by Vicki Englich
Santa brought me four new gardening books, affectionately known as Garden Porn in my home, and after a tremendously busy summer and fall, I am getting back in the mood for The Great Garden Experience. Of course, the outdoor temperature right now is holding firm at zero, and I can only gaze at the photos, read the memoirs and dream of verdant landscapes. The benefit I gain from this time of reading, dreaming, and planning is that I can gain wisdom and insight from those who have tried other methods and have grown different varieties of vegetables and flowers. If I canít currently plunge my hands into s oil, I can have a vicarious experience.
I also review my notes from last season to learn what worked and what didnít, as well note as any changes that I want to make. Regrets? I have a few. Last fall someone asked me how many pounds of produce I harvested from my garden. I hadnít a clue.
Lots, but I had no real idea of how much. I was working so totally in the moment, canning tomatoes, roasting eggplants and tomatoes for sauce, making salsas, pickles, jams and chutneys, that it didnít occur to me to weigh it.
Since it is the time for resolutions, Iíll offer a few of my own. First, weigh the stuff. Iím curious now about the bounty, and it will remind me of how much money I can save by growing so much of my own produce. Of course there are vegetables that I will never grow, like corn. Corn takes up a lot of space and is a heavy feeder. Iíll let my friends at the Farmers Market grow it for me. That way I can also support one of the best venues for fresh, local food that Winona has to offer its residents.
Second, and itís my perennial resolution, is to grow something I have never grown before. I like the challenge of learning new things. I havenít decided yet what that something is, but Iíll let you know how it works out.
Third, I want to take more photographs of the gardens to document their beauty as well as the hundreds of pollinators I lured into my small space. One of the highlights of last summer was watching, as we ate our meals on my three season porch each day, a pair of hummingbirds and sphinx moths visit a large stand of scarlet bee balm. The flowers also attracted many different kinds of bees, butterflies and wasps, and I felt great about the abundance of nourishment I was able to offer them.
Fourth, and finally, is to continue to improve the soil in all of my beds. Kitchen compost, worm compost, manure, and mulch all contribute to better soil. Nutrients must be replenished because the plants use them as they grow and bear fruit. After so many years of gardening I understand from experience that if you donít have healthy soil, you wonít have healthy plants. You donít need synthetic chemicals; organic matter will be enough, and you will be healthier as a result.
My New Yearís wish is for temperate weather, beautiful and abundant gardens, and many pollinators in our yards! Happy New Year!