Want better garden? Wait until next year

Many famous gardens are referred to by name, starting with the Garden of Eden.

Many famous gardens are referred to by name, starting with the Garden of Eden.

Some are named for their location such as Sissinghurst, others simply for the gardener as in Monet’s gardens while still more are named because the description fits such as Sage Mountain, Rosemary Gladstar’s famous herbal retreat in Vermont.

I always smile when I see names posted like Growing Concern, Garden of Eaten’ or the oft used Garden Of Weeden. Serenity, Green Tangle or Fairy Lane are nice names too.

However, if I were brazen enough to give my own garden a title the letters on the sign would probably read “Next Year.”

Lord knows, I say those words often enough while tending the plants and soil.

In an area that gets—on average—85 frost free days, this year we were granted 120.

Us!

The ones in a frost pocket!

The ones who always get both a late frost in the spring and an early one come fall. Some years we have only made 45 days between frosts.

I don’t ever remember getting four straight months without the temperature dipping below zero before and I have lived here for half a century.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened, just that I don’t remember if it ever did.

If I wasn’t worried it was the result of global warming, I’d be delighted.

Of course, this was also the year I gave up on wasting space on winter squash, sweet potatoes and other long-season heat-lovers that always get slapped down with frost before producing anything worth eating. Ah well. Next year.

Even with the long season, there were the usual hits and misses. I had a bumper crop of potatoes, beans, lettuce and kale and a decent amount of beets, carrots and strawberries.

The deer ate most of the peas so next year they are going back down in the orchard with its eight foot fence. The onions were terrible and I only got a few measly garlic and shallot bulbs for my year-long effort.

The raspberries grew lush with all the rain but only produced a smattering of berries.

There were so few we only had enough for eating straight off the bush, and even those didn’t taste very good.

The new growth of canes look very lush and promising though, so I’m hoping for better results next year.

Things in the greenhouse did pretty well. I still have tomatoes ripening, though it’s long past the time to do the final harvest and bring them in, green or otherwise. My Sweet Success cucumber lived up to its name.

A single plant produced so many cucumbers we couldn’t eat them all and had to give some away.

There are still a couple dangling from the vine even now and here we are in the month of October!

And of course the zucchini kept its prolific reputation intact. Just like the cucumber, one lone plant gave us more zucchini than we could eat. My peppers, however, are just starting to blossom so it’s a wash for them. Next year.

My leaf harvest for the compost—which you would think would be a sure thing—has come to an abrupt end before it scarcely began.

Rains came and made the falling leaves a sodden mess. There are still some leaves on the trees so I haven’t lost all hope of playing with my new leaf vacuum, but it doesn’t look good. Oh, well. Next year.

At least the horse manure for the compost is a crop I can count on. I’ve hauled over 20 wheelbarrow loads out of the pasture in the last week alone.

Despite the fact that the average horse produces 7.5 tons of manure a year giving me a typical yield of 15 tons annually, I have collected most of the good stuff.

don’t want the dried out sawdust textured piles that have had all the nutrients leached out of them. Instead I go for the fresh piles, the steamier the better. Okay, that sounds disturbing even to me. But it’s true. It’s got to the point where I am practically rolling the wheelbarrow right up under the horses’ tails and tapping my foot.

Of course, the key to safe compost is time and heat. You want the pile to heat up sufficiently to kill off any pathogens or weed seeds in the manure and then you want the worms to move in and do their thing before transferring the rich, brown, gold to the garden. Next year.

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist and garden writer. She writes for Gardens Central magazine and blogs for peacecountrygardens.com, hardyherbs.com and the freshly sprouted containerscape.com