Gazette Gardener: Daily attention gets big production from small garden

I’m slowly becoming an urban farmer. In the garden are strawberries, a mulberry tree, quince, vegeta

I’m slowly becoming an urban farmer. In the garden are strawberries, a mulberry tree, quince, vegetables and herbs. This season, I added four blueberry bushes.

From the sound of it, you would think I have a lot of land. I don’t. I garden my back 40 . . . feet, not acres.

But it is a productive garden. From a strip about 21⁄2 feet wide that runs the entire length, I harvested strawberries from June 3 to July 7. There are still several gallons of strawberries in the freezer. This is in addition to the strawberry compote, strawberry shortcake, the bowls full given to neighbors and eating a fair share directly from the plants. It’s been a great year for berries.

The branches of a neighbor’s mature mulberry tree hang gracefully over the fence to my side of the garden. This year, there have been more berries than even the squirrels, birds and my husband can gather. Some were eaten raw. I’ve made mulberry-mixed-with-strawberry pie, mulberry muffins, mulberry ice cream, and quarts were cleaned and frozen for the winter.

A friend opened my freezer for some ice cubes and was surprised at all the fruit. “Did you grow these?” she asked.

She added that her garden doesn’t produce enough fruits or vegetables to make it worth her time and effort. “What’s your secret?” she asked.

That got me thinking.

Constant attention

I don’t have a secret. What I do is routinely tend the plants to keep them producing. I’m not just talking about water and compost. To get the most out of production, gardens — vegetable, herbs and flowers — need the gardener’s attention.

It not that you fool Mother Nature, exactly. It’s more liking working to her strengths. Plants have an inner clock that let’s them know when to flower and when to stop. A gardener can encourage plants to form new buds by deadheading and continually picking vegetables.

In the vegetable garden, this means picking the vegetables while they are young. If you let zucchini — or any squash — grow too large, the plant will slow production. The same goes for herbs. Keeping pinching the tops to prevent that.

For the best production, the key is to harvest fruits as they ripen, clip flowers as they fade and gather vegetables when they are young and tender. This can be every day. By doing so, the plants will reward you with lots of produce and a longer harvest.

For me, this isn’t really work, because I love what I do. Harvesting is enjoyable. And I like the joy it brings others.

After work, my husband goes into the garden with a bowl in his hand. He carefully walks up and down looking at the plants, collecting beans and picking fruit. The freshly harvested produce becomes part of that night’s dinner.

That is a large part of why I garden.

Web site

For those you who asked, Cornell maintains a Web site with a list of sources for many popular and desirable fruits. For blueberries go to I ordered two different kinds of blueberries — Darrow and Herbert — based on Cornell’s fruit expert Dr. Marvin Pritts’ recommendations for the best-tasting berries. Mine came from A.G. Ammon Nursery in Chatsworth, NJ and arrrived well-packed and full of vigor. They have a minimum order policy, so you’ll need to get a small group of berry-loving friends together to place the order.

Happy gardening.

Categories: Life and Arts

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