raised garden beds

The Grow Bed we all wish for: A bountiful harvest free of pests and disease.

This spring, I was pleased to get an e-mail from my newly retired Aunt Ila, who wanted to start a vegetable garden in Michigan. I set her up with a 3×6′ Grow Bed, a link to the Kitchen Garden Planner, and my best wishes for a bountiful harvest

Well, it’s been a tough year for gardeners. Here in the northeast, intense heat has prevailed for most of the summer. Rainfall has been insufficient. I wondered how things were going in Michigan, but was afraid to ask. Then, Aunt Ila sent this:

“I’m formally admitting that my sister got every single gardening gene. My raised bed has been a complete failure, though I think the local wildlife and the weather gods have some responsibility. The lettuce and beans disappeared — both plantings — although rabbits, deer or whatever don’t care much for basil. The remaining melon vines would take over the backyard if allowed, with thousands and thousands of blossoms but no sign of a melon. I give!”

My aunt Ila, right, and her sister, Judy, who “got every single gardening gene.”

What can I say to that? She’s pretty discouraged, and understandably so.

When someone gets interested in gardening, I hope they’ll get some good luck to start. I hope they’ll get a season free of disease, pests or extreme weather. I hope they’ll use the Kitchen Garden Planner for solid advice on most crops.

But, I know there will be challenges. Deer will come stomping through, eating and trampling things in their path. Diseases and pests will appear as if overnight. Some plants will fail to thrive for no apparent reason.

Again, what can I say? “Well, you need to go to a special school to learn about gardening.” Heck no. I work for a gardening company. I want to tell everyone that gardening is Easy! and Fun! Note the exclamation points.

Here’s the thing: Gardening is a process. Sure, it’s about harvesting big bowl of salad greens or a vine-ripened tomato. But mostly, it’s the doing: planting, watering, weeding, staking, harvesting. If you don’t find joy in these things, you’re missing out. Or, maybe you’re more the farmer’s market type. That’s good, too.

I find that most of the time, gardening is surprising, satisfying and fun. It’s cooking three perfect potatoes that you grew in your own backyard. It’s seeing the hollyhocks you grew from seed. It’s going to the neighbors with a bag of tender spinach leaves — because you have that much.

So, my dear Aunt Ila, I say, please try again next year. And get yourself a fence. I can help you with that.

David Grist, Gardener’s Supply