Monday, October 1, 2012

Lessons from the Garden

The gardening season nears the end here in Rochester, New York. In the Deep South, some gardeners are planting beans and other such things. But here, we begin the fall gardening ritual of putting it all to bed. Now is the time for us to empty the planters, yank out the annoying weeds that remain, and apply some organic fertilizer to garden areas for the spring that awaits us.

As every season closes, I like to leave the garden behind me, knowing that I am a bit wiser from the previous year. Here is what I have learned from my 2012 garden endeavors:
  • For my ornamental beds, I try to assess which annuals were most outstanding. Although my spreading petunias were excellent performers in planters and in the garden beds, I shall fondly recall my tuberous begonias as the champions of them all. I had started them in my basement (although it was not necessary) and transplanted them to one of my semi-shaded circular beds in late spring. They were absolutely breathtaking, with lush, large green foliage and extra large blooms in assorted colors. There will be more next season.
  • I had four tomato plants in my vegetable raised beds, and unfortunately, two of them turned out to be grape tomatoes. I had prolific yields of these tasty little guys, more than two people could consume. My thinking is that one grape tomato plant is enough. Solution: start 6 plants in your basement, and sell 5 to your neighbors!
  • Swiss chard is a gardener's loyal companion. I planted a 6 ft. row and harvested it three times, as it grows back time and time again. I am not done yet.
  • I am a very big fan of fresh picked beans from the garden. I had a couple plantings of Crockett beans, and I enjoyed them immensely. The slender, dark green pods were absolutely delicious.
  • If the New York Times is correct in their weather predictions for the next ten years, we'll be facing extended drought conditions around the country for some time to come. As water is essential to any successful garden and is scarce in parts of the USA, now is the time to consider drip irrigation systems. They allow you to conserve water by targeting only the roots of your plants and irrigating at the best times of day. We hope to have some new watering systems available this winter for use in spring 2013. My garden will be set up completely on an automatic watering system that will save me time and water.
  • Mulches are a great way to help maintain adequate moisture levels in your garden beds. I till and fertilize the soil, spread garden mulch, and leave openings for transplants. Mulches also improve weed control.
  • Planters need watering and fertilization on a weekly basis. Water alone will not produce the lush plants you hope for, as it will quickly leach out any fertilizer you have applied before. A weekly feeding is necessary.
There you have it. Now let's hope I can apply what I have learned to next season's garden.