My suburban backyard garden is testing me. Big surprise, I know. Gardens are full of opportunities for growth (yuk yuk) via tests of mere human patience and ingenuity. Beyond the ubiquitous challenge to all growers of being unable to control the weather, the backyard gardener also can not control the sun and shade.
My backyard borders the backyards of wonderful neighbors who have trees on their sides of the property line which we enjoy immensely. We have but one neglected Bradford Pear inside the fence to mow around, shuffle around leaves, etc., yet we enjoy myriads of birds and beautiful foliage and the shushing of breeze through the trees just outside of our property. These trees also shade a good portion of my ‘growing medium’. While trying to utilize the sun I do have, I face the extra problem of requiring room for football right in the center of the yard (away from precious garden beds) as it is the longest area that is flat enough for safe play.
Lessons from last year’s garden (my first full summer in this house) had a lot to do with understanding more clearly which beds received which kind of sun and for how long. Some parts of my 2 sets of 8′ X 17″ raised beds receive sun 6 hours, while some receive 8 hours with shorter periods and dappled shade for parts of those areas. This year I planned and planted accordingly. Then my neighbors cut down a Bradford Pear that was providing the morning shade to one garden. The increased sun opens all kinds of possibilities like more room for pepper plants and beans, but I’ve already got lots of more tender vegetables in the ground. I fear that the lettuces and leeks in that bed do not have long to go in the Middle Tennessee heat, although it is blessedly cool today! (The above pictures are both ends of one of my 8′X17′ raised beds taken at 8:30 in the morning, a time when this bed used to be in shade.)
Meanwhile, my other set of beds are shadier still and usually host the greens and lettuces. Before the pear tree came down I thought I’d try to ameliorate the shade there by cutting down some of the tree branches hanging over the fence creating too much shade.
So both my beds are less shady and my plans are ruined, right? Well, if there’s a way to spend money to set things right…. I went to the store to see if I could get lettuce, chard and any other greens to put in the OTHER bed now that my shade garden will not be cool for long. Nary a leaf of lettuce, spinach, chard or collard to be had in Middle Tennessee folks. There was nothing but summer crops out. Poop! I mean manure!
So back to square one in the form of a square brown peat pot and a bunch of seeds. I am notoriously bad at watering seeds enough once the weather is warmer and less wet, so I am going to start lettuces, chard and spinach indoors until they are bit stronger. It seems I’ll have to re-arrange my plans. Gee, I haven’t done THAT before in my garden.
This whole growing food thang is STILL a test, … but am I passing? I maintain that as I’m STILL gardening, philosophically, I am passing the test. I am enjoying (most of the time), reaping benefits from (always psychologically and nutritionally and sometimes financially) and I am in a wonderful group of people who call themselves gardeners… Now if I can get MORE vegetables out of the garden beds, I’ll be a happy and satisfied, flexible gardener who EATS lots of rewards for passing the test. Good luck with the gardening tests you face this year! We’d love to hear about them. Maybe we can help each other keep on passin’ the test.