For many, Black Friday is a day of hectic shopping and chasing deals. I must confess, I am not a shopping guy. So, while crowds are swarming the shopping centers, my thoughts will be reflecting on my gardening season past...the successes, the failures and the surprises. 

I had high hopes for my garden this year. Many mature landscape plants were primed to provide a grand showing and the mild winter we experienced wasn’t going to jeopardize my efforts. By mid-March the weather had turned mild enabling me to get out early and enjoy the garden -  picking up debris, doing my spring pruning and pulling the early crop of weeds. 

I can’t remember a more beautiful April with the quantity and longevity of the spring blooming season. Too often, an early warm spell or late cold snap will abbreviate our spring flowering show, but this year was beyond stunning. The Magnolia overlapped the Redbud, the Viburnum carried on through the Crabapples, the Peonies, Hellebores and Creeping Phlox provided a symphony of color that persisted for weeks. 

Once we hit the month of May, Mother Nature turned against us. A trend of cool and moist weather deterred many of us from gardening as usual. While the blooming trees and shrubs continued their show, vegetable and flower gardens were put on hold until garden soils could dry out. This was a great year to have raised garden beds to grow in! All my squash and rhubarb plants rotted out, my tomatoes and peppers just sat there, and I didn’t get any annuals planted until June. 

June remained cool and wet with 15 days of measurable rainfall; it was getting rather discouraging. The strawberry crop was poor... there just wasn’t enough sun. Many leaf disease issues were seen on apples, lilac, and peonies and in lawns.  Planting field crops was hit and miss. I didn’t expect any corn to be knee high by the 4th of July.

July remained cooler than average, but it finally dried up and some plants responded well.  My cut flower garden really came alive as did my beans and raspberries.  The blueberries budded up nicely. There may be hope after all!  Hydrangeas bloomed better and more consistently than I can remember, providing a summer long display of color. 

By now, I determined that I would not mulch my garden beds this year. It didn’t seem we would have any heat to deal with and, while July was very dry, there was so much moisture in the ground I didn’t think...I didn’t think.

The drought, that nobody talked about, persisted through August and things got even worse in September with record hot temperatures and no measurable rain at all.  What looked like a wet and cold year had just made an about-face.  Established trees began to cast off leaves, younger landscape plantings suffered from drought stress. It was nearly impossible to provide enough supplemental water. The heat helped my tomatoes and peppers to thrive, my cut flower garden was ablaze with color and my perennial gardens flourished. I was thankful for having rich soil in my planting beds that allowed plant roots and water to penetrate deeply beyond the reach of these drought conditions.

Thankfully, during my favorite month of the year, October saw a return to a more regular weather pattern with parched lawns seemingly greening up overnight.  My vegetable and cut flower gardens were finished so I tilled them under much earlier than usual, getting a jump on this fall gardening task. Many trees defoliated early without any sign of fall colors at all. I feared that the brilliant autumnal display would be dulled due to drought stress. 

On November 5 we suffered from devastating wind storms that broke off mature trees and downed many power lines. Interestingly, even after the damaging 80 MPH winds, the leaves remained on many trees in a very late yet brilliant display of fall color. Leaves held on trees longer than ever in my memory. Is this the new norm or just a seasonal abnormality? Only time will tell. 

Being an effective gardener has its challenges. Being a happy gardener requires flexibility, patience and a sense of humor.  There are simply too many factors, outside our control, that may keep us from a having a successful gardening season and worrying too much about it is a recipe for sadness. 

Here is another example of how, if we pay attention, gardening may teach us life lessons of great magnitude. 

God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, Courage to change the things which should be changed, and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

Dare I remind you... life began in a garden?

Now go outside and have fun in the dirt!