Wynn Noland is a little lady with a big job. She is a volunteer gardener who has made several buildings and the extensive grounds around Mary Help of Christians Center colorful and beautiful. She goes to 6:45 a.m. Mass every weekday and then works on the grounds for several hours. She's been doing this for eight years.
The many of us who also work on church gardens know there are unique problems. Wynn recently was rearranging the curbing stones around the gym garden so people won't run over the edges. She had no budget so she purchased the plants with her own money. Sometimes she has some help. Sometimes help is a hindrance. Too many people think a garden is a good place to throw their trash.
This dynamic Vietnamese lady was raising cattle and vegetables before she took on landscaping. She is still learning by trial and error, or so she says. Few weeds and no errors are noticeable. She figures the plants are like us: They need food and water and love, and she gives them plenty of each.
Wynn fertilizes with 6-6-6, and the roses get the new food made especially for Knockout roses, available at The Home Depot.
There are sprinklers on the property, but they don't always get enough water to the right plants. She waters all her gardens by hose at least once a week during the dry months, sometimes standing for hours to revive the wilted ones and water them all deeply.
God helps, thank goodness.
Most of Wynn's gardens are in full sun and surround the several buildings and the driveway. She starts at the gate; just walking around all these places would be a day's exercise for most people, without any digging or bending.
The lilies from Easter altar decorations in years past were blooming in late May. Knockout roses were colorful along the driveway. Yellow alder or yellow buttercups reflected the sun from many shrubs. Bright pink hibiscus and a paler pink Indian hawthorn bloom beside the statue of the Good Shepherd. Tall marigolds, red crotons and white periwinkle give long color in front of the gym, and a crape myrtle is blooming there by now, as well.
Wynn also has a half-acre garden at home. If you don't have one of your own, contact your local church or school. I'm sure they'd be glad to have some help.
v vToday's pick is the marigold. Wynn has tall ones in several gardens full of yellow flowers. I had them in Iowa but haven't done well with them here. She finds them easy and pulled off a handful of seeds. Marigolds like full sun and most are low and sprawling, great for ground cover. They are almost like small shrubs. All can be started from seeds almost any time of the year. Read the seed packet to be sure which height you can expect. You can find the low ones as bedding plants.
v vNow's the time to be sure to empty any standing water within a few days of their filling so mosquito larvae will not have time to hatch. I keep goldfish in my rain barrels to eat the larvae, and the frogs have added a few thousand tadpoles that also keep the water cleaner. If you have neither of these, you can put in mosquito dunks, solid donuts of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) which last up to 30 days; or the newer Mosquito Bits that work quickly, but need to be replaced every 7 to 14 days. I keep a large container of the bits on my work bench. Sometimes mosquitoes even hatch in wet potting soil, in which case it also gets a sprinkling of bits.
Monica Brandies is an experienced gardener, author and freelance writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her website is www.gardensflorida.com.