Greengirls Helen Yarmoska, Nicole Hvidsten, Martha Buns, Connie Nelson, Kim Palmer and Mary Jane Smetanka are dishin' the dirt from the back-yard garden and beyond. Whether you're a greenthumb or greenhorn, they're eager to learn from your mishaps, mistakes - and most importantly, your sweet successes - all growing season long.

Lessons learned from the garden

Posted by: Martha Buns under Critters and pests, Vegetables, Weekend chores Updated: October 3, 2012 - 7:50 AM

Gardening is a perennial learning opportunity. Every year I learn something new, and relearn the hard way some lessons I know but resist internalizing.

This year, I've learned: That fancy-pants small animal barrier I bought isn't rabbit-proof. It did last until late August before the baby bunny chewed an entrance and exit hole on opposite sides of the netting surrounding the raised bed. The upshot: Better barriers are on the drawing board for next year, the trick being to devise something strong enough to ward off sharp rabbit teeth but attractive enough to not detract from the looks of the back yard.

This year, I've relearned: You only need one kale plant to feed two people, even if you freeze lots of it. Actually you only need half a kale plant to feed two people it it's the four-foot monster out back, but they don't come in halves. The upshot: I'll make sure to pass along three of the four-pack at next year's plant sale.

This year, I've learned: Watering systems aren't forever. Rascally rodents have done a number on parts of our labyrinth of soaker hoses. The upshot: A trip to the garden supply store is in order for replacement parts. No idea how to deter the pests from trying again, but  I'll ponder that in the off season while I'm devising ways to keep them out of my raised beds.

This year I've relearned: The names of some of my plants. I've had a bad habit of planting something obscure and then obscuring (or losing) the ID tag. This year I went back through my receipts and mapped out where the unknown plants were, consolidating my records so I can refer to them again. The upshot: A little bit of inside organization can help you outside.

This year I've relearned: Standard tomato cages just don't bear up under the weight. At some point, I inevitably come home to find an avalanche has occurred and prop up the works with something less than esthetically pleasing. The upshot: I've been googling rebar tomato cages. It's time for industrial strength reinforcement.

Sometimes I do internalize the garden lessons from the previous season. This year I managed to follow through on a lesson from last year: Just because a tomato volunteers some place doesn't mean you have to let it grow there.

What has your garden taught you?

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