During autumn in Idaho, the days are still warm but mornings and evenings call for sweatshirts. An eighty-degree autumn day doesn’t have the sharp edges of an eighty-degree summer day.
First frost can be as early as August. Rising early requires a light, because the sun is grabbing an extra forty. Continue reading →
On a day in May 2006, it was so unseasonably hot at the Idaho Botanical Garden (IBG) in Boise that canopies were erected to provide shade for attendees at the grand opening of the Lewis and Clark Native Plant Garden.
I was there that day, a local botanist and avid native plant gardener who had served on an advisory committee for the new garden. At the time, I didn’t know that the following spring I would join the IBG horticultural team as the person responsible for making the native plant garden grow. Continue reading →
After a long, cold Idaho winter, I like to dig in the dirt. The fresh air and exercise feel good. However, when I first started gardening, I quickly realized that I was lazy.
The good thing about this is that it inspired me to devise easier ways to grow plants. At first I raised a few flowers, but my husband groused, “We can’t eat flowers.”
Too lazy to even think about a half-acre vegetable garden, I considered planting vegetables among the flowers. Then I had a better idea: turn that little corner of the back lawn that gobbled up water but nobody uses into a vegetable garden.
Being lazy, I hoodwinked neighborhood kids into helping remove the sod. We filled in where the sod had been with topsoil and well-rotted manure. After my husband tilled them in, our Idaho bench soil was still too heavy with clay, so he added sawdust. Had the soil been boggy, he would have added sand, but we knew that clay plus sand equals concrete.
Our tiller gave off nasty fumes, was hard to start, required costly maintenance, left furrows that required lots of raking, and my husband never seemed to find time to ply the heavy beast. After several springs of waiting on the tilling before I could plant, I heard a professional gardener say that although tilling breaks up the top few inches of soil evenly and finely, its vibrations pound the deeper soil into a hardpan that resists root formation and impedes water absorption. Inspired—and tired of waiting—I got out my shovel and found spading less onerous than nagging. And the shovel did dig much deeper than tilling—as deeply as my foot could push it into the ground. Continue reading →
On a June day in 1982, I came home from my maternal grandmother’s funeral to find a scraggly little American Redbud tree blooming in my front yard for the first time since I’d planted it there several years earlier. The tree had been a gift from Grandma, who’d heard me say I’d like to have such a tree, and had gone out and bought it for me. It had never flourished and I’d given up on it and decided to let it die that summer. It did just that, but first it bloomed, paying tribute, I have always believed, to the memory of a remarkable woman. Continue reading →