Another gardening season is about to end, and all I can say is, “Thank goodness!” If things went well last year, this summer’s growing season has been marked by the things I did badly and the things I didn’t do at all.
Serious weeding falls into that latter category.
Weeding is, for me at least, a chore like cleaning toilets. You do it, and in no time at all you have to do it again. I like chores that stay done for a time, things like ironing (though admittedly I’ve pretty much given up on that) and putting books back where they belong in the bookshelf.
Weeding’s impermanence is bad enough, but this summer I’ve avoided weedkillers such as Roundup. Skipping weedkillers may be good for the environment, but without them, I’ve discovered that the benefit of an early pass through the yard pulling dandelions and the like is pretty much nonexistent.
The actual gardening, planting, watering and all that didn’t go much better than the weeding did, unfortunately. I got a late start, and by the time I finally planted the straw bales I’d prepared for that purpose, I figured I had to pick crops that would grow quickly and mature early.
Lettuce and carrots qualified, as did green beans, peas and beets. I threw in a couple of kinds of cucumbers and a single zucchini.
The beans, in particular, did beautifully. I chitted (greensprouted) the bean seeds and was probably a day or two late in planting them. The result was that by the time they’d been in the soil for three days, they were already visibly sprouting. All well and good.
There was a problem, however. With only two of us in the house, I should have planted at most 10 or 11 plants, plenty for us and some to give away. Instead, I put in more than twice that many.
They did well, so well that they crowded out the peas that were next door and so well that I couldn’t keep up with them. I finally gave up about two weeks ago and Sunday I pulled them out. By then the beans were so large as to be inedible.
As for the lettuce, it’s one of those crops I feel obligated to plant but don’t really want to use, and this year the lettuce went to seed. Until it was knocked over by the aggressive green beans it was interesting to look at but not much else. The peas were laid low by the beans.
The beets did well, I think (I haven’t harvested them yet), and they may be my only real success.
As for the squash and cucumbers, every zucchini joke I’ve ever heard is based in reality. We ate zucchini once, and that was plenty. I won’t bother with it next year. And instead of two varieties of cucumbers — some for salad and some for pickles — I’ll put in a few more plants and stick to pickling cucumbers. The carrots, for the second year in a row, were eaten some invisible mystery bug even before they’d grown enough to thin.
I wish I knew what the invisible bugs were. Last year they limited their dining to carrots and beet leaves. This year they ate both those as well as the basil I’d planted. My daughter Anna tells me to plant a few marigolds and nasturtiums next year, and I’ll give it a try. If they help, I’m ahead of the game. If they don’t, I’ll at least have something pretty to look at.
As for the planters I usually fill with flowers, they went by the wayside too, this year. That in itself proved interesting. Last year the big tub on the deck was filled to overflowing with petunias. This year I didn’t buy or plant a single flower, and the same tub still overflowed with petunias. I’m curious to discover next year whether they’ll have self-seeded enough this year for the same thing to happen.
All in all, I’m glad this not very productive gardening season is at an end. The one thing I worried about turned out not to be a worry at all. The small birds that call my feeder home apparently don’t dine on fresh veggies, something I should have known but for some reason did not.
— Janet Stevens is an editorial writer at The Bulletin. Contact: 541-617-7821, email@example.com