In the Garden:
Lower South
February, 2012
Regional Report

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These 'Green Zebra' tomatoes are an older cultivar that has recently become a favorite of mine due to their disease tolerance and unique, tasty fruit.

Home Garden Trials

Gardeners are eternal optimists. Sure we complain about the weather; too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry. Deep down inside however we know that the best garden is yet to come, the best tomato may well be that new one we've been hearing about, and oh yes, those pictures in the garden catalog are what the plants will look like in MY garden!

There is a seemingly limitless supply of new species and cultivars to try out, and many old, forgotten ones that we have yet to rediscover. So many little time. While I have known a few gardeners that found their favorite set of plants and are content to grow the same thing every year, most of us respond like Pavlov's dog at the mention of a new tomato variety or new flowering plant.

So what's a gardener to do with such a smorgasbord of horticultural offerings and a finite space to plant them in? I think that trying new varieties is one of the best things about gardening. Gardening to me is the perfect opportunity to try new things. There is no failure, just a new start. Our gardens and landscapes are like an Etch-A-Sketch. Remember those? If you don't like how your last creative effort turned out, you just turn it upside down, shake the thing, and voila, a new start! I always say there is nothing that a rototiller cannot fix.

Seriously, gardening is a wonderful opportunity to try new things -- new cultivars, new species, new cultural techniques, new tools, new products, new planting times -- the list goes on. Our gardens are mini research stations where things are constantly being tried and evaluated.

Good record keeping is important. You may not be a fan of paperwork nor be obsessive compulsive when it comes to keeping records, but at least have a simple system of making notes about when you planted, what pests or diseases showed up, whether any of the cultivars showed some resistance or susceptibility, and how they performed.

Over a few years you will have accumulated a lot of information; real life results that can guide future gardening efforts and be shared with other gardeners. I find that even though I've been gardening for over 45 years now, I still am finding new things to grow that end up on my "favorites" list, and more important, new ways to grow things that are easier or give better results.

Whenever possible don't just plant one of each thing you are trying out, but rather try several and scatter them around the garden to hedge your bets a little. Better yet, get with some gardening friends and let them try some of the same things, and then get together later and compare results. Perhaps this year you and a group of friends will try three or four new tomatoes, zinnias, lettuce cultivars, or herbs. Then stage a mini garden tour at some point in the season to visit everyone's place and discuss how the various plants or techniques turned out.

Gardening is such a wonderfully renewing hobby. There is always a new season on the way, a new plant to try, and another opportunity to learn and grow -- as a gardener. Here's to a successful 2012 trying some new things, having a few flop and a few turn out to be great additions to your future gardening plans!

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