Like everyone else, there are things I’m good at and things that I am not good at. I’m learning though that perhaps there can be a category in life called good enough, and just maybe I can turn some of my “not good” things into good enough while turfing some other things all together.
I like having a garden, historically I’ve never excelled at being a gardener no matter how much I like the idea of being one. I don’t like the feeling of dirt under my nails, I hate weeding, and I’m more left brain than right and it’s really, really hard for me to just relax and go with any kind of creative flow. Once I get the hang of growing a certain flower, it becomes a staple in my flower beds. Shade, partial shade, sunny, soil quality, moisture, all of it I pretty much wing and learn as I go. Many an innocent plant has suffered through my trial and error experiments. This is what I have learned thus far:
- Perennials keep coming back every year, *best* investment.
- Hostas cover a multitude of gardening sins.
- Echinacea/purple cone flower cover what hostas don’t and come in more colors than purple. They also bloom for a long time.
- Shasta daisies are good for cutting and will live a long time if you keep the water fresh.
- Lavender looks and smells awesome and makes me feel like a fancy gardener.
- Everyone else can grow clematis, mine are doomed for all time to be underwhelming.
- Morning Glories are the most fun.
- Phlox is awesome in early spring.
- Peonies are magnificent but bloom too briefly.
- Citronella plants kind of do actually deter mosquitoes but aren’t very pretty.
Vegetables and Herbs
- Select as many tomato plants as you thing you need, then put half of them back. You will always underestimate how big they will grow.
- Peppers will never grow in my garden.
- Mint is never a good idea unless you are planting it by itself way far away from everything else.
- Basil is a super delicate pain in the butt, don’t let it flower if you can keep it alive that long. It’s worth it to keep trying though because it’s soooo good fresh.
- Chives are the easiest thing ever and there aren’t enough recipes to use what you will grow. Plus it keeps coming back.
- Squirrels and/or chipmunks and/or rabbits eat zucchini when you aren’t looking, but not the whole zucchini, they will leave 1/3 attached to the vine to let you know they were there.
Last year we were fortunate enough to have a neighbor share their fresh kale. I like kale and use it in salad, soups, pasta sauce, and smoothies. You can have it on it’s own as well, but it goes down better in my house if it’s with something else. I was super impressed with my neighbors kale plants because they were hardy and seemed to live well even past the first frost when the rest of the garden was done in for the winter. And easy? You just cut off a few leaves when you need it and it keeps growing. Magically reproducing fresh food straight from the garden all season long. What could be better?
Well this year I changed our vegetable garden format somewhat. I’ve got cucumbers for the first time growing up the fence, the tomato plants were reduced to three: cherry, beefsteak, and yellow covering most everything we’d want to do with them, and I’m giving kale and swiss chard a try.
Sadly, I thought to myself, what could be harder than growing kale and swiss chard? And indeed the kale, up until last week, was producing beautiful and delicious greens for at least a month, likely more. I discovered a salad on pinterest which is basically fresh kale, chopped apple/pear, feta cheese, and a vinaigrette made from cider vinegar, olive oil, and honey. I’ve probably made it half a dozen times. The swiss chard has yet to provide us with anything because as soon as the leaves get close to being big enough to pick and cook, they start to wilt and get brown spots. The kale last week started to get holes and is buggy.
I did some research and I have leaf miners in the chard and cabbage worms on my kale, and the worst part is their ability to camouflage. Yikes. The whole point of having a garden is to grow food with pesticides, but now my garden has pests. So which is easier to eat? Kale that you know has pesticide on it or kale that has little green worms hiding on the underside of the leaves?
So that’s it for kale until I get the situation back under control. As for the chard, the leaf miners are worse because you can’t see them. The leaves have brown spots but you will never find the bug on the leaf, BECAUSE THEY ARE INSIDE THE LEAF! No thank-you. You can see the “larval maggot” by my thumb nail below.
I pretty much think the chard is a wash, forget it man. I’ve made up some chemical free pesticide that I’m using on both plants, but even if I can get some healthy looking chard, I don’t know if I can get past the horror.
In the flower garden I finally have enough healthy perennials (I add a few every year) that I didn’t really need to buy or add much. In fact I had to thin out my hostas twice now and moved a chunk of Shasta daisies to another spot that was lackluster and kind of barren. Two years ago I had tried forget-me-nots and another low lying flower, roman chamomile and neither have really impressed me. They are going out next spring and I’ve already planted a divided hosta and some fun red cone flower to take their place.
I did have one exciting success this year, bee balm. My kale growing neighbor who is a very excellent gardener gave us some bee balm from her garden earlier in the spring. It just bloomed last week and not only did it meet the requirement of surviving in my garden, it’s got quite a pretty flower AND it attracts hummingbirds. I’ve been putting a hummingbird feeder out without success for three years (I really want hummingbirds) but this lovely bloom drew one in yesterday who happily chirped while gathering some nectar.
The garden has got weeds, it always has weeds, but whatever, after a number of summers in this home I am very close to declaring the flower gardens “good enough”. It will never be Versailles, or even the parking lot garden next to Versailles. My goal is to have some color somewhere in my yard for the entire season, I am approaching finally having enough variety that this is a reality. After that I’ll likely just be thinning out and upkeep. Maybe garden gnome maintenance. Gnome Oscar needs a new coat of paint.