OLG (Old Lady Gardener) #12 Rethinking the Summer Gardens

The weeks have flown by and I have not found my way to my computer so posting here has not happened for a few weeks. I have no good reason why. I could say time was short but really time is just time. We use it in the ways we want to. In other words – We can usually make time for the things if we want to. I think I just needed a break and to spend much of the last few weeks doing odds and ends of things.

The garden is slowing down for the year. The temperatures here in Minnesota have begun to cool. The nights are in the 60’s or below. Last night our low was 49 degrees. The days warm nicely to the 70’s and the angle of the autumn sun leaves sharp shadows in the early morning and evening. It is a lovely time of year. Perfect for walks, sitting on the deck or gathered around a fire in the backyard for a late night chat with family or friends.

The veggie garden for me is almost done. This was not a good food garden year for me. I know of others who are reaping the great bounties of their garden now. Storing food for the cold months ahead. Last year I was part of that group. This year we are just enjoying small amounts of beans, carrots, lettuce, herbs and a few tomatoes here and there.

This is the point in which a gardener could turn grumpy and discouraged. This is when many people throw in the trowel and call it quits. I was almost there but decided to not take the negative route. I sat down with a glass of wine and thought out the issues. Why did this year fall apart? I am not going to say failed. We still got some food and Mason, my grandson, thinks it is a great success since he has been picking small carrots every other day and tiny cherry tomatoes to take home for dinner. I did put six small containers of tomato sauce in the freezer today. A friends tomato plant is over producing.

Where were the issues this year?

  1. Cold weather in the spring meant a late start to planting for me so I rushed things and did not prep the soil well. The main beds I use this year are old with four of them having tree roots coming up into the beds seeking any moisture they can. These beds need a good amount of compost to give them new life and they just did not get it this year.
  2. The weather was a big factor – year 2 of drought with a long cold spring and then above 90 degree temps for days. It has been hard to keep the moisture level up in the gardens without running a sprinkler many hours a day.
  3. The huge old elm tree has continued to grow and leaf out well over several of the garden beds leaving them now in shade most of the day. Not good for growing food. Veggies need full sun in the summer, which means 6 or more hours of sun a day. These beds are getting more like 4 to 5 and it makes a big difference. Flowers are doing well in those beds not tomatoes or other veggies. The plants grow but they are just not producing fruit. When they do like the tomatoes – the fruit is small and not ripening. They just sits there, green as can be.
  4. My own ability to work hard digging and pulling deep planted weeds has also slowed the process of change in the yard as well.

This was a year of coasting I would say. I did create a couple new gardens for flowers and have slowly begun the re do of the backyard. It is taking me longer than I thought to clear out two years of weeds and rebuild the beds. I am hoping over the next few weeks with cool weather to keep moving towards cleaning up the beds.

There are some things I can change like the soil health in the beds. It the weather holds into October I will clear the garden beds and add compost and chopped up leaves to them and let the soil settle over the winter with hopes of better luck next year.

I can’t change the weather patterns or the growth of the old elm. I am not cutting it down so I can grow tomatoes. That would be crazy! So like most gardeners that are good years and off years. This being the off year for sure.

Gardening is about patiences, trail and error and rolling with whatever comes your way.

We will enjoy the coolness of fall, the wonderful colors of fall flowers and leaves and look forward to winter for creating plans for next year.

About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, care for my Grandson and write. Life is good!
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2 Responses to OLG (Old Lady Gardener) #12 Rethinking the Summer Gardens

  1. I admire your reflections on this season of gardening. I suspect you are far more of an expert at it than I! However, I do love to get my hands in the dirt – and I think this is one of the great lessons of gardening, that it varies, things grow, things die, there is always beauty and wonder. I think you say it best here – “Gardening is about patiences, trail and error and rolling with whatever comes your way”

  2. My hat is off to you for continuing to bring life in color to earth’s soil. I am not good at this at all. My grandmother was, my mother was. Not me. I admire anyone with the patience and know-how to garden.

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