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between our steps 07 22 20 double
Five packages of zucchini seeds and I have one plant. Just one that I saved with cayenne pepper and extra water. The first ones I planted too early back when we had such damp, cool weather. The next ones I planted when we had no rain. What I did not realize was that the overabundance of chipmunks was also a problem. These critters were digging up the seeds. When the few they missed sprouted, something bit the top off, effectively killing them.

That's where the cayenne came in. A little bit and no one would eat them. I still lost a couple more as they were dug out by accident while critters looked for seeds.

One year on the farm, I planted zucchini early and none came up. I planted again, but still none came up. I planted a third package, the weather changed, and they all sprouted. We had zucchini to spare that year. So different from this one.

I have to learn a whole different practice here by the lake. My tomato and pepper plants are doing well this summer. Last year, they did not. Both years, I put them in pots. With all the clay and rock, I do not have a lot of fertile land. What I failed to realize last year was how little sun I have. It was not until late in the summer that I realized that the south side of the house has the most sun because there are no trees, just two forsythia bushes.

What the forsythia taught me this spring is how warm that side of the house is. I had a few branches right up against the house blossoming well before anything else. In that hot sunny area, the pots of tomatoes and peppers are thriving.  

However, I almost lost most of the tomatoes. After a day of light rain, I knew I did not have to water the gardens. But there is an overhang on the garage roof. In early afternoon, I saw the tops of the tomatoes seriously drooping. The rain had not gotten to them. Fortunately, I caught the problem early enough that water revived them.

Our first spring here, I put in two raised beds in an area I thought was sunny enough. But they don't get sun all day, and the trees also shelter them from rain. The lettuce and beats and spinach struggle. The garlic I planted last fall did well, however. The leaf cover came out quite late this year, so the bulbs got a really good head start.

I never watered the garden at the farm. I used water from the rain barrel when I first put plants in, but after that they were on their own. I couldn't risk running the well dry. Generally, there was enough moisture in the ground and enough rain that the garden produced well enough.

Here, though the lake is right there, the clay ground tends to be dry. I have been adding organic matter, digging in all the leaves I can gather and the compost we produce as well as purchased peat moss. But I am afraid I have a long way to go so I draw water from the lake and water what I can. The pots get watered every day, but I started only watering the raised beds and other gardens every second day. That was not enough.

This house was vacant for a summer before we moved in. Nothing was watered. I figure that means that any plants or shrubs that survived have strong root systems and tolerate the dryness. These don't need to get watered.

There is an exception. Fir trees. When we arrived, there were three, covered in lichen, with dead branches three feet up from the ground. After doing some research, I learned that they wanted humidity and moisture. Two I have given up on, but the third gets extra compost, a ground covering of leaves, and water. It is holding its own this year. I planted crocosmia in front to hide the dead branches for at least part of the summer.

Gardening, I am more and more aware, is not so much about the skills of the gardener as it is about understanding what is going on for the land.

Cathy Hird lives on the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway

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