Thursday, September 20, 2012

10 garden lessons learned in 2012

Between the devastating deer, the drought and virtually no garden projects achieved this season, some lessons were, eventually, figured out.

1.  I realized I cannot count on help.  I have to either figure out how to do the "heavy lifting" part of a project of just let it go.  Case in point: how to open 55-gallon drums, where to get rid of the contents (liquid soap), and how to collect rain from downspouts.   I'd been promised help from 2 - ended up having to go it alone.

2. With rainbarrels in place, I figured out how to move water around the back of the property with a drill pump and reservoirs.   Having water available in back then allowed me to plant more veg & flowers along the golf course margin as well as install 3 new raised beds.  Lack of water there has always kept me from developing that area.

3. Realized I do NOT need 4 raised bins dedicated to composting.  Now I use only 2 (one to cook, one to accumulate) which provides me with more humus than I need in the gardens.  Now I take the excess plant material to the township yard waste site where they grind up the stuff and make compost for the county parks.  Less work for me. 

4. Frugal living is of no use if, when you need tools or equipment, you don't let yourself BUY them!  I had a long talk with myself and, finally, pushed myself to purchase - electric pressure washer, upgraded riding mower, gas powered string trimmer, garden implements (shuffle hoe, etc.) and garage tools.  For years I felt that less is more and working hard was a good character trait.   Finally figured out that working STUPID is not!  I'm too old to not invest in mechanical help! *sigh* Now I plan to work less, get more done and have more time to JUST SIT DOWN.

5. If there is not a supply/vendor of wood chips for paths, bare landscape fabric is not awful.  I scraped all the decomposed chips from both the path in the arbor garden and around the raised beds in back and, honestly, I didn't miss having chips underfoot when working in both places.  I'll see how the exposed fabric wears through the seasons.

6. Instead of mucking about with several hoop houses in spring for seedlings, hanging large sheers from the deck arbor creates a huge, walk-in space under which to work with the plants.  Also, having the trays of plants on the deck allows me to quickly schlep them into the sunroom when cold or other severe weather threatens.

7.  Placing a bench in front of the deck encouraged me to 'flow' the bird bath bed up to the deck, onto the bench, then let the eye travel to the flower boxes on the other side of the railing.  And all because I just wanted a place to set the bench off the deck and out of the way after all the spring seedlings were planted out.  A very happy accident.   One that is now a permanent addition to the deck/bird bath area. 

8. Don't jump too fast to weed in Spring.  I thought I had not WS'd 'coral nymph' salvia so was hoping a seed or two would germinate from around the birdbath.  I was really happy when at least a dozen seedling sprouted (along with a couple of zins and lavender agastache).  Meanwhile, behind the privacy fence, last years couple of straggly annual delphiniums had dropped seed and there were masses of gorgeous blooms back there this year.  So the bottom line lesson is - loosen up.  I don't need to micro-manage beds like I usually do.  Chill.  Let Mother Nature make some suggestions. *heh*

9. Now that I see what havoc deer can do, I'm forewarned for next year.  I expect I'll be putting up a yards and yards of deer netting from the get-go instead of agonizing over devastated plants and shrubs.  It's certainly not a pretty way to garden.  But, otherwise, there just wouldn't BE a garden.

10.  And - finally -  I'm reminding myself that, ultimately, if gardening isn't fun, then why do it?  It's taking an effort, but I'm trying not to feel a FAILURE if I don't go 8 hours a day, 5 days a week in the gardens.  If I'm not always into a construction or landscape project.  If every bed and bin isn't tilled, filled or fruitful.  I've got to stop angst-ing over every setback.  Nor is it a competition.  It's just that - what I'd like to do and what I can do keeps getting further apart.  It's in this gap between the two where lies madness -- and not the GOOD kind. LOL

Saturday is the Autumnal Equinox - equal day and night followed by the  inevitable slide into the dark and cold of Winter.  Hopefully, though, there will still be bright days, blue skies, and time to execute a calm and controlled shut down in the gardens before retreating to the warmth of the house and a re-introduction to the neglected (but not forgotten) cozy reading chair.

So - how the heck did YOUR summer turn out?


  1. You learned a lot. Being honest about what it takes to do the job sometimes releases a lot of self imposed stress. You can only do so much. I find that there are years, when weather is bad, that I don't even want to go out there any more. Then when the hostas start shooting through and bulbs are blooming, I get inspired and dedicated to gardening one more season.

    1. "...self imposed stress." Yes, you're right, Larry. I really do expect extraordinary efforts on my part. Always have. Darn hard to find the volume control on that. *sigh* Thanks for the comment. Feedback sure helps. :-D

  2. Good plan. This year's been a hard one for most of us. But every time I find a little volunteer of something, I feel like it's a little gift, a little kiss on the cheek and a "all is not lost" reminder. May next year be better. You hang in there, do what you can, enjoy every blessing from tiny to large and know you are not alone. Don't forget also, to look back and see how much you accomplished. I'm always so impressed by the things you are able to get done, much more than I would be able to, without Hubs to help. Bless your heart, and keep on keepin' on. Hugs

    1. Thanks, Ilene, for the pep talk. Yeah, I have accomplished much. Just wish I could do more. It's like in Hollywood - a great actor is a treasure but critics always say, "...but what have you done lately?" *sigh* Talk about looking back - look at all YOU've done there, Ilene. You're a real go-getter. Hugs back

  3. 1,4,8, and 10 really resonated with me! The farm made us realize that having the right tools to do the job was very necessary. That being said, I am jarring loose to buy a backup riding mower. My old one needs back in the shop.....

    Growing older has made me realize no. 10 is a must. It makes me crazy sometimes, but I just can't do it all anymore.

    You beat me to some good lessons by about 5 years!

    1. It's hard to think I could have beaten you to anything, Glenda. You are always so on top of things! The #'s you commented on, I admit, are more about the gardener than the gardens and those are the ones I hope to keep in mind from now on. Thank goodness for blogs. We can keep each other from going nuts...(fingers crossed *heh*). :-D

  4. My summer was good. It was hot and at times too dry, but I expected that and let rain be the blessing. I need to stop over-analyzing my garden choices. I really torture myself sometimes because I want everything to be perfect, which is ludicrous. Because zinnias are shallow rooted, I'm growing them in a much shorter pot neat year that will keep the moisture within reach for them. I planted them in a massive pot this year that was pretty, but a pain in the butt to keep watered.

    I also learned to ask for and accept help since I have rotator cuff tendinitis that is aggravated by bearing weight and stress. It got so bad last spring I had knots of muscle sticking out through my shoulders/neck. Highly attractive.

    1. It's hard, isn't it? Asking for help? And yet, if someone asks FOR help of US, don't we jump right in? So don't be afraid to ask when you need it.

      Perfect garden? Excuse me while I snicker up my sleeve. *tee hee* Think of all the things we'd never learn if everything always worked out first time out the gate...

      Thankfully we're cooler now and getting more rains. At least the grass is green again.


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