After the Zombies: Gardening When You Gotta
Leva CygnetView all articles by Leva Cygnet
While you learn what works for you, you will have crops fail. Sometimes, a whole row of plants will just up and die for no damn reason and there's nothing you can do but pull them up and try again. Or you'll get a pest you just can't beat -- one year, I swear the only thing I could grow was white flies. Then there was the time a freak thunderstorm with lots of hail hit the garden; the only things I harvested that spring were root vegetables. I've lost peas to 100 degree heat in March, and peas to a very hard freeze in the same week of the year a few years later.
When you start out, you'll have failures that could be prevented. For example, I've learned -- the hard way -- that if you put too much heavy mulch on tomatoes and then it rains for a week, they will die of root rot.
What works for your neighbors may not work for you. A distance of just a few feet can mean a different microclimate or different soil or different weeds and insects. Pay attention to what your gardening neighbors tell you, but remember that you may have to modify their advice for your specific situation.
To improve your chances of success, experiment. To avoid a complete crop failure, don't grow your entire crop under experimental conditions. This year, for example, I'm going to try growing tomatoes in a cold frame through the winter so that the plants will (hopefully) be large and really productive come spring -- but I also plan to plant some regular rows of tomatoes in March, after the last frost. I'll see which does better.
You can experiment with soil amendments, cold frames, square foot vs.
To help ensure that you are able to harvest a particular crop, plant multiple varieties. One type of spinach, for example, may fail or may bolt too soon. Another will grow beautifully in the same year. Do not assume because a crop did well one year it will do so again the next. Conditions may vary. As one example of this, I always plant multiple varieties of tomatoes. One year, under humid and rainy conditions, the most disease-resistant varieties may do best. Another year, the furnace blast heat of summer may come early and you'll get the best harvest from the tomatoes that mature earliest -- even though they don't, technically, have the best disease resistance.
And finally, this should be fun. Yep, gardening's work but the rewards are more than just food on the table. There is a certain emotional satisfaction to be had from seeing a beautiful, thriving garden plot that is flourishing under your care. I know that I love seeing the first little shoots coming up as seeds germinate. Then there's the first squash or watermelon flowers. The first flush of color on an eggplant. The intense flavor of a freshly picked tomato, still warm from the sun. It's all part of the joy of growing your own food.
If you ever see me sitting alone in the garden in the shade of the trellised cucumbers, my eyes closed, covered head to toe in dirt and smelling like tomato plants ... I'm not a zombie, really. I'm just happy with the state of my veggies and taking a moment to enjoy it.
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