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Shooting Myself in the Foot

October 23, 2012

Neglect and procrastination have taught me more in my gardening endeavors than I care to admit and a close second in the confession department is my falling for well-intentioned gardening advice that is the fodder for so many gardening articles and books.  Some gardening advice I have read, is about as good as the free-range, hunky-dory chicken myth.  Namely it doesn’t always work, and when it doesn’t the outcome is pretty ugly.


I have a split personality when it comes to gardening.  I like the neat orderly rows, and I never want to put my garden to bed because I miss it so during the dark days. :(   So much so, that I try to hang on much too long in removing plants.  The gardening guilt trip is a long one – mulch, don’t mulch, throw firewood in the garden, don’t throw firewood in your garden, put lime on, don’t put lime on, till, don’t till.  The list goes on and on and it’s as bad as politics, everyone is right.   I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that I’m a fairly good gardener and I really don’t need to jump on the next bandwagon that comes by, I am feeding my family and then some, so I don’t need some super-duper sliced bread different way to do my garden.  That doesn’t mean I am against new things, you’ll find row cover and colored mulch in my garden and I do use a hoophouse so I’m not a total Luddite.  But…

finding a way to be lazy is in my gardening tool kit also.  I’ve discovered that being observant (while being lazy) is one of the better things a gardener has to be.  So last year at this time when I was not wanting to say goodbye to my friend, the garden, I decided, “Yeah, calendula I like you, and I like seeing you blooming out here despite the frost.  I won’t pull you out, you can keep blooming, I can keep enjoying some color and all will be well.”

Calendula and I enjoyed each others company last fall until one day I noticed the dogs taking a special interest in the tattered calendula row which just so happened was right next to my row of celery root.  Weather had taken its toll on the calendula patch and it had fallen this way and that, onto quite a bit of the celery root row.  Closer inspection revealed lots of vole tunnels and many vole trails through the calendula tangle, and many seed caches.  The seed hoards I could live with, but the freeway to the celery root was too much.  In my bliss of looking for flowers I had neglected to notice that by leaving the mass of plants next to the root crops, I was providing not only cover, but food in the way of seeds.  By the time I discovered this, the voles had already hollowed out at least 25 celery root plants!  That is a dent in the larder, my friends!

Needless to say, we didn’t have to plant any calendula this year, we just needed to thin it out!  And yes I have pulled the main “bed” of calendula so as not to provide cover, and food for my furry garden adversaries.  Now it remains to be seen if the voles will risk coming out of hiding to eat celeriac, or that was just a stroke of bad planning on my part last year.  The other remaining question is, what will happen this year in the winter garden that I didn’t see coming?

Have neglect and procrastination taught you anything in the garden?

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. Dana S permalink
    October 23, 2012 11:38 am

    I’ve still got tomatoes out there! They were volunteers, so I’ve largely ignored them, but they are still flowering and feebly ripening in the cool rain.

    • October 23, 2012 12:58 pm

      Dana, if you watched them they probably wouldn’t make it ;) When we’re potting on, we throw the plugs that don’t look strong on the greenhouse floor, most shrivel up and die but this year a cherry tomato and about six basil plants took off and produced, a little stunted but they did produce without much more than a lick and a promise.

  2. October 23, 2012 11:41 am

    I’ve learned that if I direct sow kale seeds in the later sumer (hhhmmmm, wonder how that discovery came about, couldn’t be that I failed to rip out the bolting brassicas, could it?), they get a head start on next season, their roots gorw deep, and I never have to water them (not once, and it doesn’t rain here during the summer).

    This year I’m purposely testing it by sowing chard, spinach, lettuce and brassicas around the time their seed pods would be popping open anyway. Through neglect, I’ve learned that they won’t sprout on their own until the fall rains return, which means I don’t have to worry about them getting too big to make it through the winter.

    • October 23, 2012 12:55 pm

      Anna, sounds like the parsnips that took off in August after I harvested seed, they are four inches tall now and germinated when they thought the conditions were right, not when I deemed it so ;)

      Good tips!

  3. Enjay permalink
    October 23, 2012 1:11 pm

    This year I learned that planting watermelon at the base of the old swingset that I use as a bean trellis isn’t a good idea because the raccoons that live in the storm drain on the corner will hike their fat selves over the fence behind the trellis and rip the beans out of their way so they can hollow out the watermelons. I also learned that I need to walk myself over there every day to check on them rather than
    when I expect to have beans ready to pick otherwise the melon remains will be too mooshy to notice the teeth marks and I’ll spend far too much time trying to figure out why blossom end rot would kill bean plants too. On the plus side the seeds were already black so I anticipate having watermelons volunteering all over the place next year.

  4. Denny144 permalink
    October 23, 2012 3:25 pm

    The first year we moved here to Michigan from Kentucky, I planted a bunch of dahlias like I had back home in the South. Not being too observant about the approaching cold fall weather, I left the dahlias in the ground not knowing that, in Michigan, you are supposed to dig them up and store them over the winter. I was sure I’d lost them all but contrary to common Michigan garden wisdom, they all made it through the winter. And some 10 years later, I’m still enjoying them. Neglect for the win!

    • October 24, 2012 10:01 am

      Denny144, that’s impressive, here they just rot with all the rain, although I have noticed with dahlias that the ones I don’t care for are the ones that make it through the winter the best :(

      • October 24, 2012 11:16 am

        Makes me tempted to try leaving mine in the garden, but I think I will upset my neighbour who gave me the plants. Think I had better get out and dig up my dahlias

  5. October 23, 2012 3:47 pm

    I think both Steve Solomon and Eliot Coleman talk a lot about the importance of ‘hoe-leaning’. Thought we had the farm on the line, but the deal fell through today. :(
    Hope you got all of your dry weather chores done! And, still have some rabbit with your name on it. Go easy on yourself, you do more in your garden and pantry than anyone I know. Very impressive stuff.

    • October 24, 2012 10:00 am

      Spudlust, ah yes the hoe, I’m pretty good at that!

      Too bad about the deal :(

      Thanks for the compliment!

  6. October 23, 2012 5:46 pm

    well the pigs have been let loose in my garden, so i am fairly sure i am safe from volunteers next year!! Daisy says hi, well she would have, except she is a cow! but hi anyway..c

  7. Anna permalink
    October 24, 2012 7:17 am

    I’m still trying to work out why anyone would throw firewood on the garden!~ LOL

    • October 24, 2012 9:57 am

      Anna, my Hugelkultur loving friends are rolling their eyes at my comment I am sure. I’ll stick with just compost for now thanks… Here is more about it, and I have to say if you don’t have animals and need to build up soil it would be a great way to go.

      http://permaculturenews.org/2012/01/04/hugelkultur-composting-whole-trees-with-ease/

      • October 24, 2012 11:23 am

        Wow thanks for that. Hubby has no need to start his fire then, we just have to compost it and we have the perfect place for it as we have a low point in a field to raise up

        • October 24, 2012 11:38 am

          Joanna, I think hugelkultur really excels where there are drainage problems or low spots. For me, it would be just one more chore of material moving :(

  8. kirk permalink
    October 25, 2012 4:32 am

    Permaculture principle #1 is thoughtful and protracted observation! And thanks for the hugelkultur and drainage tip, I have just the spot.

  9. MARILYN permalink
    October 30, 2012 8:32 pm

    i REALLY LIKED YOUR ARTICLE ON SHOOTING YOURSELF IN THE FOOT. I HAVE A TERRIBLE VOLE PROBLEM. THEY ARE EATING MY ARBORVITAE AND 90 OUT OF 100 RED ONIONS. BEETS, CARROTS. I’M IN THE HIGH DESERT AREA OF CENTRAL OREGON. DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE?

    • October 31, 2012 5:30 am

      Marilyn, that’s awful! What voles really like is cover, mulch etc., short of trapping, and a good bunch of hunting cats I have no idea what to tell you. New garden spots are notorious for vole problems because you have basically moved into their territory and provided extra tasty goodies for them. Find a gardener in your area and find out what works best for them. It’s disheartening to see all your hard work get consumed. :( Sorry.

  10. brenda from ar permalink
    January 4, 2013 9:46 am

    Had bought Jerusalem artichokes at the farmer’s market and lost a half dozen in the crisper. When found, they were shriveled, black and a bit hairy. Instead of tossing them on the compost, I dug a 5 inch hole in front of the oregano and buried them there. With no clue on growing them, in a few years I accidentally got a nice 4′ x 4′ patch of them. Since then, I’ve studied on this a bit and can give tips when I share my excess.

    If your store bought cabbage is a little bit rooty, and you cut the bottom off and toss on compost pile, and step on it squishing it into ground, a circle of new edible stuff will grow. I’d heard of that working on green onions. Wonder what else works like that. Time to experiment.

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