Oh, my aching muscles...

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Oh, my aching muscles...

By Mary Gutierrez

Like almost everyone, this spring I’m launching vegetable garden projects with a fervor that I haven’t felt for years. I’ve doubled my crop-growing capacity by converting a small rose garden into a vegetable patch. Every sunny spot has been pressed into service. If a sun-drenched spot is not practical to dig, I plop down a pot to hold a tomato or zucchini.

By late April I had already strained a shoulder and inflamed a tendon in my forearm. The dreaded “tennis elbow” is an occupational hazard for gardeners. Repeatedly jamming a shovel into hard soil has the same effect on the elbow as lobbing a ball to a partner in tennis whites. I fall to my knees in gratitude every evening that I come in without a back injury.

The learning curve

I wish I had listened more carefully to garden experts who preach careful planning for crop placement and rotation. I have two garden beds filled with onions, shallots and garlic that I will harvest in late June or early July. Experts say that is the perfect time to put in fall and winter crops. What should I grow? And when do I need to plant seeds? It doesn’t help that the list of candidates for the winter garden is long and tasty. I’m hitting the books like it’s finals week to decide what I want to grow and pinpoint when I should sow seed.

Nurseries offer an abundance of vegetable plants through May, but rarely offer veg plants for sale in late summer. I can’t blame them. Customers are scarce in July and August so most nurseries can’t risk bringing in delicate starts that may never be purchased. Winter vegetable gardens are still a rarity, even though most Northwest winters are mild enough for them.

On the ornamental front…

The havoc wreaked by last winter’s severe weather is now fully apparent. This spring has been filled with surprises, good and bad. I was thrilled to see that my favorite hardy fuchsias are resprouting from the ground.

Casualties that I didn’t expect included my eucalyptus tree—a veteran of at least five Northwest winters—along with my hardy banana, Musa basjoo.

Your thoughts?

How are your vegetable gardens developing? Are you doing anything differently than you have in past years? Or are you laughing at all of us who have hopped on the bandwagon, deluding ourselves that we can grow a decent tomato?

Let me know how your backyard is changing this spring. And I’ll see you here in June!




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