Farewell, fellow gardener. After almost 30 years of sharing my gardening experience, expertise, and enthusiasm in columns for The Associated Press, I’ve decided to focus my time and energy in other directions.
Thanks for joining me as, according to the seasons, I selected tomato varieties to grow, pruned ‘mums for best blooms, or highlighted the darker side of mistletoe.
Perhaps you’re a brand-new gardener. Perhaps an experienced one. My goal has been to guide, to entertain and, most of all, to share with you the joys of gardening.
I’d like to close by offering eight suggestions to help make your garden — whether it’s a few flower pots, a large vegetable plot or a general home landscape — prettier, more productive, and more enjoyable to maintain.
Suggestion #1: An important element of good gardening can be summed up in two words: organic matter. Autumn leaves, compost, sawdust, kitchen trimmings — that is, materials that are or once were living — are all organic matter. Added to the soil, it encourages a healthy balance of beneficial soil microorganisms that help fight plant pests and feed the plants. Organic matter also improves soil aeration and moisture retention.
Suggestion #2: Did some insect or disease ruin you zinnias or other plant last summer? Don’t panic! Aphids, scab fungi and other pests are part of the natural world, and they can be part of what makes gardening interesting. Tolerate a certain amount of damage. Your plants can. Japanese beetles might chew off part of your rose’s leaves, but the plant compensates by ramping up photosynthesis in remaining portions. Find out specifically what the problem is, how and where it lives, and all possible ways of dealing with it before taking action. Where a spray is called for — and a spray should be a last resort — follow directions exactly for best effect with minimum impact on non-target organisms.
Suggestion #3: Have faith in Mother Nature and try to follow her lead. She’s been at it a long time. A seed dropped into a soil furrow really does want to grow. Bare soil is prone to erosion and wide swings in temperature. Nature clothes and protects bare soil with plants (weeds); you can do so with crop plants or mulch. The natural habitat of blue flag iris and cardinal flower is wet soils; that of purple coneflower and blazing star is dry soils. Site plants accordingly.
Suggestion #4: Keep written records and photos of what you’ve done each year. Then you can better learn from your mistakes. There’s no end to what you can learn about gardening, unless you forgot what you did and what the result was. Thomas Jefferson, a very good gardener, wrote: “Though an old man, I am a young gardener.” He kept good written records but, of course, no photos.
Suggestion #5: Don’t get boxed in by preconceptions. Allow me to …….