I’ve been gardening in my patch in the swamp for many years now and I feel I understand the nuances and microclimate well enough. I have studied and I have read and filled my head with all manner of gardening knowledge. When I head off on holiday, it isn’t the latest top 10 novel nestled in my hand luggage, but a selection of great gardening reads and mags. I’m always learning. You never really stop when you are a gardener.
But then there is the heart knowledge. The things you seem to know instinctively, the tried and the tested. With each year and each season this knowledge increases as you develop a more intimate knowledge of the plants you are growing and how they like to be treated. But the key to this is specific only to you. Understanding your soil and understanding your microclimate is the kind of thing a book can help to understand why you experience what is going on in your garden. But remembering to build a sturdy stake for your beans because the wind from the west is relentless in November, or not to put tender tomatoes in the north east corner because it is a frost trap, or come January your soil will bake solid in the sun so mulching is essential, are things you can only find out from doing.
So at this time of year with the world at your fingertips, it is easy to see what other people are doing in their gardens. I love watching other gardens from all over the country gather momentum as the seedlings grow from tiny green specks to towering giants heading out into the gardens lovingly prepared by keen gardeners. There is definitely a green movement stirring in this nation and more and more people are growing food. It is so good to see.
However with this wonderful world of sharing, there comes a dark side. Comparison. I look from these impressive specimens being growing about the place and then cast my eyes back at mine growing steadily in the greenhouse, unaware of my critical gaze. “Why aren’t you bigger?” I start to second guess myself. Everyone else’s is so much further along. I must have done something wrong. They are just not growing fast enough – maybe they have stopped growing. Did I start them too late? Plant shame. It was never the intention of the people proudly posting what they have grown, but it is so easy to take it as that.
However I need to apply my heart knowledge to my head knowledge. The seed packets says tomatoes can be sown from late winter to early summer in my area. That is a window of five months, and my experience has taught me that early winter is too early for my garden or I end up with plants way too big for pots desperately waiting to go into ground that is still way too cold for them.
We’ve probably all done it at some stage as novice gardeners, desperate to get a jump on the season. I did it one year – the first year I owned a greenhouse. I started ‘everything’ way too early and learnt valuable lesson on what not to do and how to listen to the needs of my plants. Priceless heart knowledge.
A further look into those giant tomatoes proudly going into the ground, are actually in the sunny north and this is just the right time for them. There are many sizes of seedlings to choose from in the garden centre to suit everyone’s needs. My smaller specimens are still actually growing and are just about where they should be for this time of year in my garden. When it is my turn to plant them into the garden where they will be warm enough and safe from frost, they will be just perfect for a good life in my garden.