Davis: How's your garden?


Around this time of year, in these parts, conversations turn to gardens. People start comparing the growth of their tomato plants and others tell of the abundance of zucchini. The weather is always a part of the talk, especially this year.

I looked for a solid definition for "drought" but it turns out that is no simple task. Consulting the National Weather Service, their introduction to the topic states, "Drought is a deficiency in precipitation over an extended period, usually a season or more, resulting in a water shortage causing adverse impacts on vegetation, animals, and/or people."

That is vague and I was hoping for numbers or more exactness but what I found is that there can be meteorological, agricultural or hydrologic drought and each is defined in a specific way. According to the National Weather Service web site, "Agricultural drought links various characteristics of meteorological (or hydrological) drought to agricultural impacts, focusing on precipitation shortages, soil water deficits, reduced ground water or reservoir levels needed for irrigation, and so forth."

So I guess it might be best to say that one knows a drought when one sees one. The ground is dry and many gardeners are watering their plants just about every day in order to prevent bad things from happening. This is the first time I remember having to cover my face while mowing my lawn because the dust kick-up was so bad.

Despite watering and careful attention to gardens, the volume and nature of the output is determined in large part by the weather and that provides a unique character to every growing season. I have never seen my tomato plants look so tall and wide and bushy as they are this year. The bed where they are growing looks more like a jungle than a garden.

If I knew more about plant growth and soil science I probably could explain things. I did add some fertilizer to the soil this year for the first time and that may have cause some of the lush growth, but I have to believe that the way plants look and grow has a lot to do with the kind of weather they experience.

Then there is the perennial critter battle which makes for some interesting conversation among gardeners. No one I have talked to has told me they have completely eliminated critters from their gardens but the stories of how they try are instructive.

After a number of years of growing what I called an animal welfare garden I decided to take action this year. I built a fence around most of my garden's raised beds and believed that it would keep those little buggers out of the way so my plants could grow without being eaten prematurely.

The only thing that my fence did was to teach me how stupid and arrogant humans can be. Once the plants were big enough to be tasty some animals found a way through my fence and destroyed lettuce, beets, carrots and a few other things. I was so mad I stood in the middle of the fenced in area and yelled and screamed at the unseen creatures calling them every expletive in the book and warning them that their lives were in danger. That did a lot of good.

I reinforced the fence and created dirt mounds around the bottom of the fence so that it would take a lot of work for a creature to get in. That worked for a number of weeks, but as soon as the squash plants started to get big the little bugger found a new way in.

I have decided not to waste my energy on animal anger but instead have decided that at this point in the growing season I have done my best and whatever I get is good enough. I hope my garden enemies feel the same.

Richard Davis is a registered nurse. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at rbdav@comcast.net. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.


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