Down and Dirty, Laissez faire Gardening


There are many magazine articles and blog posts that feature sumptuous photo spreads of gardens in full bloomed glory. Beds of perfect tulips. Rodent and insect-free vegetable gardens bursting with a unbitten, sun-ripened bounty.

This blog post will not be one of those. This is for the rest of us.

Any chance of me having one of those gardens, where the sun actually ripens tomatoes on the vine before the first frost, is gone. I missed out.  For whatever reason – maybe it was procrastination, or maybe for lack of believing that winter would ever end this year – I missed the March 1 deadline in signing up for a plot in the Brighton Community Garden. Yes, I believe that day in March, we were under a blizzard warning.

Gardening up North can be frustrating. The season is very short. Veteran Rochester gardeners warn the uninitiated not to plant anything in the ground before Memorial Day weekend. I received gasps of horror when I informed some that I had planted my tomatoes two weeks ago.  But they had become so leggy and pale looking under my basement grow lights, I really had no choice.

And my flowers? I’m trying not to have a meltdown after the bunnies in my garden CHOMPED off the heads the poppies that I have waited all winter to bloom. At least those red bugs have not attacked my Asiatic lilies. At least not yet.

That perfect garden is just not going to happen. So, this year I am just going to relax and keep it in perspective. I think about the ravaged midwest and how lucky we are in boring, tornado-free upstate New York. I think of the farmers who rely on the land and ideal weather conditions to make their living.

It has been one soggy spring, one of the rainiest in record in Western New York. In fact, in April, Western New York received 5.81 inches. So far, in May: 3.32 inches. Upstate farmers are weeks behind in planting their peas and corn. And the farmers at my East Hill CSA have already warned us that this year’s crops are getting a late start because of the soggy conditions.

This year, I am leaving my garden primarily up to nature, because I think She is the best gardener after all. I will embrace my failures.

The Zinnias that I started from seed in the winter are quite puny and can really use some sun and heat:

This Burpee "raspberry lemonade" zinnia did not make much progress under grow lights. Zinnias need heat to thrive

And tomatoes? These are the ones I planted from seed back in February, they also need some sun and need to dry out:

This tomato plant has a long way to go before it fills its cage

But some plants do well in cold wet weather. Here is a picture of the arugula I started from seed way back in the winter:

Arugula Grows well in cold weather - and the rabbits hate it.

But nature is the best gardener. I call these volunteers.  This year, if it is not a weed, I’m letting it grow. And who cares if they are not in perfectly straight lines. If it is a seedling left over from last year, I’m letting it be and will let it grow:

Like Dill

Dill always comes back from the seeds of last year's plant: no need to replant.

That will go very nice with the cucumbers that will grow on this vine, also a pop-up volunteer:

Cucumber vine - or maybe it's a pumpkin vine/

And as for perennial flowers. If you see one of these growing in your garden, jump for joy. It is not a weed, but the start of a beautiful lupine:

Lupine Seedling

Leave it alone, just where it is, and it may grow up to look just like its mom:

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About stacylynngittleman

I have been a public relations professional and reporter -- and always thought I would live in the New York Metro area - before my husband took a job in Rochester, New York. Most in Metro New York can't find Rochester on a map,and neither could I before we moved. I am now a columnist and a freelance writer for Rochester's only daily newspaper, the Democrat & Chronicle. I also am passionate about gardening, fitness and most of all, Jewish education and Israel Advocacy. Here's my perspective on Western New York living - the good, the bad, and the snowy.

2 responses to “Down and Dirty, Laissez faire Gardening”

  1. Mom says :

    Don’t give up on your love of having a garden.Buy a larger pot.place it where you get the most sun,fill it soil and your compost. Make a pizza garden.!Even if you plant one tomato,one basil,and one pepper plant. It will, (in a small way), fulfill your love of having a garden. No matter how limited or how small,picking something that you have grown,is the best.
    Love ,Mom

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