Thursday, March 26, 2020

Garden Truths

Spring is the time of year when new gardeners are just starting out and they have a million questions that some of us old pros find either laughable or just plain aggravating because we've heard them so many times.   Of course there is no such thing as a dumb question (yeah right), so on the Facebook gardening pages the same old questions are answered over and over.  Day in day out.  And never more than now during the Covid-19 quarantine when the entire free world has been told to stay home for weeks if not months and not empty the grocery stores over every edible crumb.  Rant over.

Gardening suddenly became extremely popular so here we go again with some basic gardening truths that may help some beginners.

Gardening Truth #1.
Forget the weed block.  Weeds don't come up from below.  They blow in on the wind or they creep in from the edges.   Now if you just put down weed block and make it into a walkway then it works fine.  But as soon as you put soil or mulch on top of the weed block, the soil grows weeds.  Someone has made a fortune selling that useless product to gardeners.  Save your money and a ton of aggravation and just don't use it in the first place.

The one proper use of weed block would be underneath walkway material.

I call B.S. on this one.  Creeping Charlie was never so easily defeated.
There would still be vines even if the leaves were burned.  Someone cleaned that last one up.  And left long enough the Creeping Charlie would come up over the edges.

Gardening Truth #2.
Early is not always better.  Whomever thought of selling carrot seedlings to newbie gardeners is a cruel bastard.  They always grow in a knot (or whatever shape you leave them in when you stuff their taproot into the soil) and look like they're diseased.  Some plants do not do well being forced into an early season by growing under lights.  Be patient.  Direct seed your carrots.  And sweet corn. ... and bush beans.  You will need more plants than you could ever start on your window sill if you want to make a meal.

Gardening Truth #3.
There is no substitute shortcut for weeding.  (See Gardening Truth #1)  You can reduce the quantity of weeds over time by carefully managing your soil and staying on top of things.  But there is no store-bought product that can give better results than simply bending over and pulling it up.  Seriously.  Besides, its good exercise.

Gardening Truth #4
Don't Zone Out.  Know your gardening zone.  It takes less time to type the question into Google than it does to ask someone and have them tell you to type it into Google.  Because it is zip code specific.  And even then, you should look closely at the map because elevation can alter your zone just a bit.  Knowing your zone and reading your seed packet will save you the disappointment of planting too early or the frustration of having to cover everything when there is a freeze warning.

USDA Plant Hardiness Map
Gardening Truth #5
Wrap that rascal.  The best way to discourage or destroy pests is to starve them out.  Interrupt their life cycle.  And the only way you are going to starve them out is to block their access to your plants.  And the most effective and least invasive way to do that is with a barrier.  Fence them out.  Cover your plants.  That way you won't even have to identify your bad bug and figure out how to fight it.  How do you keep moths from laying eggs on your cole crops?  cover them.  How do you keep birds from eating your berries?  cover them.  How do you keep Japanese beetles from turning your bean leaves to Swiss cheese?  cover them.

So those are my responses to two weeks of Facebook questions asked by enthusiastic beginners who are trying to find the shortcuts.  I'm not saying there are no shortcuts. Covering all of your vulnerable plants is a shortcut.  But gardening does require consistent dedication, some work and a lot of trial and error.

1 comment:

  1. Amen, Sista! The thing is each of us living in our own environment, gardening zone, climate area simply has to learn what works and what doesn't through trial and error. Then, of course, you throw in the type of soil you're dealing with and Mother Nature's perverse sense of humor that causes one crop to be a total failure when it was your bumper crop the year before. Maybe my number one advice for a new gardener is to stay on top of the weeds. You'll never have a happy or healthy plant growing in the middle of a bunch of weeds. If you're going to garden, make up your mind that you won't let the weeds get ahead of you. Stay ahead of them. And you're so right, what better exercise than bending over, or crawling on hands and knees as I prefer, to teach the little green buggers who's boss!?