By Stephanie Cavanaugh
Organize the potting shed. Somehow the strangest things gather in the potting area under the back porch. It’s normally so heaped with this and that you might not even recognize it as a potting area: a leaf blower, a saw, sticks, stones, tarps, bike parts, 14 kinds of lethal sprays, and other useless things My Prince found for free on the sidewalk. I would like to be like Martha Stewart, trug on my arm to collect my flowers (see below), shiny sharp secateurs, pristine gloves (without holes in the fingers and crusted with dirt). Birds would sing . . .
Water. You know why those fancy planters and hanging baskets that line main streets look so lush and beautiful? Just spilling over with flowers from spring to frost? They’re watered, pretty much every day. I confess this is something I am not reliable about, having trained my eyes to glance sideways, actively ignoring wilt and cracked soil so I can pretend to be surprised when the flowers expire. I am going to change! I am going to check my pots and boxes daily. Is that really so much to ask of me? Mmmm.
Deadheading. As with watering, I can easily avoid doing this, and the impact is what one would expect: a dearth of flowers on plants that should be happily reblooming throughout the season. Yes! I will snip (not tug, or bite off) dead blossoms. If nothing else, my plants will look more groomed.
Fertilize. Years ago my friend Bruce told me the secret to his impossibly prolific hydrangeas was fertilizing with Miracle-Gro at Thanksgiving and again at Easter (so easy to remember!). And each year, as those holidays roll around, I am reminded that I need to fertilize. I remind myself daily that this must be done. And day after day I manage to forget. This includes last Thanksgiving. And what was I doing instead? Nothing nearly as important, I’m certain. This will now change . . . When’s Easter again?
Think before buying. I have so many plant mistakes in such a small space, it is truly astonishing. I have a shady garden. I have always had a shady back garden. It grows shadier by the year, in fact, thanks to the monstrous Kwanzan cherry that’s risen like Godzilla and hovers over the little patch, heavy limbs threatening the sun. Yet, show me a zinnia and I swoon. Oh! peonies. Oh! Oh! roses. Oh! so many plants limping along, begging for sunlight and eventually, sadly, succumbing. Stick to ferns and moss and fertilized hydrangeas.
Attract butterflies. Yes.
Follow instructions. See all of the above.
Test the soil. Right. Somewhere under all the mess in the potting shed is a 40-year-old soil-testing kit that I haven’t gotten around to using. What’s the point if I’m just going to plant what I want anyway? This year I shall solve the Mystery of the Soil!
Stop automatically ordering from Amazon. It has become so knee-jerk. Need orchid food? A bird feeder? Plaid mulch?* Ask Amazon. It’ll probably arrive tomorrow, free shipping, often no tax. The only difficulty is choosing, and even that they make fairly simple, far easier than most other websites. This year I shall get out of my chair, unglue my eyes from the screen, and head to a nursery or garden center. So, I’ll be tempted by more plants I can’t grow, and pay a little more for them. At least I can feel good about supporting local businesses, and not buying a golden bidet for Bezos.
*Not a real thing. I don’t think . . . ask Amazon.