The Buzz

The times they are a changin…


Throughout the spring and summer most of the garden work is done in earnest. In the spring, just as the plants around us burst forth with a vibrant energy, so to do gardeners emerge from their winter hibernation, prepared to soak in the sun. Longer days and warmer temperatures come with an ever-growing list of weeds to be pulled and plants to be groomed. Well, now autumn is upon us, the days are growing shorter, temperatures are getting cooler, and it is time for some of us to slow down a bit. No longer will we be slaves to pernicious weeds, no longer will the garden be in constant need of a haircut. 

These last couple of weeks here at Memphis Botanic Garden, I have spent shifting from growing season work to dormant season work. Most of my activities have involved “putting the garden to bed,” so to speak. For me, putting the garden to bed includes such activities as removing the last of the warm season weeds, cutting back any senesced annuals and perennials, leaf removal, planting, and putting down a nice layer of mulch.

At home, all of my weeds, senesced foliage, and leaves end up in my compost pile, in order to “cook” into soil. In the Nature Photography garden all of my weeds, senesced foliage, and leaves go into a large brush pile on the Southwest end of the garden, around a large willow oak. The purpose of  that particular brush pile is to attract wild creatures, starting with insects and working up the food chain to mice, snakes, and hawks. The brush pile itself has been as tall as 6’, but the action of decomposition regularly shortens the pile to 3-4’.

The type of mulch used depends on the plant material, but in general we’ve switched from hardwood mulch to pine mulch (chunks, not needles). When the mulch decomposes, it seems that the pine mulch makes a nicer soil than the hardwood mulch.

We can also use the pine mulch as a soil amendment when we are making a custom soil mix. This is the time of year to be planting. We have been clearing the greenhouses and nursery by tucking perennials into places that need detailing. For those who plant annuals, everyone knows that the big-box stores consider this to be the time of the pansy, but this is also a great time to put out leafy greens, such as ornamental cabbages and kales.  Here at the Garden, edible landscapes are the theme for our annual display this/next year.

We have also been doing our best to catch up to our ambitious goal of planting 5 trees a week. Typically, we might go a whole month or three without planting a single tree, but then we’ll have a week like last week when we planted 18 Camellia sasanqua and 10 Nyssa sylvatica in a day or two, as well as sowing new seed and up-potting numerous tree seedlings, easily making up for a month or two of not planting trees.

At the beginning of writing this, I set out to talk about gardeners going dormant with their gardens. I ended up making a work list for myself. I gotta go get busy. Y’all stop by and help if you’re not too busy putting your own gardens to bed.

By Chris O'Bryan, Arborist at MBG

Posted by chris o'bryan at 6:30 AM


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