If you can spare any garden space this summer, plant it to a cover crop. Any tough, resilient annual can make a cover crop. The roots will aerate the soil, and the tops will return their nutrients. Cut the cover crop before it sets seed and leave the remains on the soil surface as a mulch.
I was reminded this week that there is an infinite variety of gardens and garden plants, that general truths are not universal, and that someone else often knows more than I do on a given subject.
After I wrote that azaleas were a wasted effort in this area, better replaced than fussed over, I got a call from a local gardener. Not only do they grow azaleas (which they have had for many years), but also they have a magnolia and a Japanese maple. I did not know that such a well-protected microclimate existed within a hundred miles of here.
One moral of that story is never to be afraid to experiment in the garden. Accept that many experimental plants will die, but unlikely ones may succeed. If there is a plant that you yearn to grow, try it. The worst that can happen is that it will not live, and you will have to replace it.
I would not dream of planting an azalea in my garden. However, years ago I longed to grow a southernwood, a shrub hardy only to Zone 6. I found a microclimate worth trying, a protected spot only three feet by eight feet. Sure enough, the southernwood survived winter’s blasts for years. Eventually I tired of its strong, sweet fragrance, which I found cloying, and dug it out. That was major work. The southernwood had grown a huge root system over the years.