Gardening Lessons are Reinforced

October 2, 2016 lawanda Newspaper Columns

I’ve nearly completed the first gardening season at my new home.  After 30 years of gardening, this past year taught me some new gardening skills and reinforced some basic gardening tenets that I’ve known but never had occasion to worry about.

      First and foremost, vegetable gardens absolutely positively need full sun!  Full sun means at least six hours daily of direct, not even partially shaded, sunshine.

      My tomato plants grew just fine with less than six hours of sunshine, but they produced fewer, smaller tomatoes that may never ripen to a full red.  Likewise, kale grew in limited sun, but didn’t get even half as tall or wide as its sun-living kale counterparts.  ‘Annihilator’ bush beans did surprisingly well with being shorted on sun, as did edamame and peas.

      Near the end of June, I accidently broke a branch from my best tomato plant.  On the advice of a neighbor, I put the branch in a jar of water for a few days until new roots sprouted from the stem.  Then I planted it just as I would any young tomato plant.  The new plant grew larger than the original, and in more sunlight, produced many more tomatoes.

      Lettuce and spinach are known for bolting in hot sun.  I thought that fewer sunlit hours would stop them from bolting, but I didn’t find that to be true.  Apparently hot sun is hot sun no matter how short the time it shines. 

      This year I grew cucumbers on a trellis for the first time.  They were spectacular!  The vines needed just a bit of help at the start to cling to the trellis, but after that they knew what they were doing.  The cucumbers were all perfectly straight and clean and much easier to find than when they trail along the ground.

      I learned that you can grow a nice garden in a strip just ten inches wide under a south-facing garage overhang.  That’s where the cucumber trellis was, along with another trellis for climbing beans, and marigolds, zinnias, calendula and cosmos all planted from seed.  The area needed supplemental water every few days since the overhang blocked the rain, but a rain barrel on a nearby downspout made that easy.

      Compost is a must!  I thought the soil was bad at my former home but the soil here is worse.  When we moved, I cleaned out the compost bin and hauled the treasure here in 5-gallon buckets.  I can definitely tell where I spread compost on my new gardens last fall.  The soil doesn’t dry as rock-hard as it does in the un-composted places and the plants are much healthier.

      This last lesson I learned when I began gardening and it’s been reinforced every year since, including this past year in my new neighborhood.  A gardener’s best friends are gardening neighbors.  Sharing advice, complaints, successes and tools, and trading excess produce, make for a happy year in the garden.

 

Gardening techniques and tools


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