Every now and then it’s important to step back and evaluate what you’re doing in the garden. This is a report for 2017 looking forward into 2018 about some of the garden changes headed our way.
Bidens ‘Campfire Fireburst’ and Salvia ‘Rockin Deep Purple’ (Proven Winners) as part of the ongoing plant trials – excellent plants btw.
To Frame Much Of The Summer
I ran into a some tears in the retinas of both eyes and I’m extremely grateful they were found before they did more serious damage. It took a few hours of laser surgery to weld everything back together again. In early August I was told to not do anything for the next 8 weeks.
I could walk and I could swim.
But no running, no diving, no bending over to pull weeds, no working on my rock wall, no nothing other than swimming and walking that might jar or strain the welded repairs before they completely healed.
Let me digress for a moment and put this in perspective. I have my overall health and I’m extremely grateful for this. The health care system in Canada quickly stepped up to the plate (I went from the initial diagnosis of a tear to the initial surgery within 24 hours. Two followup surgeries over the next week completed the adventure). Colour me a happy guy who really didn’t mind trading my eyesight for a few months of inactivity (even if I grumbled about it a tiny bit.)
So the garden rock wall building stopped cold and I never got back to it.
The gardens turned into weed infested jungles. I’ll pay for that for the next few years beginning next spring when the big clean out will commence. I did clean out most of this year’s weeds in October when I got back to work but the seed crop was spectacular before I was allowed to return to the garden.
Making the Gardens Smaller
The lessons of having a brush with bad health made both Mayo and I take a look at the garden and how we might want to structure it moving forward (Hey, we ain’t getting any younger.)
- Mayo loves to cook and preserve food. (And how lucky does that make me!) She’s not so enthusiastic about pulling weeds.
- I enjoy a modicum of gardening although the days of doing 18-hour days in the nursery are thankfully behind me. And my response to cooking isn’t anywhere close to hers.
We came to the conclusion the best use of my time was in the garden doing what I enjoy and can physically accomplish – both flower and vegetable growing – and the best use of her time was doing what she loves to do in her kitchen.
That deal works out best for both of us. We both get to eat great food and we both do the work we enjoy.
This was an intensive large garden I grew for a video taping. It’s since been removed, the soil shifted and at the moment, it’s rather ugly but it looks like this below… (Before you ask, this raised bed was far too large and productive for two people to eat (and maintain properly without a ton of work)
The image below is what it looks like now.
The asparagus was moved when it went dormant to the right hand side of the image. Some of the perennial herbs were moved to the front right hand side (you can see the rounded green leaves of French Sorrel just beside the gray plastic marker pipe) the black manure has been spread better because the “rounded plant support” on the left that was supporting a fall pea crop was shifted out of there and that area dug as well. In short, it’s an ugly fall garden ready and eager to fulfill its purpose in the spring.
I’ll post some pics next year when the area is fully landscaped and growing and you’ll see a marked difference.
This Meant I Went Into Full Retired Gardener Mode
The back shrub border was eliminated. Most of the shrubs were moved to the front and side gardens. The six remaining ones will be moved next spring (they’re Haskap berries) and I think they’ll go beside the vegetable garden. This back shrub border area will be turned to lawn. Lawn maintenance is the easiest form of maintenance (particularly when you have a lawn mowing service.)
I made the vegetable garden significantly smaller. I double dug it by hand to incorporate both peat moss and some compost.
Composted manure was spread over top of it later in the fall and I’ll incorporate it with the spring digging.
Note the vegetable garden will be planted and maintained as an intensively-managed garden with constant liquid feed, vertical gardening, and all the tricks of the trade for constant cropping. This should allow me to produce a significantly higher amount of vegetables in a much smaller space than previously.
The front and side perennial gardens will absorb a significant number of plants yet, as will the back shade garden so I can return to plant shopping. (Warning: plant lust has raised its head already)
The back shrub garden was moved en masse to the front garden leaving only six Haskap plants. The weeds started to invade and I ignored them. They’ll be mowed next year after the mulch is scraped off and grass seed sown.
The rock wall didn’t go much beyond this point.
The Lessons For This Year
Gardens change. While I’ve never been one to hesitate before moving a plant, this year’s wholesale move was impressive even by my standards. Having said that, I didn’t move a single plant in either of the two shade garden areas and I suspect I’m either getting better at plant combinations there or I’m just getting less enthusiastic about wielding a shovel (or a combination of the two)
Life events intrude on our best plans. This can happen at any age but comments from readers over the years indicate aging is one of the major drivers for changing gardens or even having to give up active gardening. Having experienced this myself for the first time, I can only now understand viscerally what this means.
Vegetable gardens really do require a firm hand to make them produce to their optimum level. Laissez-faire gardening isn’t the most productive use of space or time in my gardens.
Perennial gardens will look really good even without a lot of care and attention (at least for the first year before the weeds/grasses become established)
Container gardens are too high-maintenance for much of the gardening I want to do moving forward. They will be minimized to only those containers I need for the garden design or for trial plants.
Perennial gardens – this is summer 2017 – can look good even if the weeds are mostly ignored (for one year – after that the grasses will be an issue)
I learned a ton about gardening this year. It’s hard to put those into one post.
That health scare created an opportunity for Mayo and I to discuss what each of us really wanted to do moving forward. We’re now discussing different lifestyles because we both realize “stuff changes and stuff happens,” and we want to test out our options before we’re forced into making a change by some event or illness.
The garden isn’t the reason I live but it’s a good thing to keep me living.