It’s March, and this time of year I like to look back on the previous gardening season and reflect on what went wrong the previous year, and I thought that it might be of interest to the listeners to hear a discussion about mistakes, and what can be learned from them.
The first of these was that I waited too long to take my carrots out. Carrots really benefit from cold weather, and it’s a good idea to wait as long as you can before digging them out and storing them on your cold room. With that having been said, I waited a little too long and long story short, they’re still out there, frozen in the ground. That’s probably 40 lbs. of carrots basically destroyed due to procrastination. Next year I will have to be more proactive on that front!
Another mistake that I made was waiting too long to finish all of my fall projects. Any major task that involves moving soil around is best done in late fall (it’s a good temperature for physical work, there’s little else to do in the garden, no flies), and I try to get all of these things done in the fall so that I only have to worry about planting in the spring. Again, due to procrastination, a number of new gardening spaces that I had intended on developing, never got addressed, and now I am looking at the frozen soil, wishing that I had gotten those things done last fall.
One very lamentable mistake was planting some of my winter squashes a little too shallow. The soil that they were in was a little loose, and I don’t think the seedlings got the constant moisture hat they needed, and by the time I realized that the seeds had failed, it was really too late to try another crop – so I had very few winter squash to put down for the winter this year. Where I live, there is a very narrow window of time for squashes, where the soil is warm enough, and there is enough time before the first frost to get a good harvest – so next season I will have to be more carful and nurturing with my squashes.
Fall is a great time to plant or move trees and bushes. This past fall I was supposed to move a cherry tree, and I forgot all about it. If you move them in the fall they spend the remainder of the fall developing new roots, and then they are ready to take off in the spring. Moving trees and berry bushes in the spring, by contrast, is more stressful for the plant, and I sincerely doubt I will get any sort of harvest from that plant after moving it this April. Fall is also a good time to search the garden center for half-price trees and berry bushes.
This past season I was far too passive with the pests. It’s nice to take a “live and let live” approach with all living things, and that’s an ideal that try my best to adhere to in all aspects of life, but sometimes that attitude can cost you a large portion of your crops. I lost a lot of kohlrabi and kale to cabbage maggots, slugs and flea beetles. In retrospect, I should have been more aggressive with them, and next season I plan to get pretty medieval with those pesky pests.
Finally, last season, and for the second year in a row, I had a lousy corn crop. I love fresh corn, and spend the whole summer anticipating it, but I think next season I’ll take a break from corn. It just doesn’t seem to grow well where I am located, probably because it is so windy and cold. I’ve had good corn here before, but I think it only grows during exceptional seasons – but I think those are likely few and far between due to my proximity to the Atlantic coast. For this season, I think that my time would be better spent growing something better suited to my growing conditions.
Mistakes happen, every gardener makes them, and I am no exception to that rule. Part of what makes gardening so interesting to me is the fact that it is an incremental, lifelong learning process, and I think that mistakes are just part of the experience. There’s no point on dwelling on the garden that you didn’t have, so use those experiences to guide your decisions next season. Good gardeners learn from their mistakes and grow from the experience.