by Henry Lane Hull

This year I have abandoned traditional gardening, a practice I had followed since the age of 9, in favor of containers and raised beds, or I should say, raised bed, as I only have one. Last summer I attended a program offered by the Northern Neck Master Gardeners at the Lancaster Community Library. Bonnie Schaschek was one of the presenters and I was taken completely by her explanation of square-foot gardening.

Earlier this year Bonnie reappeared as one of the mentors of the Master Gardening class that I took and was the host for the pruning workshop in her own garden. There I beheld the theory that she has been putting into practice, leading me to conclude that I should not continue as I had been. Granted as a novice my efforts are a mere fraction of Bonnie’s, but I am off to a good beginning.

Each year my first plantings are always spring onions and this season they have been the best ever. The containers are easy to keep weeded and watered, with every drop of water going to the bulbs, rather than running off down the garden slope. We have been eating easy-care onions for over three months and as I staggered the plantings, they should continue even through the hot weather by being kept watered.

Mary and Ted Barna kindly gave us a few of the shoots from their raspberry plants and they are the focal pieces of the raised bed. This week we began eating their produce, granted a trickle at present, but again, the weeding takes virtually no time and the plants flourish in the selected rich soil.

Over the years I have amassed a collection of clay strawberry pots with the holes up and down the sides. This year I have put them to use for green beans. (At my age I still think of them as “string” beans.) Caring for them is literally a “snap” and production is excellent. Years ago Mary Margaret Clegg, also known as M2, introduced me to the variety known as Contender and I have continued with it thereafter. When viewed from across the yard, the bean plants emanating from the multitude of holes in the pot, make for a surrealist painting.

Five years ago I wrote of ordering two Atlantic Queen pear trees from the Henry Leuthardt Nursery in New York. One died the first year, but the other thrived and this year for the first time, burst into bloom, but set no fruit. A month ago I noticed what I thought to be the first sign of fire blight and sadly I was correct.

The tree has grown to beautiful proportions and I mourn at losing it, but we have no choice but to remove it, burning the branches and trunk and disinfecting the tools with which we take it down. I have resolved not to buy pear trees again, relying on the grocery store instead.

My “garden” gives the appearance of being a hodgepodge with all sorts of containers and the raised bed made of cedar logs from a tree the Elder B. E. cut down and sliced into rails. I have utilized every square foot, indeed every square inch, to good results. In late winter I vowed that we should be able to have some vegetable or fruit on the table for dinner each day from March forward. Thus far, we have succeeded in that pursuit.

I have not neglected the flowering component of the garden and presently am hosting hordes of Monarchs and other species of butterflies as well as honeybees galore. The colorful flowers draw the pollinators’ attention and they come, visiting the vegetables and fruits while here.

For the moment I doubt I ever shall return to the way I formerly gardened. I have become a devotee of the new age, confirmed at dinner each evening by the newly adopted methods.

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