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Gardening: Just when your plans are settled, life has other ideas

Dec 15, 2023Dec 15, 2023

Thu., June 8, 2023

This week's column is more of a rant than an advice column. My dreams of a perfectly organized planting season were adjusted by the reality of life.

First, I’m still experimenting with the best time to start my seedlings under lights. I have a rack set up with LED shop lights in our furnace room and it has proved to be the perfect place to get tomatoes, peppers and cool-season crops started.

I began planting in early February to give the peppers and onions some extra time to germinate. I also planted some cool-season crops I’d hoped to plant in early April. They all came up way faster than I had expected and before long I had a forest of growing plants that was outgrowing its space. It was still two months to planting season.

Next, after the snow melted, I realized that before I could plant anything in my home vegetable garden, I had to rebuild five of my 4-by-12-foot raised beds built 12 years ago with lumber that was salvaged from a neighbor's deck rebuild.

Before I could start that project, I had to wait for the ground to thaw out, which took until mid-April. As a result, there was no early planting and I had to find a way to keep my starts under control for an extra month. By early May, the soil was still registering at below 40 degrees, which wasn't conducive to getting seeds and transplants to grow. The chickweed was flourishing, however.

The boxes were rebuilt, but I realized I would need to rebuild the watering system to support them. At least the cost of the lumber was half what it was last year, but it was still a small pile of lumber for the money I spent.

The irrigation system was a little easier and cheaper, as I have a habit of saving pipe fittings from other projects and had most of the parts on hand. There are advantages to being a bit of a scrounger and pack rat. Part way through these projects my 70-plus-year-old body reminded me that I was no longer a spring chicken, and the projects would not be finished on my mental timeline. Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead.

Beyond my home garden beds, I still had to weed and mulch my community garden plots where I grow corn, squash and potatoes before the weeds took over. My plan was to cover the entire bed with mulch and just clear spaces in which to plant. Mulching this way will reduce the work spent weeding through the summer to chopping the heads off the field bindweed that is creeping into the plot. This task sadly will be a never-ending battle. You don't get rid of bindweed; you learn to live with it, and it becomes one of the great challenges in life.

Lastly, there is the ongoing battle with the squirrels and our bird feeder, but that's a topic for another column.

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