Getting in the Garden Groove with John Schroeder: Gardening Involves Lots of Hard Work


Hobbies are supposed to be fun, stress-free escapes from the more challenging aspects of our lives. Then why do hopeless green thumb-oriented plebes like me choose an activity like gardening that entails so much work?


There are many moments when you're milling about in your garden on a beautiful sunny morning or a peaceful cool evening and the calming feelings of this activity can be really appealing.

But no matter how you cut it starting and successfully maintaining a garden involves a huge volume of work.

It includes:

    • Planning your layout each year, buying seeds to start some of your own plants from late February through early April and/or purchasing your bedding plants from area nurseries and stores. If you’re in DYI mode you may be moving seedlings to larger pots one or even two times before they go outside. Oh, and don’t forget to “harden off” those bedding plants before they get planted in the garden.


    • Get the soil ready by tilling it or turning it over by hand.


    • Rake smooth the tilled soil and carefully put in rows of different seeds, onion sets and other plantings. Then keep them moist at least until germination occurs (and more often if we have significantly dry and hot weather like we experienced here early in the 2020 growing season.)


    • Keep the weeds under control, especially in the early weeks.


    • Plant your later heat-loving crops like tomatoes and peppers. And before those tomatoes go in dig those deep holes to support the tomato cages that will in turn guide your plants.
    • Start the early harvest on spring greens, radishes, asparagus and other spring crops. Harvesting some plants can be time-consuming, such as kale and collards that need multiple rinsings and that really taste better if you take the time to cut out their center ribs.


    • Thin seedlings to give the fewer plants you leave behind a better chance to mature more fully.


    • Stake and prune your tomatoes as they begin to grow and get bushy.


    • Incorporate fertilizers you purchase from the garden center or hardware store and/or add more natural soil enhancers like fish guts, egg shells, coffee grounds and other compost you create.


    • Sequentially plant so that you have a somewhat steady supply of your favorite crops all season long.


    • Put down mulch to hold moisture and to suppress weeds.


    • Speaking of that…weed, weed some more and keep weeding (at least to some extent) throughout the year!


    • By about mid-July and continuing through the fall get into the garden several times each week to pick and harvest various things when they’re perfectly ripe and not yet too big.


    • While cutting a head of cabbage is relatively quick and easy, picking dozens of ripe tomatoes from numerous plants can take some time. And going through bean plants (bush or pole beans) can take a half-hour or more several times a week as they are offering their heavy production over 6 to 8 weeks in the summer.


    • Consuming, canning, drying and otherwise giving away the heavy harvest that comes in with a vengeance during the second half of the summer.


    • Compost or dispose of spent plants.


    • Finish up the harvest, grabbing the last crops like carrots, parsnips, turnips, fall greens, leeks, squash, pumpkins and other late-maturing species.


    • Store tomato cages, stakes and fencing, do other clean-up chores and begin to add grass clippings, leaves and other organic material that will dry in the garden over the winter only to be tilled into the soil next spring when all of this madness begins once again!


I start every year in the garden with incredible enthusiasm and energy. This ever-growing list of chores and duties wears me down somewhat throughout the summer and early fall. But the incredibly bountiful harvest is the trade-off for all of that hard work and the thing that keeps me coming back year after year.


Next week: Sage advice from one of our area garden experts.


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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