Thursday, February 9, 2012

"Go into your own familiar yard ... "

"Go into your own familiar yard.  It may be a beautiful garden.  It may be only a weedy lawn with a few half-dead shrubs.  No matter -- if you throw back your shoulders and look up into the sky, you will see what else is yours."    -- Evelyn Corley Buzbee*

Myth:  Most people I meet assume I have a beautiful garden.

Fact:  Though my garden is not quite '... a weedy lawn with a few half-dead shrubs' -- it is the one in our family that everyone has a good time with, saying things to me like "Here -- try this.  Even you can grow this!"

And you know what?  I laugh with them!  I don't even begin to compare my garden and backyard world to theirs or anyone's, because I so love being in my own backyard world -- it is the place I am happily without my phone or e-mail.  It is the place I am always filled with wonder and joy.

True -- there are chores and things that need tending to in my 'own familiar yard'.  Yet my own backyard world is the one place I truly honor 'pause'.  What a lovely concept -- 'pause'.  (Yes, I do notice all the 'paws' that are printed in various places of feasting, and often 'pause' to do the necessary detective work.)

Still, no matter the chore, if a bird is singing, I stop what I am doing, and scan the trees to find it.  If I don't know the type of bird, I will grab at least one bird book from my collection, and identify my visitor -- taking a few more minutes to read about why that bird might be visiting this time of year, or what that song might mean (usually he's trying to impress a potential mate).

As expected, the chores and weeds do wait for me.

I can remember many times popping in to visit my grandmother, who was often in her garden.  No matter what she was doing, she would stop her work, and invite me to sit on the porch or in her garden so we could have a visit.  I now do the same, should a friend or neighbor stop by while I am in my garden.  Our conversations that begin in the garden are always delightful, always informative, always Rife with Life.  And it never fails, something will always call our attention skyward -- a bird, a puffy cloud, the silhouette of the pine trees at dusk.  I do so love going into my own familiar yard.

*Evelyn Corley Buzbee was my maternal grandmother and a national judge of hostas and daylilies.  After she passed away, we found her notes from speeches she had made all across America as she toured the country judging plants and flowers.  It is my great pleasure to live with her quotes every single day, and to be able to share them through this blog and in the Perpetual Gardening Record Book and Gardening Note Cards, available at

Friday, February 3, 2012

"How much rain did you get?"

If you're growing vegetables, you're going to be asked this question -- regularly.  And no, the answer is not, "Tons!  I've got puddles everywhere!"

Seems like a lifetime ago that I never even thought about how much rain I had gotten.  This was before I had a garden.  Now, I can't imagine a life where 'rainfall' is not a permanent topic of conversation.  

The post office in our little town is the main gathering place, and we always talk about the weather (among other things ;)).  If there is a 'big' rain, it is a 'big' deal around here.  Not only do we discuss it at the post office, but we're just as likely to talk about it again at the grocery store.  My phone actually rings with calls from friends and neighbors to see how much rain I got -- which can vary greatly from one part of town to the other!

In early spring during the first year I was growing a vegetable garden, my cousin called to see how much rain I had gotten.  I said, "Tons!  I've got puddles everywhere!"  This was hilarious to her, as she has been gardening and farming all her life.  It was in that conversation that my dear cousin Carolyn told me I needed to get a rain gauge. 

People, I am here to tell you that the rain gauge is a game-changer for your garden.  Ohmy.  That first year I had a rain gauge, I was so excited to see how much rain I had gotten that I would actually run outside, while it was still pouring, just to see how it was coming along.  I gave them as gifts to everyone I knew who didn't already have one of these fine instruments, just for the fun of being able to call them and ask how much rain they had gotten -- such an easy way to share joy!

Yet it wasn't until I started writing down when it rained and how much it rained that I saw the true value of the rain gauge.  Here is the game-changing part:  most vegetables require 1" of water per week, but how do you know if you've had 1" of rain if you don't measure it and write it down?  In other words, how do you know if you need to water? 

Before I started recording rainfall, I was letting my plants tell me when they needed water.  Sadly, they were already in distress by the time they spoke up -- which is not good if you want a lush, healthy garden.  Within 3 weeks of recording rainfall (and watering accordingly), my garden was as beautiful as any I had seen.  I was delighted, and so was my garden :)

 Below is a haiku I wrote, which expresses my true sentiments about the wonderful rain gauge:

Latest measurement ---
oh the joy for man and bean!
bounty overflows.
                                                                 - Lauren Graves

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Simplicity is success ...

"Simplicity is success."
                                                                                           -- Evelyn Corley Buzbee

It wasn't until after my grandmother, Evelyn Corley Buzbee, passed away that we found her gardening notes.  They were from speeches about gardening she had made all across America as she toured the country judging daylilies and hostas.  

Though this was many years ago,  I believe the messages in her notes are especially pertinent today.  I often hear from people that they do not know which way to turn with all the information available to them about gardening -- it seems almost overwhelming, especially to beginning gardeners.  To these people, my sugggestion is to keep it simple, because simplicity really is success.  And the best way to keep it simple is to start your garden with methods, ideas and plants that are compatible with you.

For instance, if you're planning to grow vegetables for the first time, start with the ones that you love.  This is a wonderful starting place, and such a simple concept.  Yet, it is this concept that will carry you through your very first season of growing and the challenges you will face.  And you will face challenges, no matter how simple you keep things -- that's the nature of nature.  There truly is so much to learn, yet you'll be greeting that learning curve from the perspective of growing things you love.  So simple, yet so far-reaching.

Simplicity is success -- thank you, Grandmother :)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Keep records about the garden? Is that a joke?

I'll never forget the first time someone told me I needed to keep basic records of things I was doing in my garden -- was this a joke?  I thought, 'How hard can it be?  Plant a seed, water it, eat it.  Keep records?  I think I'll skip that part and get right to the growing my own food part.

True to form, I had never tried growing anything, yet my plan was to grow all my own vegetables.  And that first person who told me to keep basic records?  It was my step-father, who had been gardening and farming for more than 50 years.  Oh, how much I've learned since that first year ...

Though I did get some food that first year, it was a constant struggle.  I could not understand how other people's gardens looked so lush and beautiful, and mine seemed to be having a near-death experience on a daily basis.  Still, when spring rolled around the next year, I caught the fever and decided that this year would be better, and to try again.  So I called my mother to see if it was time to plant yet.

My step-father answered the phone.  Laughing at my obviously ridiculous question, he said "Look at your notes from last year!"

Shamed into it, I decided to at least give it a try and write down the basics -- when it rained and how much, what I planted and when, and how it all fared.  Within a few weeks, I could not believe the treasure-trove of information I was building -- I marveled.  Still, I was constantly wondering about things from the year before -- did we get this much rain last year?  Which variety of tomato was it that did so well?  Which one didn't?  That's when I realized the value of building on it year after year. 

Years later now, as every season passes and I take a few minutes here and there to jot something down, the wealth of information expands -- my record book truly has become one of my most precious possessions.

Today as I am drooling over seed catalogs, my record book is right next to me so I can quickly see which varieties worked well in the past.  I'm also recording the extraordinarily warm weather we are having this winter, and what that is doing to my backyard world. For instance, last year I didn't see the first daffodil bloom until February 18, but this year, the buds are ready to pop right now.  You better believe I am looking for that bloom every day, just so I can note it in my record book.  And the bullfrogs are already singing down by the pond -- which I recorded in my book, simply because it was such a shock to my system to hear them in January.

The more time you spend in your garden and backyard world, the more you notice.  The more you notice, the more you record.  The more you record, the more you marvel.

What once seemed like a joke to me is now one of my greatest pleasures.  Whether you purchase the Perpetual Gardening Record Book ( or make your own, I would encourage you to really get engaged in your garden and backyard world by keeping notes and records of the basics -- as well as the anomalies.  Before you know it, you will be marveling at all that goes on in your own backyard world.