If there’s one thing I’ve learned about growing a veggie garden its that the learning is an ongoing process. In the first couple of years it seemed simple enough; dig up the dirt, plant some seeds, weed and harvest. In my naiveté, I thought once you had that down, there wasn’t anything left to learn. But every year I am faced with new challenges and new things to learn and it finally hit me this morning that I actually know less now than I thought I knew back then.
To some extent, yes, the process really is till, plant, weed and harvest. But with trial and error – and sometimes research – I’ve learned which plants play well with others. I’ve learned how to spot signs of insect activity. How to follow a trail of caterpillar poop to find the caterpillar’s hiding place under a leaf. I’ve learned that the perfect tomato cage has not yet been invented. That pretty little white butterflies fluttering happily through a garden are actually bad news. I’ve learned to plant flowers – marigolds and zinnias and sunflowers – among the vegetables, to encourage beneficial insects, but also which veggies want to be close to those flowers and which do not. I’ve learned to identify a variety of bugs, beetles and caterpillars and learned what type of plant they favor. I’ve learned to recognize the weeds we see most often and to know which will be easily pulled and which will require earth-moving equipment to remove. That every time I have a pest under control, another I’ve never seen before will move in to challenge me. I’ve learned not to grow the things my family simply won’t eat and not to waste space on plants that grow large but only produce a small amount of food (like corn). Instead I use that space for a plant that will continue to produce for many weeks (like tomatoes, beans and swiss chard). I’ve learned that I need to carry a bowl to the garden with me every time I go, so as to have a way to collect my harvest, yet I rarely remember to do it.
As I plan my 2015 garden and look forward to what it will produce, I can’t help wondering what lessons about gardening 2015 will teach me.