With a new year come plans for a new garden. The chance to begin again is reassuring because as we resolve to be healthier, happier or both we can also seek to avoid the mistakes made in last year’s garden that resulted in too few tomatoes, too many weeds and not enough time to fix either one of them.
The seed catalogs are trickling in earlier than ever before. Glorious examples of impossibly perfect plants set me up for failure before the ground is even broken. I have been gardening for way too many years to believe perfect tomatoes don’t have cracks and are certainly not susceptible to disease or blight.
For me perfect tomatoes are the ones I grow myself. I can cut the ugly parts off before they reach the salad or the salsa.
While the seed and garden catalogs might be unrealistic there are ways to improve the garden before the garden is planted. Taking the time to figure out why plants performed poorly will allow a mediocre garden to be one that produces bumper crops and hours of therapeutic enjoyment for the gardener.
Solutions might be as simple as correcting soil pH or watering more often at the correct time of day. The novice gardener might make the mistake of thinking if a little is good a lot must be great. Wrong. Too much of anything whether it is fertilizer, pesticide or even water can cause a host of problems that might not show up until it is too late for a second chance.
Remember why you garden and if you’ve never gardened before consider the purpose of taking on such an endeavor that could make you the happiest person on the planet or dip you into a world of madness. Effective communication begins with listening. Listen to your garden. Listen to what it is telling you.
January is a great time to plan and dream and a great time to resolve to be realistic about the garden and what you hope to get from it. If you are a busy person and rarely home except to eat and sleep a big garden might not be the best idea.
Big gardens take time and energy, lots of energy. Big gardens also take money. Unless you have resources, tools and time you will need a way to finance the garden that was supposed to bring healthy food to the table at a cost lower than that from a supermarket or farmers’ market.
A small garden that is well tended will be more productive, look better and benefit you and your family a lot more than the south forty gone wild.
Plant what you love and in amounts that can be eaten or preserved for later use. This is a concept I cannot stress enough. The seed catalogs will seduce you with eggplants in a variety of sizes and colors that have never before been seen in nature. If you do not like eggplant do not plant eggplant.
If you love peppers plant peppers but unless you have a cannery, a family of 16 or a full time staff there is no reason to plant 72 pepper plants. Monoculture can and does take place in agriculture as well as in some backyard gardens. The problem with planting too much of one thing is that one pest or disease can wipe out your entire garden.
Another problem with planting too much of one thing is the alienation you will experience from friends, neighbors and coworkers who don’t want any more of your vegetables!
2013 shall prove to be a good year. My daughter turns 10, my house turns 146 and once again I am after the perfect tomato from my backyard garden.