Have you ever noticed that every adage has an opposite? Look before you leap; he who hesitates is lost. Nothing ventured, nothing gained; better safe than sorry. Absence makes the heart grow fonder; out of sight, out of mind. Et cetera.
Garden advice is the same - a bundle of contradictions. You could go this way. It's pleasant down this way, too. Of course, some people do go both ways.
With gardening, the more I read the less I know what to do. Take fall cleanup. Should I rake out the debris (leaves and dead plant matter) or leave it in place? A. says rake it out, since it can provide hiding places for insects and harbor disease. B. says leave it: it will provide insulation and improve the soil as it decays. I usually go with B., but this brings up another question. Is it necessary to chop the fallen leaves? I shredded a slew of them weeks ago, but more have fallen and I'm feeling kind of lazy. Will it be fatal to leave them in place? Isn't that what happens in nature? And while we're at it, how do I know that what's stewing under the debris is a bad thing? Might it not possibly be a good thing? I thought that's how you got compost.
I'm always looking for tips on planting in solid clay. A. says dig a hole and backfill it with amended soil, a mix of the original clay, some shredded pine bark, and some compost. B. says that this is the worst thing you can do; all you are doing is creating a soggy bowl that will eventually drown your plants. Never dig down. Instead, build the soil up. That will give your plants something decent to sink their roots into. Of course, that won't work if your garden scheme involves planting on a steep hill. Back to A.
Speaking of clay, tilling is a hot topic these days. A. says go for it - it will loosen and aerate the soil, help mix in nutrients, and all in all create a more hospitable environment for planting. Back in the day, my mother was Queen of the Rototiller, and she had a gorgeous garden. But now I understand that tilling is an ecological no-no. B. tells me that it depletes soil nutrients, disturbs beneficial insects and organisms, and encourages weeds to germinate. Apparently my weeds are very smart, because they germinate just fine with no encouragement in my untilled back yard.
All of which raises an important question: is sauce for the goose really sauce for the gander, or is there more than one way to skin a cat? I have no idea, but I'm getting a headache worrying about it. Oh well. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and since my garden seems to be sputtering along, I can't be doing everything wrong.
So put that in your pipe and smoke it.
The Galloping Horse Gardener is a native New Yorker who packed it in in 2005 to live under the radar in Cary, North Carolina. In 2014, she removed to a new secure location somewhere in Raleigh.
Follow the Blog
Problems signing up? Send me an email and let me know.