Tag Archives: spring

Looking Forward: Spring in My Garden


These past couple of weeks I’ve been in a bit of a funk.  I’m not sure what triggered it, and I can’t really put my finger on what, exactly, I’m feeling.  I just feel a bit blue.  Perhaps the recent bout of constant rain and gray weather is what got me down.  But thankfully, today it’s glorious outside and I found myself motivated to work in my newly planted vegetable garden.

I’ve been planting vegetables the last several years since moving to the South, first in my previous home which had a large lot, and the last couple of years in my new home in a more urban neighborhood with a smaller yard.  Each year I learn something new about the process and about myself in the hopes that my garden will improve and yield a better crop than the year before.  It’s a “two steps forward, one step back,” sort of process.  Dealing with nature means being ready for the unexpected.  Haha, an oxymoron for sure.  What I mean is, I need to learn to roll with things as they come and be better at living in the moment and problem solving as things present themselves.

Last summer, was the year of the stink bug infestation.  Previous years I did battle with the evil vine borer.  This year, well, I’ve tried to prepare the beds with food and nutrients, along with some, shall we say, unsavory additives to ward off another invasion.  But who knows what’s lurking beneath the soil, in the trees, or what those cute but pesky little bunnies hopping in the neighborhood bring with them as they sneak in for a nibble.  I guess it’s a sign of my true optimism that every year I try again, not knowing what will happen, but believing that I’ll grow right along with my garden.  And most years I do have some victories.  Last year in spite of those stink bugs, I did have five beautiful pumpkins.  In fact, I still have some of the cooked insides waiting in the freezer to be turned into scones, pies, bread and jam.  I also had a bumper crop of heirloom cherry tomatoes, and still have a few sweet potatoes left in the basement.  So, there are rewards to be sure.


One important lesson I learned last year is that my tendency toward going big doesn’t always work.  Of course, this isn’t news to me, but the overflowing beds really illustrated the problem.  After planting zucchini, pumpkins, cucumbers and spaghetti squash all in the same 4×4 raised bed, it was easy to see I hadn’t planned well for their growth. Before long, they were all tangled in each other and as the summer progressed, they spilled out onto the surrounding lawn, some of the plants rooting themselves into the grass.  The morning dew made for some soggy vegetables and some rot on the vines.  So, while early in the season I was sure there’d be enough room, I learned that when it comes to planting vegetables, less is definitely more.  This season, I’ve exercised some restraint and kept the beds sparser, allowing room for growth.  I also plan to experiment with trellises and vertical gardening for the squash and cucumbers.  And I’m taking a break from the pumpkins.  Too heartbreaking if they don’t make it.  See?  I’m managing expectations!

As the season progresses, I’m excited to observe how my newly learned lessons help the process.  I’m hopeful, as always, for a better year than last.  I’m also certain to face challenges.  And I just know I’ll learn something new.  Can’t wait!

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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To Trim, or Not to Trim

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My friend Marina sent me a note today, and I asked her if I might share it with you.  She said, “Regular therapy and gardening therapy are about the same price range.  They both create a special type of beauty in seeing and feeling and being at one with one’s life.”  This was nice, and I agree that it is therapeutic.  For me, trimming and pulling weeds do it, and they are both free.  Now I don’t propose a replacement for regular therapy, but for a supplement, absolutely.

“When can I cut back my hydrangea? Is it o.k. to trim my crape myrtle now? “I often get asked about this around this time of year, April. I’m glad to answer these perennial questions. (pun intended) I thought you might like to hear some rules about trimming that might inspire a venture into your outdoor therapy:

1. If it blooms in the early spring, do not cut it now. Wait until just after it finishes the blooming cycle unless you are willing to sacrifice blooms this year. Examples would be Oakleaf and Hydrangea macrophylla (the old-fashioned blue or pink ones), lilac, azalea, and rhododendron. Even if you think stems are dead on your hydrangea, wait, I tell you. I have removed what I thought was dead only to realize I cut the bloom stock off by mistake.

Hydrangea paniculata varieties like Annabelle and Limelight bloom on new growth. Trim those in late winter, before new growth appears. February in Middle Tennessee works well. The paniculata grow stronger when trimmed back from 4” to 12” above the ground. Leave the sturdier stems up to 18-24” long on the Tardiva hydrangea.  You may also allow it to be taller and tree form shaped.
2. “Can I cut my crape myrtle now?” Yes, even though the leaves have begun appearing, is not a terrible thing, if you must. They won’t die however, we have a term for the look of wholesale trunk decapitation: Crape Murder. You see these all over the place, flatly cut off. Yuck. The plants are prolific foliage producers and burst back out at these points, but I don’t like it. I prefer to leave the branching alone. Simply thin out the smaller trunks, and remove spindly branches from the heads in favor of larger ones. In this way, that elegant line leading your eye from the ground to the tip end, uninterrupted. Artistry in nature.
3. When can I trim my boxwoods? Preferably, late winter but if it has gotten past and you must, trim them anytime before August 1. The reasoning is that new growth will have time to get tough before the freezes of winter come. This is also true about holly, and most hedge type plants. Freeze damage looks yellow, dry and dead, and nobody wants to see that.
4. “What do I need to do about my azaleas and rhododendron to make them bloom better?” Fertilize them three times, May 1, June 1 and July 1. I know, it’s not about trimming, but it is a frequent question. There are other plants that use those dates in a different way: Chrysanthemums. If you have these late summer beauties in the landscape and want them to bloom prolifically in the fall, cut 1/3 of the plant off each time at those same calendar intervals and you will have a bounty of blossoms. Don’t forget to fertilize. I like organic everything so bone meal, worm castings, or both if you are serious. All of my blooming shrubs and perennials do well with these.

This spring I’ve taken hundreds of photographs for possible paintings later. The bright colors of blooms and light green foliage on the trees is irresistible. The photo above shows a Flame Azalea, which is a rhododendron, and also a native. I am partial to orange, a fun, and social color.

About Renee Bates

Renee is an artist focused on growing a newfound ability to express herself through oil painting, recently leaving her role as executive director of the non-profit, Greenways for Nashville. Renee is inspired by nature and enjoys hiking, birding, and the garden. She contributes to HerSavvy, a blog featuring writings from a group of well-informed women wishing to share their support and experience with others. Married to David Bates of Bates Nursery and Garden Center, enjoying flora and fauna is a family affair.

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