A gardener’s schooling is never done
September 28, 2010
With my garden chores slowing down, I have been reflecting on some of the garden lessons I learned this season. Since I’m always experimenting, each year I pause to review what I have done and whether it worked or not.
This time I had tried an experiment letting kale and leeks overwinter from last year. Both survived and grew again this spring. I discovered that kale, while maintaining leaves from last year, went on to produce magnificent flower stalks and then hundreds of seeds per plant.
The bright yellow flowers were three feet tall and attracted multitudes of pollinators. It was pretty impressive. The leeks had never really developed the previous year, but after going dormant over the winter, they grew 3- and 4-foot flowers that bloomed beautifully all summer long. These were massive round balls. Most were white, but one was a gorgeous lilac color. Pollinators, particularly wasps, fed heavily on these.
I found that the stalks were inedible because they became woody to support the massive flowers. I think I had great pollination of my tomatoes because they were interplanted among the kale and the leek flowers.
Speaking of pollinators, lavender is a great attractor of honeybees. I placed a cucumber and yellow pear tomato next to the lavender and had the best crop ever.
And, speaking of tomatoes, I tried Better Boy this year and was it a winner. The tomatoes are abundant, large and delicious.
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After all the problems I had with ground squirrels and rabbits last year, my husband built garden walls and a cover for the garden out of wood and plastic one-inch mesh.
These panels worked great against mammals and birds. However, after seeding radishes and beets late in the summer and having every single sprout eaten by grasshoppers, I had to come up with further protection.
I happened to have mosquito netting and decided to try it. It worked great. I just propped it up on stakes, held the sides down with bricks and watered right through it. I will definitely use netting again.
Finally, I have been freezing my kitchen scraps before I put them in the compost pile. Freezing breaks down the cells of the tissue speeding up the decomposition process. I then dig a hole in my pile, bury the frozen mass and water the pile. I have lots of worms, so I know this is working.
A gardener’s schooling is never done.
JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 887-2252.