Friday, July 18, 2008

Dressing the Garden

I have a lot of books. Some folks would say I have too many books. There are those who ask if I've actually read all the books I own. The honest answer is no, but they are there just in case I want to. But most of them I have at least glanced through, with the exception of the really old books (many of which are poems by the likes of Byron) rescued from my grandparents' homes, and a good number of them I have even read in part.

So what does this have to do with gardening? Well, I have a goodly collection of gardening books, most of which are fairly new. When I get interested in a subject, I tend to read as much about it as I possibly can. Just to be sure I have all the information available, y'know. Still, this doesn't mean that I necessarily follow all the advise.

Take soil preparation in the garden. Every garden book worth its salt will tell you that the most important thing you can do for your garden, before you even get close to planting anything, is test the soil and then add soil amendments to make the soil the best it can possibly be for the plants you want to grow.

Add to this the fact that not every plant likes the same type of soil. Some prefer soil a bit more acidic, while others are piggies for nitrogen. Gardening and chemistry go hand in hand.

This can be a little overwhelming. Afterall, all you wanted to do was grow a few carrots and peas. So, it is easy to brush all this advice aside and just dig up the ground and throw in some seeds.

And yes, you might be lucky and your plants will grow. They may even produce flowers and food. BUT - will they have grown and produced to their fullest potential?

I discovered this last year. It was my first year with the veg garden. Space was limited. I had a great idea to save myself space and time: I would plant the pumpkins right in the lawn - when they grew (and we all know how pumpkins take over), they would cover the grass and I wouldn't have to mow! What a genius I was! It turned out to be a hot, dry summer, and even though I watered my piddling little pumpkin plants daily, they refused to grow. I had two or three flowers, but the plants never even reached the size of a dinner plate. You can forget any pumpkins.

So, this year I planted the pumpkins right in the manure pile. Pumpkins are what "they" call heavy feeders, which means they want a lot of nitrogen, and here we are a month and a half later and the leaves alone are larger than dinner plates! These pumpkins are happy plants. Lots of food and nitrogen right there at their root tips! The difference is amazing.

Last weekend I looked at the cukes and squashes that I planted in the garden. The same amount of time has passed for them as for the pumpkins, and the cukes were still just two leaves each, while the squash weren't doing much better. Hmm. I dug up a little manure and "dressed" the top of the soil around each plant. VOILA! Super Squash! Courageous Cucumbers! Well, it wasn't' quite that instantaneous, but the difference a little dressing of horse manure made is down right amazing!

And when the dripper hose company recommends drippers spaced 6" apart for veg gardens, and you try to save money by purchasing the 12" drippers in stead, thinking you will just wind them more closely together, you come to the conclusion that the company actually knew what it was talking about and next year you will order the 6" lines to replace the 12" lines you put in this year.

The moral of this story is, yes, you can do it yourself and try to figure things out on your own, or, you can save yourself some time, money and aggravation and actually follow the years and years of advice that other gardeners have put into print just for us!

The choice is yours, obviously. As for me, I may just start to read those books again and take some more of that advise to heart.

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