Summer is definitely done here in the northern Midwest. Not just the season as marked by a date on the calendar, but also by the shifting temperatures and the changes in plant life. Patchy frost, stress from the drought, and high winds have combined to send many perennials into dormancy and some annuals to rest for good.
But this post is about "Lessons Learned" by gardeners in all locales. So let's celebrate this past growing season and reflect on what we've learned. (Note: The photos aren't intended to match the text.)
1. Karin at Southern Meadows shares how adding rocks of various sizes to her bird bath provides a perching spot for pollinators, and prevents their accidental drowning. She also shares lessons about Eggplant pollination that she plans to put into practice next year. In addition, she also learned that toad tadpoles that hatch in springtime take months to mature. Check out the cute little toad photo on her blog.
2. Sheila at Green Place has 15 Crepe Myrtles on her new property! She also has Hibiscus plants, which she says are excellent in pots. But beware, she warns: Squirrels apparently find Hibiscus leaves and buds a tasty treat! Sheila is feeling grateful for the plentiful rain North Carolina had this summer, while much of the rest of the country struggled with drought conditions.
3. Jen of Muddy Boot Dreams has learned to live with a brown lawn, as a water-wise gardener during a drought. She admits sometimes inexpensive sources for garden supplies are the best ones. A dollar-store Dahlia she purchased for $2, for example, outperformed her other Dahlias this summer. Jen is thinking she's not a "Rose whisperer"--at least not this growing season. But she has had luck with Marigold seeds, and plans to plant them, along with other seeds, next spring.
4. For Holley at Roses & Other Gardening Joys, many of her lessons came from planting raised garden beds. Sometimes, she says, the best way to do something in the garden (for example, installing edging) is the right way--because it truly is the easiest way. Holley planted Roses, companion plants, shrubs, and even a fig around the perimeter of her raised bed, and it looks pretty impressive!
5. Karen, The Hortiholic, effectively describes the pure joy of a good soaking rain after a long stretch of drought. "You can water and water until the nozzle of your hose seems like it has become a permanent part of your hand, but there's nothing like a really good rain to revive your garden," she says. I second that! Just the smell of rain lately, followed by thunderstorms or dripping showers, is a similar high for me.
6. Donna at Gardens Eye View went all out with the veggies this year--wow! She learned about pollinator friends, planting in the right place under the right conditions, and reusing grow bags for a late-season harvest. Experiments can be fun, she says. But heat without rain is not. She used plenty of fresh organic soil, Epsom salts, and fertilizer--yet she still had to water the vegetable garden every day to keep it going. Donna's words of garden wisdom: "You can plan for anything and everything, and it still won't be enough."
7. Michelle of The Sage Butterfly sings the praises of Yarrow, which she learned firsthand thrives "with the fluctuations of weather and conditions as if they were only something happening outside of its needs." When her Tomatoes were suffering from a fungal disease, treatment with sulphur powder brought them back in full force. And Michelle also shares some incredible shots of black swallowtail larvae and butterflies in her post.
8. Rose at Prairie Rose's Garden had to put heavy garden lifting on hold during the height of the summer like many of us did, because of record heat and drought. She learned to: Recognize her limitations; mulch early and plentifully; add more heat-loving, drought-tolerant plants; enjoy the Zinnias, Coleus, and volunteers; and remember that nothing lasts forever--even drought. She also recognizes that as tiresome and frustrating as the lack of rainfall was for gardeners, it didn't compare to the effects on farmers "whose livelihoods depend on a good growing season."
9. Claudia of Gardening Naturally With Claudia offers tips on planting trees and native shrubs, and how to renovate a lawn--helpful advice to many of us whose lawns suffered terribly this hot, dry summer.
Thanks to everyone who participated in this Lessons Learned meme! These little tidbits of knowledge we share with each other are priceless, and help us all to become better gardeners. Please let me know if I missed your Lessons Learned link and I'll add it in.
(All photos included with this post were captured in New Orleans--in the Garden District, the botanical garden, and in various neighborhoods. The diversity of the plant life seemed like a fitting backdrop for a post about Lessons Learned from around the world.)