Know Thyself

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

On our recent trip out to the east coast to visit my folks, my parents gave me a book called The Gin-and-Tonic Gardener: Confessions of a Reformed Compulsive Gardener by Janice Wells. Do they not know me? How could they have missed the fact that going out to the garden to work is one of the things that provides me with relief and keeps me sane? But perhaps I missed the point? Maybe my parents were hinting that not everyone feels the same about their work in the garden and they are trying to save my customers and clients from my rather extreme view on weeding (LOVE it!)?

Don’t Be Afraid of Me

Okay, I’m (probably) not that bad. I understand that there’s more people out there who view gardening as something to be avoided at all costs then there are those of us who have to watch others eyes glaze over as we explain how to care for a shrub (hey, if you don’t want to listen, then don’t make the mistake of claiming, within my hearing, that you can’t keep a plant alive). So I keep the lecturing down to a scarce 5 minutes.

Shh! Want To Know a Secret?

But here’s the thing…despite what all the television shows and magazine articles tell you, gardening takes work! Really, it does! They just don’t want to tell you that because they’re worried you’ll be scared and not want to try it.

That was part one of the secret. The second part of the secret is that, if you know yourself, gardening can be less like work and more like play. Case in point, I hate to water! Funny, right? An essential part of keeping a plant alive is providing it with water and I can’t abide standing there with a hose, swishing water around and getting attacked by mosquitoes. So, knowing and accepting this about myself, I’ve installed an above-ground irrigation system on a timer – it costs a bit of coin but now I’m free to spend my time weeding.

Now I know there are people out there with a distaste for other gardening tasks so, briefly, I’ll try to offer some advice…

Not fond of weeding? Plant close together (the technical term is ‘intensive planting’) and mulch.

Can’t stand thinning? Sow thinly or start plants in individual containers so that, when you plant them in the ground, you can control the spacing and not have to thin (unfortunately, doesn’t work for most root vegetables).

Watering doesn’t work for you? Do what I did, mulch thickly, or plant a cactus and succulent garden.

Can’t figure out the fertilizer requirements? Use compost on everything – it’s a natural, slow-release fertilizer, an excellent soil conditioner, and a useful mulch.

Don’t like to provide support? Plant low-growing, self-supporting varieties (avoid non-determinate tomatoes and climbing snap peas, for example).

Pruning bores you? Can’t help you there!

Another Secret

As you have now found out, I don’t have all the answers.

And, if you found yourself memorizing all the ways to avoid having to garden, accept the truth – a gardener you shouldn’t be. And that’s okay! I’m sure you have other skills just as important and maybe one of them is the ability to support a local food grower, either in your own household (as in the case of my husband), or in your local farmers’ market. That way, we can all bring something to the table.

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The First Season

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Snow is covering the kitchen garden and nothing is left for me to do but plan for next year (while this last season’s harvest is still fresh in my mind).  Still, while I am familiar with what went on in my garden, you’re not, so here’s what happened…

 When we moved in to the rental house, we identified this patch of lawn to be the best place for the kitchen garden – the most sun, visible from the kitchen window, and with existing boundaries that made sense.

Facing south

We stripped off the sod, added 2″ of compost and a sprinkling of bonemeal, and tilled it all in.  After digging out the paths and using the soil to create slightly raised beds, this was the result.

Just planted

After planting, we went away for a couple of weeks during June/July.  Fortunately, I’d installed an above-ground irrigation system on a timer (and we had some rain while we were gone) so I came back to a garden that looked like this (if you look closely you can see my husband in the background taking it all in).

Early July '09 facing north

Early July '09

But then things started getting out of control and by August the garden was a mess!  Part of the problem was that I couldn’t decide on a mulch material for the path so I just left it and weeds started to take over.  The other issue was that I’d fertilized three times during the season with a combination of a liquid fish fertilizer and nettle tea and the plants became rambunctious.

Wild Garden facing S

Wild Garden facing N
After some significant thinning and cutting back though, I think I got it under control…

Late Summer '09
…until the cold weather hit!

Fall cleanup '09

Now you know the story of the first season in the garden so you’ll be ready for my next post…making changes.