The Garden of You

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A successful garden requires a lot — fertile soil, adequate moisture, protection from pests (animal, insect, and microbial) and proper harvest. I’m sure that none of this is any big surprise to anyone. Furthermore, these aforementioned elements are true no matter whether your garden is large or small, in the backyard or in a container, in Boston or Bangladesh.

 
Yet it is also true that no two gardens are alike. And I’m sure it will also come as no surprise when I tell you that what separates one garden from another is the gardener.
“Duh,” you’re probably saying to yourself. “You need a newsletter story to tell us that? Any more words of wisdom, Mr. Obvious?” And normally, I would agree with you. But in a world where we all want to dress in the latest styles, where we all listen to the same music, and where we all follow the latest trends and fads, we tend to forget this little piece of “obvious” knowledge.

 
“Be yourself,” we’re told repeatedly. Yet we don’t want to be ourselves. We want to be this movie star or that rap singer. We want this woman’s riches and that guy’s looks. We continually compare ourselves to someone else who is richer, smarter, taller, better looking, etc. But “comparison,” to quote motivational speaker Jack Canfield, “is the fast track to misery.” And misery and success are not compatible.

 
So what does this have to do with gardening? Simply this – being yourself is the secret ingredient that means the difference between the successful garden and the unsuccessful garden. Your garden may yield a bumper crop that breaks all records and amazes family, friends, friends of family and family of friends. But if it is not truly your garden – i.e. planted with vegetables you like, arranged the way you want them, and decorated (or not) as you choose, then you won’t truly be happy with it, and it won’t really be a success.

 
Do you like kale? Great! Then plant it. It’s a wonderfully nutritious and tasty vegetable. Do you hate Brussels sprouts? I personally loathe them. You won’t ever find them growing in my garden. And if you dislike them as much as I do, then they shouldn’t be growing in yours – no matter what your mother says, or your spouse says, or your loudmouth brother-in-law says, or even what all of the world’s horticultural experts say.

 
Do you think your garden would look beautiful if you decorated it with glass gazing balls or a trellis? Then install them. And if your snobby next door neighbor says they look tacky, then tell them to take a flying leap! This is your garden on your piece of ground, and you’ll decorate it however you bleeping well please, no matter what they think!

 
Now before you get your knickers in a knot, please understand that I’m not saying to ignore expert advice. By all means, read those gardening books and magazines, watch the gardening shows on HGTV, and listen to presentations by master gardeners. There’s a lot of useful information out there which can be of benefit to all gardeners, novice and expert. But filter it through the lens of you. Adapt it to your style, temperament, and tastes.

 
If you do this, I guarantee that you will have a garden you can be proud of, no matter how many pounds of fruits and vegetables it yields each year, because it is truly your garden. And that, my friends, is real success!

Rotation, Rotation, Rotation

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As human beings, we tend to be creatures of habit. We fall into patterns and we have a tendency to stick with what appears to be working and not to change things. After all, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

 
However, this modus operandi doesn’t always work so well with our gardens when it comes to where we plant our crops. If, for example, we’ve developed the habit of always planting our tomatoes in a row in the rear of our gardens and planting everything else in front, we may soon discover that these crops that have never failed us are starting to look more haggard and produce fewer fruits and vegetables. What’s going on here?

 
What’s going on is that your plants may have picked up a disease organism. Tomatoes, for example, are subject to blights, which, while they may not outright kill the plants, they will certainly reduce their yield. Brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, kale, etc.), meanwhile, can be susceptible to black rot, which will kill the plant.

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So how to avoid this? The answer is to rotate your crops. Don’t always plant the same plants in the same place. If your tomatoes have been showing signs of blight, then next spring, plant them in a different part of the garden. If your brassicas died from black rot, then plant something else in their place (preferably something not susceptible to black rot). Be aware that black rot can survive in the soil for seven years, so you may have to plant your brassicas elsewhere for that amount of time or longer.

 
For a disease to gain a foothold and cause trouble, three things must be present. The disease organism, the proper conditions, and a susceptible plant. If you remove the susceptible plant from the spot (e.g. plant beans instead of cabbage in that location), then you remove one of the legs of this three-legged stool, and the disease (in this case, black rot) cannot infect your garden.

 
So, to paraphrase Pete Seeger, in every garden, you must turn, turn, turn!