Thursday, August 12, 2010


I started gardening back in 1992 after buying a house in Rochester.  It already had a vegetable garden space, so all I had to do was figure out how to plant.  Knowing nothing about gardening and not having the internet (how did we survive without it?!) I bought gardening books to help me out.  

There are many things you obtain throughout your life that are pretty much tossed aside.  Then there are the few items that actually become so useful you would freak out if it got lost or broken.  One of the first garden books I purchased back then was called Vegetables by a guy named Derek Fell.  I just googled it and found it available as an ebook on a website, and this is what my book looks like:
This dude really looks like he knows what he's doing.  I also like his grooviness.
Turns out this little paperback book was the only gardening book I ever needed.  Its corners are now tattered and the front cover is about to rip off, but I still refer to it every year.

Garden books are good at telling you all of the things to do to have that perfect garden.  Between laziness and lack of time I've chosen NOT to do several things, but the garden still survives year after year.

Things I don't do:
1.  Test the soil.   Every gardening book tells you to test the soil and adjust for nutrients.  I know darn well that even if my soil is tested I will never make adjustments, so I don't bother with that.

2.  Turn the dirt over every year.  I used to till, back when we started with all nasty clay.  However, most of the Mother Earth News types today say that tilling isn't necessary and could actually mess up the soil structure.  I just don't do it because it takes time.  Instead, just keep piling compost on top of the old dirt.  It's so much easier.

3.  Weed, very often.  I will weed a little here and there when the weeds are easy to pull, but there is a dead zone between where the garden ends and where Bob stops mowing that is full of some giganta-weeds.  
giganta catnip weed
scary giganta weed with giganta leaves

If they don't pull out easily then I just step on them to smash them down.

4.  Spray with chemicals.  At the beginning of the season and maybe once in August I will spray plants with Pyola to get rid of flea beetles--they will totally destroy eggplant.  Other than that, I don't spray.

5.  Plant the plants with the recommended spacing.  My plants are crowded together.  This actually blocks out some weeds, but the tomatoes become a crowded mess by August.

6.  Wait until the frost free date.  For Upstate New York this is usually around Memorial Day.  This year I planted a month early because it was so warm.  I lost plant tops due to a freak snow / frost storm, but the plants recovered and now I have tomatoes in early August.  This lets me process them when I am home full time, well before getting ready for the start of school.

Things I will do:
1.  Plant in compost.  Every year I get a load of compost and apply two to three inches on top of last year's dirt.  You have to make sure the compost has set out for a few weeks so it isn't too hot, but my plants have really thrived. 

2.  Use a drip irrigation system.  I won't water by hand, so a simple drip irrigation system has been wonderful.  I've used one for fifteen years.  Irrigro is very easy to set up, although it takes some tweaking to make it work right.
The white line in the middle is the drip line.  You can see the darker dirt around it from the water.

3.  Put cardboard down between the garden rows.  Thick cardboard helps reduce the weeds between rows and creates a great walking area.  It degrades within a season so every spring I put more down.
Hooray for big fat cardboard!

4.  Start plants from seeds.  You can't get the variety of plants from the local store as you do with your own transplants.  I have had tremendous success with Pinetree Garden seeds.  Their seeds and shipping are dirt cheap, which was why I went with them, but the sprout rate and strength of plant is wonderful.  They are an excellent find!  

5.  Use an automatic watering system for starting seeds.  Eighteen years ago I bought a few seed starting systems from Gardener's supply and I still use those same ones today.  I love them!  They are perfect for a lazy gardener like me who forgets to water seedlings.  They do seem expensive, but like I said, I've had mine for 18 years and only replaced the capillary matting once or twice.

As you can see by the pictures, my garden is not pretty!  I'm blessed to live in the country so no neighbors are affected by the ugliness of my garden.  However I also think the ugliness is due to the fact we live in the country and being surrounded by fields of giganta-weeds.  

So, if you have a little piece of unused yard, you can easily start growing a few things on your own.  You don't have to follow all of the gardening rules.  Just grow some stuff and delight in picking your own tomatoes!


  1. Not an ugly garden! You are who I thought I'd grow up to be. Where did I go wrong & can you fix me?

  2. You don't need any fixin'! You need to come up here and teach me how to decorate my house ( and then we can blog about it LOL!)