Take a break to assess garden successes and failures

“Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed.
To comprehend a Nectar
Requires the sorest need.”
– Emily Dickinson, “Success,” 1864

My elderberry bushes have grown and produced prolifically!

In Sunday’s Mail Tribune column (August 11, 2019), I posed 21 questions to assess garden successes, or “nectars” as Dickinson named them, as well as the season’s “sorest needs.” I recently took a break from summer maintenance chores to assess the Bard’s Garden at historic Hanley Farm.

Here are my observations for the fruit trees and shrubs in the garden, which were planted between spring 2017 and spring 2019: crabapple, pear, plum, black currant, elderberry, lemon, grapevine, fig, pomegranate and hazelnut. I’ll conduct similar assessments for other trees and shrubs in the garden, as well as flowers, herbs and vegetables.

Noting what has worked and not worked this season will help me make informed gardening decisions.

Italian plum tree grew and produced well, although several plums dropped because the tree is still young.
  1. What has grown/produced well?

Crabapples, elderberry, black currant, pear and plum grew and produced well. Newly planted grapevine, fig, blackberry, apricot and pomegranate grew well.

  • What has not grown/produced well?

Newly planted lemon did not produce may flowers/fruits. Newly planted hazelnut is heat stressed.

  • What would you like to grow more of?

I want to plant more grapevines. I also need to plant a cherry and nutmeg tree for the garden.

  • What would you like to grow less of, or not at all?

The elderberry bushes became top-heavy with fruit and flopped over; staking required.

  • What needs to be divided/propagated?


  • What needs to be replaced?

Nothing so far.

  • What needs to be removed?

Need to transfer one crabapple to MND garden; bring lemon (in container) indoors for winter.

  • What pollinators and beneficial insects are you noticing in abundance?

Lots of bees, especially on crabapple flowers

  • What pollinators and beneficial insects would you like to attract more?

Predator insects (ladybugs, etc.)

  1. What garden pests (insects, diseases, weeds) were less of a problem this year?

Insects and diseases were not a problem this year for any of the fruit trees.

  1. What garden pests (insects, diseases, weeds) were more of a problem this year?

Weeds are always a problem in the garden!

  1. What worked about garden irrigation?

Overhead rotating sprinklers shared with FNC crops provides adequate water to plants in the ground – soil holds water well.

  1. What didn’t work about garden irrigation?

Overhead sprinklers don’t water container plants well; encourages weeds in walkways.

  1. What worked about the garden’s organization?

Trees are spaced well with plenty of room to mature.

  1. What didn’t work about the garden’s organization?

Elderberry bushes fell into the pathway, blocking access.

  1. What hardscape features worked in the garden?

Oyster shell paths are pretty and fairly easy to maintain. Ornate fencing makes an attractive and effective border – need to buy 50 more feet to complete.

  1. What hardscape features didn’t work in the garden?

Wooden borders became dislodged and needed to be screwed together – will they hold? Wording is difficult to read on the wooden signs – need to paint.

  1. What garden tools were particularly useful?

Large spade was very useful for shoveling top soil, compost and bark mulch from the truck – good buy!

  1. What garden tools were not useful?

Bought way too many gloves because fingertips wore out fast – invest in better pair!

  • What particularly useful lessons were learned?

Elderberry bushes grow fast and produce prolifically – fruit tastes delicious!

  •  What do you want to learn more about?

How to effectively prune elderberry bushes and what to do with elderberries.

How to improve health of young hazelnut trees.

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