Friday’s Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South

Gardeners Have No Patience
by James Glaser
April 16, 2010
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Hey, I planted those seeds two day ago. You would think they would be peeking out of the ground by now wouldn't you? Also, I've had tomato plants in the garden for a month. You would think I would be getting tomatoes by now, wouldn't you?

I water them, I side dress them with good organic material, I keep the weeds at bay, and I talk so nicely to them. You would think they would reward me with some produce. The nicest plants in the garden are the lettuce plants. They grow so fast, and now we can have salads out of the garden several times a week.

I really shouldn't complain. People in Minnesota are just now starting their plants in the house to transplant out to the garden in late May. I have little tomatoes on the vine now and should have some cherry tomatoes in a couple of weeks.

In our yard the vegetable garden is second fiddle to the flowering shrubs, flowers, and trees we are planting. With so many new things put in the ground, Wanda and I are putting in a lot of time watering. The real joy of gardening is watching the plants grow. Yes, every day you can see growth, and it is fun to think about how things are going to look in a year or two.

It seems crazy to leave 3 or 4 feet between flowering shrubs, but you have to think about their size when they are mature. We have stopped, and looked at other people's gardens that impressed us. We measured how far apart their plants are to give us the right planting distance.

You don't just have to think about distance between plants. If you are doing multiple plantings in one area, you have to think about the height the plant will get. Then you should think about color combinations. Maybe a dark green tall plant will be a good backdrop for a shorter flower. Then there are the sun, partial sun, and shade areas to think about. Some plants won't flower in the shade, and some won't live in the sun.

On top of that you have to think about the heat down here and the humidity, too. My lettuce will only produce as long as we have fairly cool nights. When the real heat of summer comes, their time will be over, although I can plant them again in the fall. I have Brussels sprouts in, but I don't think they will produce. I should have had them in the ground two months ago. They do well in the colder weather. Although, they do look really nice in the garden.

Everything takes time, and I want it right now. When you buy a flowering plant, the people at the garden center will tell you if you to dead-head all the flowers (take off the blooms) the plant will be able to put more of its energy into establishing its root system, and next year you will have bigger and healthier plants. No way. I let the flowers stay on, and the plant will have to do its best to produce more roots on its own. The same is true with fruit trees or berry bushes, but I would rather have a few fruits this year, and maybe less than I could have had next year. I don't have the patience to wait.

All of it is fun—a lot of work, but a lot of fun, too. I'm out there mixing one part dirt, one part sphagnum peat moss (naturally, Canadian peat moss) and one part "Black Kow" manure. The manure is old and has no odor. We use this mixture to put in the holes we dig for trees and shrubs. We had a dump truck of dirt brought out, and it must have some good nutrients in it because the weeds covered the pile in no time.

I have talked Wanda into saving all of our coffee grounds. A guy back home swore that they made his tomato plants thrive. I did it up there, and I think it works. Plus it kind of aireates the soil. Gardeners will try anything if they think it will push the plant into faster production.

I planted some sunflowers this week that are supposed to get 16 feet high. They would be taller than my potting shed, and that would look pretty cool. Gardeners like big tomatoes, big pumpkins, and big watermelons, but they don't want big root crops, because they tend to get woody.

Like wood workers, gardeners like to buy new tools. Fancy looking rakes, and anything new that will make weeding easier. I remember when the "Garden Claw" first came out. I bet they sold a million of them. Now there are about a dozen clones of that tool, but I think the original works the best.

So, even though I don't have the patience to wait for my flowers to bloom, or my seeds to sprout out of the ground, or to wait for the produce of my garden to make it to the dinner table, I still love gardening.

When the day is done, it is relaxing to walk around and see what is new with each plant. The food you grow is probably the healthiest and freshest you can get, and the exercise you get does you a world of good.

I think there are only pluses when you plant a garden, and who knows, maybe it is teaching me patience, but I wouldn't bet on that.

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