This post has been kicking around in my head for the past four months as I’ve thought about what went well with my 2011 garden, and what didn’t, and what to change for next year. I’m at the point in the year when dripping heat and humidity are but pleasant memories—imagine that!—so if I don’t get these thoughts down now no wisdom will be recorded to guide my future choices. So without further ado, I present 2011’s Garden Winners and Losers.
Winner: Squash bugs
To kick things off I’ll go right to the top of my list of 2011 garden frustrations: insect pests. The squash bugs slipped their menace into pretty bronze egg clusters and though I popped and squished as many as I could find, the resulting nymphs soon hatched and decimated first my squash and zucchinis, then my pumpkins, and finally went to work on my cucumbers. I pulled and burned each overtaken species to no avail trying to minimize the damage. The minuscule marauders marched on, leaving in their wake smoldering vines and my dreams of a roadside pumpkin stand. However, that brings me to my next 2011 garden winner.
My beautiful big BTU blaster, my final recourse in the fight against…pretty much anything to which it’s applied. When faced with the devastation described above, my only consolation was seeing some of the offending species tits up and crispy.
As those of you who follow this story know, 2011 was the first year for this garden that I carved out of a square of pasture. The dirt didn’t look too bad when revealed, and I added some of the good stuff in the way of compost, sand and peat. But when I put my first seedlings in (admittedly in a muddy deluge) and they failed to thrive, I knew something was up. A quick soil test revealed a nitrogen deficiency. I chucked some blood meal into the beds, which got me back on track and through the season, but I knew it was a temporary solution and I would need to make a serious investment in soil if I wanted performance to improve. I also suspect that many of the insect problems can be traced back to the soil and its inability to nurture plants that can defend themselves. Thus, this fall’s sheet mulching adventure. I am excited to see if next spring’s soil test shows improvement.
Though I was gifted with beautiful young plants lovingly raised from seed by my father, my tomato harvest failed to meet my expectations. In all fairness, I do place part of the blame on suspected poor soil quality. And I place the rest of the blame on benign neglect. I admit I did a cursory amount of staking and tying with these plants, packed them in too closely, and failed to pamper them with weekly deluges of MiracleGro. I suppose one bright side is I didn’t seem to suffer any of the blights that plagued me in my community garden plot, so I am hopeful that with richer soil and more attention I’ll be back on the tomato express and be forced to take up canning.
Some flowers just beg for exclamation points after them. Dahlias! are one. There are few flowers that bloom so profusely, juicily and with such lurid happiness. I love dahlias for these reasons, as well as for the chemically green smell their stems have when cut. My dahlias, which I picked up on a whim from a 50% off bin in Lowe’s, got a late start and didn’t come online until August. With our very wet September they took off and bloomed until frozen. I had flower arrangements lining my windowsills for months.
Winner: Deer Fence
One of the best investments I made in this garden was to fence it properly from the beginning. I knew I’d be fighting deer and goodness knows what sort of smaller munchers, so I enclosed the whole deal in a high fence reinforced with buried chicken wire at ground level. Though it may not be the most aesthetically pleasing, it was affordable and I am pleased to report I had zero damage from deer or other mammals and no weeds grew up among the netting. Now if I could only enclose my whole property in deer fence and really get to gardening…
This recap could go on forever, but I choose to let the rest of the wins and losses roll under the wave of time like the squash bugs, the tomatoes, the dahlias, and ultimately any living thing. Instead of lamentations of last year I choose to focus on the future and my next post: 2012 plans.