The May Gardening Frenzy

Garden nursery tray stuffed with native plants
My nursery tray of native plants from Prairie Moon Nursery

Never having been much of a gardener before, I did not realize how exhausting this would be.

May came like a shotgun start. The conditions which were always too wet, too cold, or too windy, were suddenly almost too late. I had hundreds of plants, flowers, and seeds, all of which needed to be planted. Simultaneously.

trunk filled with annual nursery plants
My haul of flowers from the local garden supply

I had bare-root gray dogwood from the State Forest Nursery. I had twelve species of native flowers from the native garden supplier in Minnesota, including Common Milkweed, Golden Alexander, Blazing Star, Jacob’s Ladder, Prairie Smoke, Cardinal Flower, Wild Bergamot, Purple Coneflower, Showy Goldenrod, Blue Sage, and Smooth Blue Aster. I had seed packets of Dutchman’s Breeches, Native Sunflower, Sweet Black-Eyed Susan, and Purple Prairie Clover. I had more than a dozen herbs languishing on shelves in my living room. I had a half-dozen trays of my usual annuals awaiting their patio pots, and a variety of tomato plants sentenced to their customary death-row-treatment in my garden tubs. I had benevolent neighbors gift me with such prizes as Jack-in-the-Pulpit and Ohio Spiderwort. And all of it needed to be in the ground yesterday.

And did I mention I didn’t yet have a bed prepared for all these botanical delights? The garden plan which I came up with over the winter didn’t include one crucial part: measurements. I had no idea exactly where to put these things. And since my spring pollinator pack and my fall power pack arrived before the plants that anchored the plan, I had no idea where to start.

hand-scribbled garden plan in pencil and marker
My Genius Garden Plan

I did, however, have an abundance of weeds on the slope where the perennials were supposed to grow, and a clutter of pots filled with spiders and dead leaves.

weed-filled-yard
The dandelion-clover-violet-choked lawn where I will begin my Great Native Plant Experiment aka Operation Oak Savannah Meadow Restoration

I went to work. Every day after the moneyjob, I put in another two to four hours on the lawn. On weekends I went out rain or shine: digging, weeding, raking, mulching, and planting, until my wrists were so sore and swollen I had to wear carpal tunnel braces. Every morning, I woke so sore could barely lift myself from the bed, and at night I had to wash down ibuprofen with tart cherry juice and wine.

And now, here we are, three-plus weeks into May. The lion’s share of the work is done, and there is nothing left but endless weeding and tending. Oh, and another entire pile of mulch to distribute because I ran out.

pile of mulch on a curb
My big-ass pile of free mulch, courtesy the city and the Derecho of 2020

There’s so much to learn and do, but so far things seem to be turning out okay.

Jack in the pulpit
The newly relocated Jack-in the-pulpit

The Jack-in-the-Pulpit seemed pretty happy in the shade of the hackberry, however the lesson I learned was not to put things in the dog traffic pattern. The dogs have already clipped a few of them.

Native plant seedlings on a hill
Phase One of Operation Oak Savanna Meadow
Herbs in tubs
Herbs and tomatoes which my son helpfully decorated with the pooper scooper.. Fresh herbs anyone?
Vertical herb garden
My vertical herb garden, also annuals
Shade garden
mulch and plantings with edging
Phase One of Operation Oak Savannah Meadow, post-removal of the raspberries.

Yes, I know I have a lot of weeds. And depending on your perspective, you may be thinking of the Canadian Goldenrod and Daisy Fleabane, or you might be thinking of the hostas and kentucky bluegrass. I think we can all agree on the dandelions, just not what to do with them. Much more on this subject to come.

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