Friday, July 31, 2009

Over Analyzing the Garden

Dandelion Curls
I was having a chat with my brother, Paul, yesterday while looking over his flourishing tomato plants. We both agreed that some gardeners over analyze the garden. I’m not about to say that gardening is the easiest thing to do, but it’s not as complicated as some botanists, horticulturists, and avid scientific growers would have us believe.

I learned how to garden from my parents and my mother-in-law. Between them, they grew all manner of vegetables and flowers from kohlrabi to caladiums. I don’t think my dad ever tested the soil with a kit, yet he managed to raise lettuce, peas, green beans, carrots, radishes, sweet corn, beets, onions, broccoli, potatoes, and more. Dad left the flower growing to mom. She planted zinnias, morning glories, marigolds, petunias, fall bulbs, and the prima donna of the garden of the world, roses. How in the heck did they manage to get all those plants to grow without a book, the county extension agency, or the internet to guide them? They learned at the knee of their parents and through trial and error. My dad was a firm believer in planting cool weather vegetables like lettuce, peas, and radishes on Good Friday and unless it was still snowing, he planted on Good Friday. He must have had success because he continued to do it. Each fall, leaves and debris covered the garden and by spring, it had become part of the soil when Dad spaded the garden by hand. He might have looked at the Farmer’s Almanac once in awhile, but mostly he practiced experience and faith.

Today, gardeners scurry to the internet or tune into a garden show on TV where loads of information, varying viewpoints, and scientific data on how to rid the garden of pests leave gardeners confused and trying to analyze which method to use. One summer I kept a coffee can with a tight fitting lid ready to go. I poured about two inches of beer into the can and drank the rest. Each morning the “beer can" accompanied me to the garden along with nippers and a basket filled with gardening paraphernalia. I’d push Japanese beetles off plants with nippers and into the waiting beer. I’ve never needed to know garden chemistry because I’ve never used chemicals in my garden. If I found a toad hopping about, I accommodated it with a turned over pot, enticing it to stay. Praying mantises and real ladybugs, not the nasty orange beetles dubbed slut bugs because friends, they ain’t no lady, were welcomed. I never rid my garden of black and yellow garden spiders, instead I let them weave their magic and eat hearty at the garden pest buffet. These were my garden friends and allies long before it became garden pest de rigueur to let them do the work for you.Bee on Clover
I don’t hate weeds. In fact, many of the so-called weeds are lovely to look at. Chicory lining the road gives the world a beautiful flower border to look at while driving in the country. I don’t mind dandelions in my yard and white clover entices honeybees to forage and find. Queen Anne’s lace placed in colored water magically changes delighting children and yes, I confess, me, too. I don’t want to analyze my garden for the best weed protection. If it doesn’t look like what’s been planted, I pull it out. End of story.Macro Shot of Clover
I lived on a farm for 20 some years and the amendment to soil was cow or horse manure, aged in the barn. I’ll be honest; I’ve never tested the soil in any garden.

Yes, I get frustrated when I find pests munching their way through a rose bush. I know that weeding a garden is back breaking work, but do we really need to analyze every inch of a garden? Why not just tuck a seed or plant into the soil in spring and see what happens? There’s something to be said for faith that it will grow and turn into exactly what it’s expected to be without over analyzing the garden.

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