Her garden is one long, cool drink

Home & Garden


If September was indeed the driest in this region in more than a century, then Nancy Shoemaker's yard must be a mirage.

Her Edgewater lawn and gardens, lush and brimming with health and blossoms, are in fact an oasis, sitting as they do atop an elaborate irrigation and watering system.

But more than pipes and hoses have kept Shoemaker's gardens moist and happy while everybody else's are dusty and crispy.

"The sprinkler system really helps me, especially in managing my time," said Shoemaker, who doesn't believe you can water too much.

"But the best thing you can do against drought is improve your soil for water retention and drainage," said Shoemaker, who has a master's degree in horticulture from The Johns Hopkins University and who spends perhaps three hours a day in her gardens.

Shoemaker, married to Bob Shoemaker and mother to Patrick, a student at Bucknell, and Kate, a high school senior, had to start all over again after moving to South River Colony four years ago from the Annapolis community of Broadview, where her gardens were the talk of the neighborhood.

But all she had to work with was the sub-soil builders had tossed out while digging the foundation for the family's new home.

"I feel like I am just beginning to make a dent in what they left me."

While continually expanding her beds until they cover more than a third of her three-quarter-acre lot and incorporating a variety of new plants, Shoemaker worked with her soil, adding compost and other materials.

The strength of her soil and her emphasis on watering mean that Shoemaker's plants are not only happy, they are healthy. She doesn't like to spray, so she will put up with a bit of chewing by insects. But her gardens are remarkably free of damage and disease.

"The stronger the plants, the more naturally they can resist insects and disease," she said.

There is one more reason why Shoemaker's gardens look so lush in drought. Unlike many sophisticated gardeners, she does not consider annuals to be second-class citizens in the garden.

"Anyone can grow a beautiful spring garden," she said. "But August in this area is dead city unless you have annuals."

While many gardeners may have given up during this hot, dry fall, Shoemaker warns that gardening season is not over. In fact, next spring is just beginning.

"We all have to really water like crazy this fall," she warned. "It is the only thing that is going to get your garden through the winter."


Garden secrets shared

Add composted yard waste, Leafgro, a commercial organic compost and peat moss, for acid-loving plants, to improve water retention and drainage.

For plants that don't like organic material, add chicken grit, which also discourages voles from digging their way through her gardens.

Add gypsum to improve drainage in heavy clay soil.

Annuals add color to the garden in August's hot, dry weather.

Home & Garden




See an array of home products and services and garden items at the Maryland Fall Home & Garden Show. Maryland State Fairgrounds, 2200 York Road, Timonium. Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 16. Adults $8, seniors $7, children six through 12 are $2, children under six admitted free. 410-863-1180 or mdhomeandgarden.com.



The Potomac Chrysanthemum Society sponsors the show, which features a huge display of colorful chrysanthemums. Brookside Gardens, Visitors Center, 1800 Glenallan Ave., Wheaton. Hours: 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 16. 301-962-1400 or brooksidegardens.org.



See Monster Boxes and Pottery, an exhibit of wheel-thrown and hand-built monster boxes and pottery by husband-and-wife-team Rich and Cat Holt. Exhibit runs through Oct. 31 at ARTFX, 45 West St., Annapolis. Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; 1 p.m.-6 p.m. Sundays. 410-990-4540 or artfxgallery.org.

Send notices of garden and home decor events to harry.merritt@baltsun.com.

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