The autumn of one's life is a time for reflection and autumn in the life of a garden is a time for reflection, too. Whenever I look back over my life, I find that I tend to dwell more on mistakes that I've made and regrets that I have than on any paltry successes. It's the same with my life as a gardener. This year, in particular, there are plenty of failures to reflect upon and to dissect, but at least this year, unlike many years, a lot of those failures were beyond my control.
The vegetable garden, just to give one example, was pretty much a bust this year. Some of the crops, like green beans and squash, still did well and the multiplying onions still multiplied, but most of the plants struggled and finally just couldn't cope with the heat and the drought, even though I was providing supplemental water. The corn dried up before it ever produced mature ears. The tomatoes bloomed but never gave me more than a few usable fruits. Even the heat-loving peppers struggled. It was not a good year for plants living in full-sun conditions in Southeast Texas.
I've documented here before how many of my plants suffered through our interminable summer and how some of them did not make it through to fall, so I won't belabor that point again. I think we are all tired of hearing and reading about (and I know I'm tired of writing about) the drought. The point now is to review what lessons we've learned and think about how we can apply them in the future to make better gardeners of ourselves.
One lesson learned is that my use of water is unsustainable. Our water bills were astronomical during the summer as I tried to keep my plants going until the rains came. We are not rich people. We must live on a budget and so I can't continue to spend so much on water. I need to find a way to conserve and use the free water that comes in the form of rain - when it comes - and to use it wisely and economically. I also need to find better ways of delivering the water that I must pay for so that it gets to the roots of plants that need it without evaporating or being wasted. Perhaps most importantly, as I add plants in the future, I must give prime consideration to their water needs and plant only those plants that are water-wise and drought tolerant. I think it is very likely that drought is the new norm for our area, so we have to learn to live with it and accommodate ourselves to it if we want to be successful gardeners.
Thinking ahead to the changes that I want to make this winter, there's a dead apple tree to be removed and possibly a couple of trees in the front yard that could reduce water consumption there and leave more of the precious liquid for the other trees. I've been forced to concede that we probably do have too many trees in our front yard, although the concept of "too many trees" is something totally foreign to me.
There's also a new bed that I want to put in around my little pond. My long-term goal still is to have a yard completely filled with planting beds with little or no lawn and every new bed that I can put in is a step in that direction. Unfortunately, I can't do it all in one fell swoop but have to do it as time, energy, and money will permit.
And, as always, there are a few plants, although not as many as in past years, that are misplaced and need to be moved to more propitious locations.
The fall/winter vegetable garden is thriving so far and I just need to finish planting it. I have three empty beds that could provide lots of good eating through our short winter and spring, but I need to get those seeds into the ground, probably this week.
There are plenty of things to regret about this year in the garden, but I have to remind myself that there have been successes, too, and that, in fact, most of my plants have come through with flying colors. That is just the encouragement that I need as I plan my activities for this fall and winter in the garden.