Visitors to the Derwood Demo Garden often say, “It must be great to work in this garden!” And it is. We’ve got great soil, lots of space to play with, and the knowledge base and company of our fantastic Master Gardener crew. But there’s one major disadvantage, one way in which home gardeners – and community gardeners too – have it much better. We can’t visit the garden every day; in fact we often don’t get there more than once a week.
My number one piece of advice for both new and experienced gardeners? Be there. In the garden. Here’s why.
- Even if you have an irrigation system set up, your garden, or particular plants in it, may need supplemental watering. Or may be getting too much water. You can’t tell, or do anything about it, if you’re not there.
- You have a much better chance of IDing diseases, bugs and critters that are damaging your plants if you can inspect them frequently.
- You’ll be able to harvest beans before they’re tough or zucchini that’s not baseball bat size if you visit every day or two.
- It’s much easier to accomplish organized succession planting, or move plants that are too close together, or reseed where germination failed, if your next planned visit isn’t a week from now.
- Weeds grow really fast.
In other words, your garden will be better with you in it. This doesn’t mean hours every day; most of us don’t have time for that. But do try to stop in whenever you can, even if it’s for a few minutes.
You may not have the chance to check under all your squash leaves for eggs, but if you do a few leaves every day you’ll get through them all in a week, and meanwhile a quick glance will tell you if squash bugs have hatched and are eating your plant. You might not be able to water everything, but you can water those new cucumber seedlings that are in danger of wilting. You can pick those three cherry tomatoes before they fall on the ground, and fix the hole in the fence where the #%*&! rabbit keeps getting in, and put in new bean seeds to replace the young plants it ate. And you can make lists of bigger tasks to accomplish when you have time to spare.
|Barbara Dunn watering on Hat Day – photo by Darlene Nicholson|
I have to say I enjoy gardening with company, though. I’m more likely to stick it out despite heat and humidity and frustrations, and though I enjoy a quiet garden, talking is nice too, and so is sharing information back and forth. I wish I lived closer to the Demo Garden so I could pop over and check on things, but we do manage (as do people with vegetable gardens at weekend homes). And we have fun; we’ve just had our first annual Hat Day and T-shirt Day, somewhat in the style of high school Spirit Weeks, though I promise not to inaugurate Pajama Day or Dress In MG Colors Day.
But I do wish, sometimes, when popping into my home garden to pick (ahem!) the first mouse melon of the year, or to pull a few of the many weeds that are taking over because I haven’t finished the mulching, that I didn’t have to spend time and gas money to Be There in my other garden. It’s a great place to visit; wish I could do it more often.