The New Year is a time of reflection, for the good and the bad. I was recently asked what some of my regrets or mistakes have been in regard to gardening. I don’t know that my experiences are really all that different from other people, but I am happy to share some of my mishaps. Maybe you can identify with what I am about to describe. Resolving to ‘do things different the next time’ doesn’t mean that you actually will change your ways. We are creatures of habit, and a dreamer is always a dreamer and a procrastinator will always be a procrastinator. Although, I will give an ‘A’ for effort to anyone who genuinely learns from their mistakes and puts a concerted effort into re-learning habits.
For me, my biggest bad habit in the garden is the sin of over-commitment. This happens just about every winter and spring when I start laying plans for what is possible in the garden for the following season. I tend to Dream Big, which gets me into trouble now and again. For example, I slowly continue to pick away at building a small orchard at our home. I flip through catalogs and read the descriptions of heirloom apples or pears. I look for cold hardy peaches and blueberries and dream about the bounty of the harvest that will eventually come my way. In my mind, most of the hard work is already done; the holes are dug, rocks are picked, fertilizer has been added, irrigation is plentiful and a deer fence is fully constructed. I wish I could say that I have enough restraint to keep myself from actually purchasing any plants until after this work is done but time and time again, I come home with bare root plants that quite literally have no hole for them to be put into. In early spring, you can get away with this lack of pre-planning preparation. However, I am prone to purchasing plants even in the heat of the summer and then have to scramble to make them a home. Needless to say, I have killed a plant or two as a consequence of my desire. When this happens, I always make a little promise to myself that I won’t let it happen again. But eventually, I am confronted with a new variety (or a really good sale) and the cycle begins again.
This year, to combat my overwhelming urge to expand my garden on a moment’s notice, I did actually plan ahead. I made my garden beds much larger than necessary (while scrambling to get some really beautiful delphiniums in the ground in early June!) in anticipation of finding some desirable additions at the beginning of this coming gardening season. I spent all summer watering and weeding this future home site; carefully pulling every last runner of crab grass and digging every single mallow and thistle as they emerged. I even pre-planned my irrigation to accommodate the future expansion. In a sense, I am following through (at least partially) on last year’s resolution to be a little less impulsive and a little more prepared.
I will always be an idealistic dreamer when it comes to my garden. I am old enough now to recognize the flaws in my character, including my perpetual habit of over-committing. But old dogs can learn new tricks given enough time and practice and I think I am getting a little bit closer to learning how to work around my own pitfalls. I hope the coming season brings you one step closer to overcoming yours as well. Happy New Year and Happy Gardening!