The season for gardening is over in the Midwest. No more planting until spring. Weeding is finished. The dahlias turned black with the first frost, and now are safely tucked away for winter in a cool spot in the basement. The pots from the patio are clean and stored in the garage. Now is the time to contemplate the past season to determine what went right, what went wrong, and what needs to be different next year. Pen in hand, I start my list on a fresh sheet of white paper.
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on November 10, 2007. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
When composing next year’s resolutions, it behooves one to remember the Rule. There is only one Rule, but it is vital: Next year’s goals must be achievable and realistic.
If you currently do not garden, and put "Create a tropical paradise" on your list for next year, you will probably be disappointed. If you work 70 hours a week, have six children, own a lot or acreage with heavy clay soil, and have never used a shovel before, do not put "Plant 10,000 summer bulbs" on your list.
Rule firmly in mind, I’m ready to begin now. Next year I shall:
1)Plant flower seeds. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Next year I’ll plant seeds. Any gardener might put that on his list, particularly if he spent too much money on established plants this year. Seeds are cheaper, right? Well…..
The painful fact is that I bought seeds last year. Oh, believe me, I spent plenty on established plants, but I also spent plenty on seeds. I got fabulous seeds though. Just looking at the packets makes me smile. Johnny’s Selected Seeds claimed my money with offerings such as Zinnia haageana ‘Old Mexico.’ Interesting pansy seeds came from Swallowtail. Plus shipping. Then there were those with pretty packages grabbed in singles or twos every time I went to a store. Next year, I’ll even plant them.
2) Plant vegetable seeds earlier. This year I couldn’t figure out why co-workers were bringing cucumbers and tomatoes to share at the office long before mine were ready. Then I discovered they started with plants instead of seeds. Cheaters, every one! I didn’t even know you could buy cucumber plants. Perhaps if I plant my vegetable seeds earlier next year, I won’t have to take my co-workers’ tomatoes while mumbling something about mine being in the flowering stage. Maybe I won’t have to endure their pitying, knowing smiles. Of course, no co-worker had carrots, so this year wasn’t a total loss. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t have enough carrots to share at work. What matters is that I am no cheater!
3) Deadhead. Everything. All the time. I managed to get the roses deadheaded, perhaps because I only have five and they are all in front. I started well this year, but the Gaillardia got me in the end. Gaillardia attracts butterflies. And bumblebees. I’m terribly allergic to bumblebee stings. They hurt too. I quit deadheading when I heard the first low vibration of a bumblebee. Next year, I won’t let them stop me. I’ll buy one of those special white bee suits with the netting if I have to. Next year I will deadhead.
4) Water well into July. I quit sometime in June this year. I know my limits, so if I don’t stop watering until well into July, it will be an improvement. I dislike watering. I should have a garden of succulents, but I don’t. Some people enjoy standing with the hose, talking to their plants. I talk to my plants too. I say, "Hurry up and drink," or "I bet the Astilbe in the Sahara would be grateful for half this water," or "Next time you’re buying the drinks." The ungrateful ones croak in the heat anyway. Maybe this item should come off the list just to spite the ones that can’t take it.
5) Attend more plant sales. This year I went to the University’s Horticulture Club sale and the local Iris Society sale to the tune of 99 plants and 15 rhizomes respectively. I missed the State Arboretum sale. I must go next year, as I’m certain I missed something great. Additional note: Hide this list from Handsome Man, and hoard money now.
I survey my list. That ought to do it! Next year’s garden will be scrumptious, undoubtedly worthy of a magazine cover.
Looking again at #4, I am reminded that watering is my least favorite gardening duty. Maybe I should get some kind of sprinkler system. And I don’t know about that deadheading business. If I get laid up with a bumblebee sting, I’ll lose two weeks. I could buy a lot of plants for what the beetender’s suit costs.
Scrutinizing the first item on the list, I realize seeds can be untrustworthy. How many plants will you actually get? How long will it take them to germinate? Perhaps buying small plants is a timesaver. Time is money, after all. I could even buy vegetable plants and nobody would have to know.
I spend a lot of time in the garden as it is, so how will I get all this additional work done? I need more time. Obviously this list is only a draft, and I must remember the Rule, so I rip the paper out of the notebook and begin with a fresh sheet. Next year I shall…
1) Hire the neighbor’s grandson to water.
2) Determine if the neighbor’s grandson is allergic to bumblebee stings.
3) Buy vegetable plants earlier than I planted vegetable seeds last year.
4) Quit my job so I have more time to garden.
5) Attend more plant sales.
I look again at the Rule. Achievable? Check. Realistic? Well, that’s probably enough working on the list today.
About Lori Geistlinger
Lori and her husband, Handsome Man, garden in the heart of Tornado Alley in the Midwest. She likes perennials, because if they don't come back, chances are she forgot she planted them and doesn't realize she killed them. Don't take her too seriously.