Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Many gardeners tend to garden with just one season in mind. Every year is pretty much the same: winter is used for planning and pruning, spring is for tilling and planting, summer is spent weeding and fertilizing, fall finally arrives for harvesting and cleanup. The next year follows a similar pattern, though the specific plants and where they're planted may vary slightly. There is nothing wrong with this schedule; it benefits gardeners with organization and consistency.
I recommend we look beyond this year's pattern toward a farther gardening future. Act today for results you might not see for years to come. Think about what garden you want in three years, or five, or ten. Rather than think about what you might plant next year, after you harvest this year's efforts, think about what you'll plant for the next decade.
Last week I planted a Canadice Seedless Grape plant. It will be at least three years before I see any fruit and at least five before I have quantity worth the effort. I've already started expanding the area in which I'll plant more grapes by removing the prairie sod and staking out borders. I plan to have multiple Concord grapes and a few other less-known varieties that should do well in my zone 5 garden. These plants will require watering and pruning and care like any other garden plant, but my efforts won't see any substantial results for many years.
Today, while watering, I bent one of my blackberries canes to the ground, pulled off a few leaves, scratched the underside of the cane, and buried it under a small pile of soil. I weighted it down with a small piece of a brick. This process is called layering; roots should develop where the cane is buried and a new plant will result. The new blackberry plant won't be strong enough to stand on its own for about a year and probably won't fruit until the year after that, but I started the process today.
All summer I've been preparing the area that I'll plant fruit trees next year. It's at the bottom of the sloped area where I planted my raised, vegetable beds. In an effort to level the ground, that's where I've spread soil and dried pieces of sod that I dug up from other areas of the yard as I created new beds. With more soil to come, and a winter to stabilize the ground, I'll plant some dwarf fruit trees in the spring. That project won't produce measurable fruit for about five years, but I'm working on it now.
I planted a Montmorency Cherry tree and a Gala Apple tree in my backyard as soon as I could remove some sod and work the soil. Right now they look a little odd, each standing alone, 30 feet apart, with no other plants near them. But in 10 years they'll each be 20 or 25 feet tall and wide with benches underneath, paths between, and companion plants surrounding them. To get the vision I have for a decade from now I began by planting them with plenty of space to grow.
Sure I have flower beds with annuals in them and I have my vegetable garden that will be tilled up and replanted next spring. I love that part of gardening. But as I walk through my garden each day and look at it through the window each morning and evening, I'm always envisioning what else it will be. I try to picture what my future grandkids will see when they visit. I imagine the new beds I'll create for the sole purpose of sharing my love of gardening with a new generation by giving them their own patch of soil.
How do you see your gardening? Do you look beyond this season or year? Do you look to a future garden that will take a long time to realize? It takes great patience to plan and act today for results you may not see for many years.
I suggest it's worth the wait. For when you're sitting under the shade of your apple tree, watching a child climb it's branches to pluck a ripe fruit, you'll smile and be glad for the moment. A moment that began years before.