Usually around this time of year, I reflect on the past gardening season and make plans for the new one. Instead, let's look at lessons learned and what I plan to do about them.
For one thing, the climate, it is a-changin'. Last summer's brutally hot and humid yet rainless weather repeatedly chased me into the air conditioned sanctuary of my house. Not that much was going on outside - it was too hot for seeds to germinate or plants to set fruit. Weeds grew, though - lots and lots of weeds. There was no way to keep up. It does not help that my garden helper and I are both aging.
So the emphasis for 2012 is to focus on gardening smarter instead of harder. Toward that end, the meadow is to be down-sized and planted in green manures, to smother weeds, provide mulch, and rebuild the soil, so that maybe next year I can plant dwarf fruit trees there. The plants are going to be moved to the patio beds, where not only will I be able to keep a closer eye on them, I will have a more up-close-and-personal view of the birds, bees, and butterflies who visit.
Also, the beds with shrubs where we throw truckloads of mulch are going to be populated with space-filling perennials, with the goal of needing less mulch in the future. Even though the tradition in these parts is to widely space trees, shrubs, and flowers and fill in the gaps with mounds of mulch, most gardening magazines and catalogs show densely planted beds with nary a spot of mulch or bare ground showing. My hosta bed looks like that; why can't the rest?
The vegetable garden is in the process of being transformed into more formal raised beds ala square foot gardening. Hopefully, this will result in less garden to weed and water without sacrificing productivity. Also, I am going to focus on more early and late gardening, since that middle part of the summer is so unproductive. While all this is going on, to make up for the possible dearth of fresh veggies this season, I plan to participate in a CSA (community supported agriculture).
There are a lot of smaller steps involved in all this, like move the rhubarb to the tractor tire, build a cold frame, etc. I expect this list will be fluid, depending on how things go. Hopefully, by next winter, some progress will have been made.
What are your gardening goals for 2012?