Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Success and failure in the garden

I have found gardening to be a rewarding experience. While I could do without the invasive quack grass and always-stubborn dandelions in the middle of my garden beds, seeing the green plants break ground and grow, the flowering plants blossom and the edible plants mature always gives me a thrill. However, it take hard work and dealing with failure to get through the growing season.

To become more self-sufficient, I have expanded my growing space for fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, I would like to grow everything from seed to gain a portion of self-sufficiency and reduce my costs. Starting from seed means pots, soil and a sunny place to put the newly sown seeds. Pots were reused four-pack plastic containers from other plants I purchased and yogurt containers. To minimize my use of fossil fuels, I chose not to use the fluorescent grow lights I have nor did I buy a seedling mat. Instead, I used the four-shelf greenhouse I purchased used or when it was freezing overnight, brought in the pots and placed them on my kitchen table, which faces a southern exposure. Despite the hassle of shuttling my motley crew of seedlings, I noticed improved seedling vigor compared to the year before. Unfortunately, germination rates varied from 20-100% but I try to celebrate successes rather than failures.

Breaking sod is not easy and when I am determined to do it by hand, well, it can be tough. One way to make sod removal easier is to wait until after a rain. The sod will be heavier but easier to push a shovel or spade through and easier to dig in the dirt. It is still time consuming as I planted four Purple Passion asparagus roots in a hand-dug trench six feet long and 12 inches wide after working outside for one hour.

I also plant for beauty as well as for food. Some of my first attempts at new foundations plantings turned out to be a poor choice. I installed a purple phlox in the fall that never appeared the next spring. Moving an established white phlox also ended in nonregeneration for the following spring. The third time seems to be the charm--I see sign of the pink phlox I installed last fall. One of the five hosta plants I placed on the west side of my house has struggled with growing and showing up the next spring. I planted it in fall 2006 and see no sign of it this year. Tulips are doing moderately well, but I know I planted more than I am seeing now compared to spring 2007. I am still waiting on some native plants I installed in early summer and late autumn so the verdict is out on whether I have wild onions or little bluestem in my future. Luckily, I seem to have more success than failure with my flowers. Now if only the last two cloves of garlic would break ground...

I love seeing green things breaking ground and watching them grow. With my tulips blossoming, most of my trees leafing out and all my rhubarb letting the world know who is boss, I am looking forward to my 2009 garden. I still have to haul the rain barrels out of storage and the forecast is predicting rain.

Any news on your garden front? Do you have a favorite flower or plant you are proud of?


  1. I wish I could say I'm proud of x, y or z! I think because of the recent cold spell, my seeds are stalling...

  2. @Rain,

    Most of what I am proud of are perennials, more maintenance-free once established. I lost another tomato seedling and some of the others are looking a bit sad but I have hope for some of the herbs and onions!

  3. Yes, I thought about perennials this year! But I really had spring fever and wanted to start the seeds early. I passed by the garden center yesterday and they had some really pretty flowers! I'm tempted to get some. What kind of onions?