Although we can still work and play in our gardens for weeks to come, it’s also true that the gardening season is almost over for another year. As you harvest, weed and clean up this year’s plot, look to the future. Some questions you might ponder include:
• What was my favorite part of this year’s garden? Perhaps you most enjoyed harvesting greens all season long or perhaps it was picking those red, juicy tomatoes. Maybe your favorite part was watching the birds and butterflies flitting around in your flower beds or the possibility of having a fresh flower bouquet in your home every day. Like everything else, gardening can become rote and repetitive. Looking back over this season for the highlights of the year will help you focus on the future direction you want to take. More vegetables? Fewer vegetables? Different ones?
• Did you suffer any water woes? Some parts of our area had extremely dry conditions this summer while others were knee-deep in too much rain. If you were in the dry zone, plan now for an effective water-saving irrigation method for next year. Too much rain? While you can’t do much about wet garden soil, if your garden sits low and regularly floods, a sump pump situated in the lowest garden spot can do wonders.
• Did you find yourself with too much produce? Although we dream of bushels of tomatoes and pecks of peppers, having a glut of produce on hand can be a problem for the gardener who doesn’t want to spend hours in the kitchen. Donating to a food bank or giving extra veggies to friends is certainly a solution but it takes time to harvest and sort all of that food. If a glut of garden goodness is a perpetual problem, seriously consider cutting back on the amount you plant next year. Or enlist a friend to garden with you — half the work and half the produce. Switch to long-storing produce such as potatoes, carrots, cabbages and squash.
• How can you handle all the weeds? Have weeds taken over your veggie patch or flower bed this year? Time restraints or weather issues can keep the gardener from dealing with the weeds for weeks at a time and by then, some of the more aggressive perennial weeds have taken root. It is easy to say “I’ll deal with it next year,” but acting now can make a world of difference.
Our 1,500-square-foot flower bed was a disaster, replete with quackgrass, creeping charlie and canary grass. Last fall, we cut it all down, weeds and perennials alike, and covered it with 10-millimeter black plastic. I hated to do it as I don’t like using plastic in the garden, but I also didn’t want to use an herbicide. We removed the plastic on Memorial Day and were quite pleased with the results. Not all of the weed roots had been destroyed, but they had deteriorated enough so digging was easy. I set out groups of annuals with well-mulched paths in between. By mid-summer, the plants had expanded enough so few weeds could find space to grow.
In the veggie bed, mulch, mulch, mulch. Although a thick layer of mulch will slow the warm-up of the soil in the spring, you can always pull back that mulch at that time to allow for more warming. Meanwhile, you’ll have protected the garden from a preponderance of fall-germinating weeds.
• Was the garden fun? Sometimes in our rush to perfection, the garden becomes work. Don’t let that happen. Adjust your attitude or restructure your garden or get some help so it is once again enjoyable. Gardening should be fun!
Beverly Carney can be reached at email@example.com.