Getting in the Garden Groove with John Schroeder: Artful Planting


The objective of the FLOWER gardener is obvious -- to beautify your grounds with a variety of vibrant blooms and dramatic greenery.


When you’re growing vegetables the goal is different. You want to realize a good harvest from the things you chose to grow so that you can justify the hours and hours of digging and weeding and tilling that went into nurturing that crop all summer long. But vegetable gardening can be about more than just producing a yield. If you focus on it, your vegetable plot can also be a part of your overall aesthetic landscaping efforts and something you’re proud to show off.

I have friends who give me a hard time because of how hard I work to keep my garden relatively weed-free. They think I’m anal. I prefer to think of it as “being deliberate.” The longer I have gardened, the more I’ve come to believe that a little extra effort can help to make your growing space as attractive to the eye as it is satisfying to the stomach.

When you go to a good restaurant the chef involved doesn’t just create food that is appealing to the palate. An equal effort is made to perfect the PRESENTATION of the dish. Why should your garden be any different?

Keeping your weeds under control is one way to maintain a good looking space. We talked last week about how staying on top of the weeds early in the season makes the overall effort of keeping a weed-free garden much easier later in the year. But there are other things you can do to help keep your garden looking good while it produces crops. I use a 4-tine steel rake quite a bit. It fits better between the rows of crops than a full-sized rake, and after I’ve been weeding, thinning seedlings or doing selective harvesting, I usually “back out” of that area by raking the soil. That covers my footprints, keeps the garden looking neater, and working the soil also allows nutrients and water to penetrate easier.

With big-leafed crops like cabbage and broccoli you’ll often have lower leaves that turn brown and eventually die as the plant matures. I used to just let that happen and the dead plant matter would accumulate on the ground. But now I tend to clean up wilted and dead leaves. That keeps the garden looking better, but in some cases – most notably tomatoes whose leaves may have died due to blight – cleaning up the dead leaves can also help slow the spread of that common tomato disease.

It probably also helps that due to space restrictions, I tend to shy away from growing vining plants like winter squash, cucumbers and melons. I LOVE to eat all of them, but they tend to take over a garden. That hurts the development of other crops and it can also produce that overgrown look that I’m not real fond of.

I want my garden to not only give me lots of produce throughout the growing season but to also look good while it’s doing so.



Next week: Every year is different.


John Schroeder is a sales guy at Townsquare Media St. Cloud, but in his past life, he was an on-air personality specializing in sports. But what really turns his crank is getting out in his 28 x 15 foot vegetable garden several times a week nurturing, eventually harvesting (and sometimes sharing) homegrown food.


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