I am not a master gardener. In fact, I'm really not much as an amateur. I grew up in a world where the outside belonged to men and the house was the woman's domain. Daddy was the gardener, and I would even venture to say that he was a self-taught master. I never saw his garden fail. Daddy taught me cattle management, hunting, some electrical skills, some mechanical skills, but never gardening. Those other skills were fun to Daddy. It was knowledge he could pass down to me. But gardening was work, and that made it his job. Mom and I could harvest the garden and put up the produce, but outside physical labor was not for the delicate female. In consequence, his master gardening skills went with him when he passed. Oh, he would have gladly talked to me about it if I'd had the sense to ask. But in my younger days gardening was the last thing I was interested in.
Now, I find myself in middle age, unemployed, and back on the farm. The stock management has stood me in good stead with the sheep. We always had chickens, which did fall in mother's domain, so I have the knowledge required to raise my own flock. It is gardening that is the challenge. Daddy always made it look so easy. But we have been at this for few years now and have yet to be successful enough to allow me to put up the produce. Working full time was one handicap. We planted on the weekends, visited the garden before work, and again afterwards, but there just wasn't time (or energy) to really get down to the details that make a garden a success.
To begin with, there is the soil. Each plant family needs a different type of soil with different nutrients. Tomatoes needs lots of calcium, but cabbages do poorly in a calcium rich soil. And then there are the personalities to deal with! Did you know that not all plants get on well together?
This year I decided that since I am home full time now, I would devote myself to a thorough study of gardening and see if at last I could be as successful as Daddy. My first task was finding books on the subject. I am not a YouTube person, I can't stand sitting for hours in front of the computer, and I refuse to have a kindle. I want a real book I can hold and study and flip back and forth through the pages comparing notes. The books I eventually settled on are The Encyclopedia of Country Living (found at Amazon.com), Growing Fruit and Vegetables (by British master gardener Richard Bird – found at Discover Books http://www.discoverbooks.com/Growing-Fruit-amp-Vegetables-Richard-Bird-Pape-p/1843092425.htm ), and Carrots Love Tomatoes & Roses Love Garlic (found at Amazon.com and Discover Books http://www.discoverbooks.com/Carrots-Love-Tomatoes-and-Roses-Love-Garlic-Sec-p/1580178294.htm .
The first two books are very straight forward teaching you about the various plant families, their characteristics, and what types of soil works best for each. But the last book is the real clincher. And the most confusing. Carrots Love Tomatoes & Roses Love Garlic taught me where many of my gardening mistakes are. For instance, last year my eggplants produced wonderfully! Then suddenly the fruit started to turn yellow and drop off. The leaves wilted, and I lost them all. I tried to research what disease might be attacking them, but every solution I tried came to no avail. Then, low and behold, this book tells me that eggplants do not like peppers! And I had planted my eggplants right beside my banana peppers. They also hate tomatoes, which were near by their pots. Now I know that eggplants love green beans, and this year I will plant accordingly. And while tomatoes love carrots, they absolutely despise cabbage, which has always been directly across from my tomato pots.
So now I am working on a garden plan. Greg (my artist husband) has drawn me a plan of the garden and I am working to place each of my plant beds the correct distance away from those neighbors they despise, and in a compatible space with the ones they love. It isn't easy in a limited garden plot of pots and raised beds. But I know if I can get this right, I just might be more successful this year and finally get to put up that produce and use my new juicer! It also makes me realize just how much wisdom my Daddy kept in his head. Somehow, he just knew where to put each plant so it would thrive. And that is what really makes a master gardener.