Friday, September 4, 2009

Finally !!

It's raining. The lightning is 2 or 3 bolts at a time, some vertical, some horizontal, some seeming to cross one another. The irrigation system and I both watered this morning, so the ground was ready to send this new moisture deep down to where the root systems live.

I wonder where the lizards and the bunnies are hiding. I'm typing during their usual dinner hour and I miss their antics. The ground squirrels have been increasing the size and number of their burrows in the front yard; I'm not worried that they'll get wet down there.

I'm watching the places where the water's collecting, and deciding how to berm it once the weather cools off. If I make little aqueducts I can funnel the rainfall to the trees which lie outside the irrigation system's reach. That's xeriscape gardening -taking full advantage of nature's bounty when she deigns to share it with us.

In most of the rest of the country, gardeners are making plans to put their beds to rest for the winter. We here in the desert southwest are just getting ready for our 6 week window of opportunity; September and October are prime planting months. Locations have been scouted and steps have been taken to insure that there is proper drainage. What? you wonder..... where would the water go if not down? Well, my more-temperate friends, our ground is packed and baked and not that easy to crack. Water needs the crevices well-aerated soil provides. Without them, it sits there, on top of that hard packed soil (aka dirt), evaporating but not draining. To test the suitability of a hole, the desert gardener digs a 1'x1' hole, fills it with water, and waits. If the water drains after an hour or so, she repeats the process. And then repeats the process. Third time's the charm. If the hole drains three times, the gardener can assume that the soil won't interfere with the movement of water to the plant's roots.

After the holes have been dug, it's time to shop. I have my plant list ready. As our fearless leader described it today at Master Gardening, going to the nursery without a list is like going to the grocery store hungry. Not a great idea at all. And we are always hungry, here where success demands filling a hole over and over with water before you get to dig an even bigger hole with an even bigger pickaxe.

Desert Survivors, the Botanical Garden, the UofA's Master Gardeners, Tohono Chul...... it's as exciting as if Bloomies had decided to open a branch in the mall across the way. Endless vistas of well-tended and unusual and suited to the environment flora just waiting to ride home with me in The Schnozz. I'll play them some bluegrass to get them in the mood, and then out of their pots and into their holes they go. Loosening the root-ball just a little, and spreading the looser roots out and away from the stem, I'll replace the soil I took out to make the hole and I'll water it gently until there's a little puddle all over the top. Then it gets a blanket of mulch - pine bark that smells of Marin and makes me smile and think of cool hikes on the Deer Park Fire Road on Mt. Tam.

There's a symmetry to the process that makes me happy. I plan, I test, I shop, I plant, I water. Each piece has its joys and its trying moments, but, as Daddoooo would say, "What did you expect?" With some care and attention the resilient ones will thrive and prosper. The volunteers will do well without any help at all (having chosen their spots for themselves), and the oleander will still sit there, smugly, seeking its revenge by not growing at all.

As President of the School Board, I was called upon to give a speech at the 8th grade graduation ceremony. My text was an only-slightly-modified set of instructions from a seed packet. It's a never-ending wonder to me that a tiny seed pod, a bare branched twig, a root that's as gnarly as it is dense.... that all these things turn into lillies and hyacinths and narcissus. You never know, but you hope. And with the proper preparation and love (remember the oleander) they turn out to be much more wonderful than you could ever have imagined.

That's a nice segue into my trip to Chicago. We've known the bride since she and the Big Cuter were look-alike cuties at The East Bank Club pool; they were the two most gorgeous infants there, her mother and I agreed. Somehow, enough years have passed that it's appropriate for her to marry...... though I would swear that we were just in the Astor Street Playlot's sandbox last week.

I'll be back with another post on Wednesday, September 9th. Happy Labor Day !

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