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As the seed catalogs flood our mailboxes, glorious thoughts of beautifully colored fruits and vegetables surround our minds.
We picture ourselves strolling through weedless gardens, as the birds sing, plucking the fruit of our labor, with just a glow of perspiration on our face!
Psht. The reality of the garden is much different that the fantasy described above. The truth is that manure must be spread, seedlings die, bugs come, equipment breaks and tools get lost, and the WEEDS. Can anyone relate??
Over my many years of gardening, I’ve grown many types of gardens in many venues….in the city, in a suburb and in the country. Some years I enjoyed my garden immensely, other years not so much.
What was the difference between an enjoyable year and a not-so-much kind of year?
- Don’t plant too much – This is my greatest weakness. I am always worried that weather or pestilence will kill my plants, so I over-plant to compensate for loss. The problem for me is that I don’t have much loss, and so I have way more produce than I need. So, I can and dehydrate all that is possible, I give to my neighbors and the food pantry and STILL, I have more produce than I know what to do with. This leaves me with a couple of choices: let it rot or abuse myself by staying up all hours of the night canning. Neither choice is a good one. The solution is to plant less and stop worrying about loss. Loss happens, I need to accept that. So be it. Here is a great little calculator to help you decide how much you need for your family!
- Don’t plant food that you and your family don’t really like – OK, tell me that I’m not the only one who does this! You’re thumbing through that seed catalog and you see beautiful golden beets, wow, aren’t they pretty? Your family has never liked beets in the past, but they just might like these! You’ll come up with new and different ways to prepare them and you’re just convinced that they will love them!!! You know what happens, right? You plant the beets, you harvest the beets, you cook and serve the beets and what does your ungrateful family say? “Bleck! We hate beets!”. Yeah, don’t go there. Only plant food that you are sure they will eat.
- Don’t plant food that you don’t have room for – Before planting that watermelon or cantaloupe, consider how much room the vines will need to run. Otherwise, you’ll forever be rounding up all the vines and trying to get them to stay inside the garden bed. This doesn’t make for a fun summer, as the lawn mower person doesn’t recognize fruit and just runs them all over. Yes, I know this from repeated experience.
- Don’t plant food that doesn’t grow well in your area or that you simply don’t have the right conditions for – No matter how badly you want tomatoes from your shady garden, you’re probably not going to get them. Be realistic. Tomatoes and peppers demand full sun, and will not produce otherwise. Spend some time looking at the direction your garden faces, as well as what obstacles to the sun are present.
- Don’t plant food for the wrong reasons – Does anyone else have that relative that asks you to grow things for them, but then never comes and pick them? I don’t mind “sharing” a bit of space in my garden for someone who doesn’t have one, but if there’s a pattern of “garden abuse”, don’t do it!
Plant what YOU want, what YOU need and what YOU’LL enjoy! Life is too short not to enjoy your garden!