WEEK 8 (10-19-2009) Graf#10 Research- what it means
Research means to look for answers or solutions to questions or problems you have or think you may encounter.
When I purchased my home about fifteen years ago, I was looking forward to gardening there. Actually, my husband told the realtor, that I was really looking for a place to finally be able to have my own garden in, and if the lot had a habitable house on the property we would live there too.
I had lived all over the country in the previous twenty-five years. What I did know, was that I loved to garden. I had miniature gardens in terrariums on coffee tables, potted plants in every windowsill, porches with window boxes, whiskey barrels filled with plants along the driveway, and in ground gardens in the backyard. I toiled in Florida’s sand dunes, Arkansas “Black Gold”, southern “gumbo” in Georgia, New England’s rocky soil, Maine’s clay soil, and Arizona’s desert just to name a few locations.
What I thought I could do, was to order my favorite plants from reputable catalog companies and seed companies and have them delivered to my address anywhere and Viola, my plants should do well. I was wrong. What I learned was not all plants are created equally and one size does not fit all. My beloved scented geraniums that flourished in New England succumbed under the hot Arizona sun. Excessive watering was to no avail. My asparagus and peas needed a long, cool, spring climate , not typical in Georgia, to winter over for a bumper crop the following year.
What I did learn while in Arizona, was that I fell in love with the Prickly Pear cactus and its beautiful yellow blossoms and that it provided a habitat to the Cactus Wren. In Florida, I learned first hand that the soil was too sandy for petunias but supported tall, ornamental grasses and chameleons. My failures in some ways were my successes in others.
What I learned from all this was to ask questions. Lots of questions. Questions to the questions. What kind of plants did I want and why? I broke those questions down further. Did I want: annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees, etc?
What did I want from each of those in particular: their scent, color, length of blooming time, easy to grow qualities, attracts bees, provides berries of fruit to feed the birds in the Winter months, easy to propagate, etc. What was the cost of the initial investment?
Then, I needed to do some research. What requirements did each plant have: watering needs, length of direct exposure to sunlight, susceptibility to disease, soil requirements, etc. My quest began at the local library. It “blossomed” to include contacting the local cooperative extension agencies and colleges with agricultural interests. I sought out individuals at the local state fairs who won ribbons for their floral and garden entries.
I subscribed to gardening magazines and watched gardening shows on television. I went to the WGBH “Victory Garden” location to see first hand what their gardens looked like too. I attended nursery and landscaping workshops during the year. I took a class at the University and received my Master Gardening Certification. I used the Internet to glean information from places too far to travel to. I took virtual tours of arboretums and botanical gardens. I did so much more too. Each time, I either confirmed what I already knew or learned something I had no idea existed. It was exciting.
Now, when it came time to plant my garden in my backyard, I had a lot of information at my disposal. I did a soil test, checked for light exposures (or lack of), verified my planting zone, added outside faucets, put in stone walls for rock gardens, added a pond to attract wildlife, birds, and bees to pollinate my plants, purchased a wheel barrow, constructed a compost pile, etc.
I did a blueprint on a grid of my backyard. Each year as finances and time allowed, I added the plants from the list on my drawing. I had a plan. When I selected my plants from the various catalogs, I knew exactly where each plant would be placed. The taller plants went to the back along the property line, medium height plants in front of them, and the ground covers in front of those. I planned a color scheme and staggered early blooming varieties with late bloomers to ensure a long, colorful blooming season. It just took some planning.
My research produced very good results. Year after year my plants have thrived and provided me ( and the neighbors and wildlife) with something beautiful to look forward to. With a little time, research, preparation and planning, I discovered there are fewer disappointments, many rewards, and you do not always get the answers you want or would expect.