GARDEN PHYLLISOPHY – April 2007

gardenphyllisophyBy Phyllis Galowitz

What’s happening in the garden under the swiftly melting snow? I can’t see. Maybe by the afternoon the snow will be gone and I’ll know if there are signs of spring on this mid-March day. The gutters are overflowing and water is pouring from every downspout. I feel like singing, even if this morning’s weather report said, “Snow showers on Friday”. That was for New York City, but I’m sure that if it doesn’t snow on Friday in Andes, it will surely come. We can’t be finished with winter; it’s just begun! Still, it’s comforting to contemplate the not-too-distant coming of spring.

After the deluge of last June, my vegetable garden was demolished and I said, “No more vegetables for me”, but of course, with the coming of the catalogues, how could I possibly resist, so I will try again. On the first day that the soil has dried out a little, I’ll be out in the garden, doing what I never finished in the fall, adding compost and rotted manure and all those other lovely things that will help my garden grow. Then I’ll cover it all with black plastic to let the soil warm up. In the meantime, I’ll check to see that the garden tools are clean, the pruning shears sharpened, and the bird feeders scrubbed; map out a plan of where and what to plant, and watch for the earliest signs of spring to appear. I’ll gather every container that can be planted in and scrub them.

Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening is a wonderful source for starting your garden. You’ll find it in the Andes Public Library, in the Cornucopia Room. Starting from seeds or transplanting seedlings, he gives suggestions for laying it out, how much to plant, when to plant each thing, how to interplant to avoid pests, and more. He has ideas to minimize maintenance, so that an ample garden to supply vegetables for a family of two should not take more than 2 1/2 hours per week. Using his idea of only planting a 4’x 4′ block at a time does not seem as overwhelming as trying to care for a conventional row garden of 20’x40′, and if the garden is laid out in 4′ squares with wood planks laid between each 4′ block for walking paths, there is no need to step on the prepared beds. It’s easy to reach everything in each block and the beds will stay soft and easy to work.

Since my garden does not get the amount of sun that would be desirable, and I’m reluctant to chop down the birch tree that helps to absorb the water that comes tumbling down the hill behind my house but shades the garden, I must choose vegetables that do not require full sun, such as leaf and root vegetables. Lettuce, beets, carrots, and Swiss chard are good choices. I can try to bounce more light on other, sun-loving crops by lining the ground around them with aluminum foil. The foil will act as a mulch, reflect light, and possibly repel insects. Tomatoes and zucchini will have to go elsewhere. Why not? They’ll do fine among the flowers in the perennial garden and the marigolds will keep the pests away.

This will be my seventh summer of gardening in Andes. I can’t say that I’ve learned very much. It seems that each season brings new and different problems. I just keep trying and I do have fun!