Second-guessing. We all do it. Some of you may have done it as you rose from bed, or when you were deciding what to have for breakfast, or even just now, as you started reading this column.
As gardeners, it’s a frequent occurrence. Have you ever looked at a seed catalog in the dead of winter, saw that huge red heirloom tomato and thought “that’s going to be on my counter come August” only to find out that the late spring frost nipped some of your plants, the dry June stressed them out, the cool nights in August slowed down ripening or that in September, when the tomato is oh-so-close to being ripe, the weather forecast was off by a couple of degrees and you found your once-green plant rapidly turning black?
Or maybe, just maybe, you are second-guessing yourself about your decision years ago to plant that tree or shrub right next to the house? Sure, back in the ’80s or ’90s, that little tree, maybe a Colorado blue spruce, an aspen or even a lovely lilac, looked really small way out in the yard, or maybe it was going to shade the bedroom window. But now, it is lifting up the sidewalk, curling around the edge of the roof or maybe invading your pipes.
I get it, poor decisions happen. Sometimes, they are made on a whim or maybe, in the case of the tomato, our eyes and the romance of growing an heirloom tomato that big got in the way of realistic expectations.
This year, I am second-guessing. See, my family and I currently live in a house that doesn’t have the best space for a garden. We moved in this May. The backyard is bookended by two trees, a Siberian elm and a boxelder, neither of which are on our lot, and both of which create a lot of shade. I was knee-deep in baseball tournaments and Beth was off to Disney during the end of May and the first part of June, so our ability to start and plant a garden was a bit compromised – removing lawn and planting could cause four kids and a dog to revolt.
So I tried to find a couple of spaces to sneak in small beds, but the shade got greater as the summer wore on, and I put my tomatoes and shishito peppers in pots. But I didn’t have pots big enough (I should have bargained with the nurseries to sell me the really big ones meant for trees), potting soil is really expensive (here comes the $8 tomato) and I thought I could squeeze a couple of pepper plants into one container (I’m really not conservative or lazy, honest).
And while I have some sungold tomatoes, and the peppers may start producing, I failed.
I failed at what I teach people to do, and that is a bit depressing and maddening and frustrating.
So at this moment, I am second-guessing. Not the house or the lawn or even the containers. But it’s thinking that I could trick Mother Nature or even science. But I know that there is always next year. That those veggies are annuals, and when they die, the season dies.
I know that second-guessing sometimes leads to second chances, and I’m good with that.
Darrin Parmenter is the director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6464.