As the years went by, they got less and less enthusiastic about the annual event, until it finally got so ornery spirited that I would make sure they were going away before the spiking began. Such is life.
It’ll be interesting to see if they revert back to being happy little gardeners later in life when they are keeping their own place maintained. I can already see Mia has practiced and kept a lot of gardening skills that she is using at her own place in South Carolina and I hear that she’s helping her friends in their yards. Her friends are always astounded by her plant knowledge and work ethic. They say they’ve never done any plant stuff. She loves getting people started, that’s really about all it takes, then they get into it. Max is using his knowledge and skills around his place also and helps others, as long as they’re paying… with money or a meal or beverages. As long as they keep practicing their skills they will never lose their rhythm.
Last week’s column told about my crossing over into Israel from Egypt. That episode of Israel was just the beginning of more pretty close calls while in Israel. I had two months to spend in Israel, so once I had everything worked out with my buddy with the blown up backpack, I moved on into Jerusalem where everything seemed a little more first world compared to where I’d been hanging out in Africa for the past six months.
For the first time in a while, I could drink the water and eat the food without worrying too much about getting sick. Everything was a little easier. At the same time, the prevalence of the need for the military was obvious. When an Israeli turns 18 they are automatically enrolled in the military and spend so many weeks of a month carrying out military exercises, including keeping a machine gun strapped to their backs while carrying on with everyday life. It made for some uncomfortable moments.
One night there was a festival going on, and everyone was partying in the streets and dancing to the music with guns on their backs. It just seemed weird. Guys and girls have the same deal, as far as the training goes. They are surrounded by countries that are constantly threatening them with danger. One lazy day I popped into a cafe where local people my age (18 at the time) were hanging out with good music playing. I sat down with some of them at a cafe table and ordered up a coffee. Before I got my coffee, six or seven military police came running in hollering for everybody to clear out quickly. I was moving out pretty quickly when dogs showed up and really made the scene even more confusing.
Someone had come into the cafe with a duffle bag full of explosives about two tables down from where I had found a seat. The bomb squad brought the bag onto the street to take the bombs apart. I don’t know how they knew the bag was in there, but I’m glad they did! Otherwise, my coffee would have caused a lot more than a good caffeine buzz. I guess this kind of thing happened fairly regularly because when the duffle bag bomb was dealt with, everyone eased right back in there… everyone but me. I headed on to find a good, cheap hostel to rest my bones.
One of my goals in Israel was to work at a kibbutz, just to rest up and to sleep in the same place for a while instead of staying on the move all the time. I went out to the farm that I had heard about but changed my mind after spending a few hours there. It didn’t seem like my scene, so I kept moving. I moved right into my third bomb near-miss, but that story will be for another day. I sure came home with a healthy appreciation for where I come from. I like to experience these things…the sights and the sounds and the smells. Those experiences will never leave my memory, but there’s no place like home.