Ashes ashes all fall down


Last year I had a 40′ row of sunflowers at the north end of the garden, but OUTSIDE the raised beds. We got lots of rain and wind one day and they all bit it. It seems if you have a pancake-shaped root system, and you’re tall, you’re doomed in this clay, as the clay when wet lets go of you.

This is the damage from yesterday. Amaranth and sunflowers. Same root system. I thought they would be safe inside the beds…sigh. Though now I am wondering if I should bother with them at all next year. These can be rescued, though now I am wondering if I should yank them out and use that real estate for the fall broccoli.

So I (re)read this last night.
“The garden is an unhappy place for the perfectionist. Too much stands beyond our control here, and the only thing we can absolutely count on is eventual catastrophe. Success in the garden is the moment in time, that week in June when the perennials unanimously bloom and the border jells, or those clarion days in September when the reds riot in the tomato patch–just before the black frost hits. It’s easy to get discouraged, unless, like a green thumb, you are happier to garden in time than in space; unless, that is, your heart is in the verb. For the garden is never done–the weeds you pull today will return tomorrow, a new generation of aphids will step forward to avenge the ones you’ve slain, and everything you plant–everything–sooner or later will die. Among the many, many things the green thumb knows is the consolation of the compost pile, where nature, ever obliging, redeems this season’s deaths and disasters in the fresh promise of spring.”
Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education, by Michael Pollan (New York: Grove Press, 1991)

5 responses to “Ashes ashes all fall down

  1. A wise man in so many ways, Michael Pollan. A comforting quote.

  2. Just found your blog and have enjoyed your candor and humor immensely.

    Since I just found you I went from the most recent month back to start at the beginning so not having read the intervening months, maybe you didn’t give up on the sunflowers. I hope not. I tried for three years and each year the same thing happened to me. Shoring them up never really worked.

    Then I read that you must space them at least three feet apart. Seems when they are waving about in high winds or become unstable due to very wet ground a sort of domino effect occurs and the weight of themselves on each other is what causes the trouble. If they are standing alone without the next one weighing on them they have a better chance of making it.

    Don’t know if it’s so but I intend to try it this year. I’ve always wanted a field of sunflowers…

  3. Hi Kellie! I am glad you like the blog.

    You know, I didn’t (intentionally) grow sunflowers this year. We always seem to have a big rain in August, when the things are all nice and pretty and tall, and, because of our clay soil, the things just seem to always fall down. Dang.

    I agree they are quite beautiful, though. I have eaten ours, too; they’re good!

    Thanks for the tip of spacing them three feet apart. The first year, I actually placed concrete blocks on their roots to try to keep them from toppling over…it still didn’t work! And that wasn’t too pretty! Maybe this year I will figure out something else for them.

  4. The first year I dried and roasted the seeds and you were right, they were good. Every year after that I watched the little yellow finches and now I plant them for my eyes and the little finches bellies. When the heads are so heavy that the back of the sunflower becomes the top, it’s fun to watch the little birds light then grip the edge and hang upside down to pull a seed out. They right themselves to crack it open and eat it on the top of the seed head. When I do finally pull them down, the tops are covered with shells.

    I sympathize with your clay soil, it’s what we have but after ten years of adding leaves and all the grass clippings from several acres, my garden soil and flower beds are the most beautiful dirt you’d ever want to see. I wouldn’t have believed it since you could make dolls out of the “dirt” around here but with time, it does happen. I’ve always felt like it is a worthwhile investment though and then when I’m fixing dinner in January and most of the ingredients are from the garden, it seems like a validation. Would you believe tonight we ate the last one of our tomatoes that I pulled up before the first frost? Didn’t taste nearly as good as vine ripened but it still beats store bought and I know exactly what went in it and on it.

    Got a big thrill tonight when I found out my hens are laying again. I only have three who share quarters with seven ducks. As much as you sound like you enjoy your hens I bet you’d really enjoy silkies. They look like something in a Dr. Seuss book. They don’t have hard feathers like most hens, their feathers are fluffy. They have blue skin and more toes than most hens. They are small and their eggs are small so they aren’t very utilitarian but I’ve always been of the mind that it can’t all always be about utility…there is the happiness factor and some things, like silkies go in that category.

  5. P.S. (ok, so I hit the submit button too soon)

    El said “The first year, I actually placed concrete blocks on their roots to try to keep them from toppling over…it still didn’t work! And that wasn’t too pretty!”

    That sound you hear is me chuckling…I don’t suppose it was very attractive but sounds like something I’d try. My husband has stood back shaking his head more than once but I say Hey, whatever works…no matter what it looks like. I don’t know about you but I’ve never had anybody from Better Homes and Gardens come knocking on the door after admiring my pristine gardens. I prefer the haphazard happy accidents, surprises and the coloring outside of the lines that is sometimes required or called for. Besides, I’d rather people smile because my garden or flowers makes them feel happy or they are amused by gardening efforts that call for unorthodox methods or using concrete blocks for reinforcement than because every thing is in perfect rows and pristine.

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