Where I revisit my garden
So this year was my second take at the garden. Last year, I dug up a bunch of dirt, barely planned, planted too soon, and had a . . . less-than-desirable harvest. This year, I did a LOT more research, planted at the right time (before the official “we should be fully clear of frost” date of May 15, but with lots of following of the weather forecasts to show that “freezing” shouldn’t happen again until the next winter.
I knew the plants I wanted: tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, zucchini, lettuce, peppers (bell & jalapeno). The rest, I’d figure out while looking around the nursery – and I added green cabbage, onions, spaghetti squash, carrots, watermelon, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, pumpkin, green seedless grapes, and assorted herbs to that list.
This year has been a learning experience, just like last year, but in a wholly different way.
First off, planting later means that none of the plants died prematurely.
Tomatoes: During the seedling selection process, I let my kids have far too much input, and that means we ended up with TONS of tomato plants. Every day, right now, I’m picking bowlfuls of tomatoes (grape, cherry, roma, and several variety of heirloom tomatoes, some of the latter have yet to produce a single ripe fruit, meaning that I fear the volume will only increase as the summer progresses). Next year, fewer tomato plants, fewer tomato varieties – but, as the tomato plants I have managed to tangle the tomato cages I put them in, I believe I’m building wire trellises for them to climb upon next year.
Last weekend, I made my first batch of tomato sauce, purely from home-grown ingredients, and I must say that the process was far easier than I thought it would be. Considering the volume I’m anticipating over the next few weeks/months, I believe I’ll be making a LOT more sauce.
Cucumbers: The cucumbers started off quite well – in fact, I had to look into how to make pickles just because I was picking more cucumbers than we could eat, as a family. Lately, though, the plants been looking quite sickly & have, generally, stopped producing. I’ve done my best to cut back any of the less-than-healthy leaves & vines, and the plants seem to be responding. Next year, put in another plant or two, get better canning equipment, and be more on top of pruning. Though, if I’m honest, when I left for a week’s vacation, the plants were thriving – so I think the very hot temperatures & nightly downpours that I’ve heard we had may have been more to blame for their current state.
Zucchini: Much like the cucumbers, the zucchini plants went from producing well (heck, there were moments where, if I skipped a day of harvest because of a particularly large yield, I’d head out and harvest what I’d call “weapons” more than “fruit”) to being sickly. I’ve just pruned back any of the sickly portions of the plants & there were new zucchini blossoms just this morning, so I hope we’re back — I’ve made a tremendous amount of grilled zucchini, but have yet to make a loaf of zucchini bread, so I’m hoping for a decent late-summer harvest. Next year, much like the cucumbers, I need to be more on top of pruning any portions of the plants that aren’t thriving.
Lettuce: I planted two types of leaf lettuce: a red & green variety. I managed enough for several salads before the red plants were felled by rabbits and the green leaf lettuce went to seed — I’m pleased with the results, though, and will be planting more for fall-harvest this year. Next year, more of the same
Bell Peppers: I only planted red bell peppers, as I much prefer snacking on them to green bell peppers, but they just haven’t been producing at all. Every now & then, I get a very small pepper from a plant, but, by the time it starts to turn red, the pepper is soft & mushy. Next year, plant orange mini peppers instead.
Jalapeno peppers: I’m completely surprised here. I planted the peppers in the hopes of getting a pepper or two, but thought I was, mostly, throwing away money on an ill-founded experiment. But, I’ve been picking a handful of peppers about once a week — they’re tasty, with a decent kick. Next year, do precisely what I did this year. I’m super happy with this harvest.
Cabbage: The cabbage I planted took forever to form into heads, but, eventually I had decent heads of cabbage, and have made a few batches of coleslaw & a few batches of kimchi. However, these heads of cabbage take up a tremendous amount of real estate in the garden as they grow, and I haven’t yet received an odd looking child from the cabbage patch. Next year, skip the cabbage.
Green Beans: I’ve had a decent harvest here. If anything, I could have planted more plants, but what I have has done well. Next year: more of the same, maybe use the cabbage real estate to put in more plants.
Eggplant: I never managed to get the plant to thrive. I picked a single, sickly speckled fruit before the single plant simply gave up and died. Next year, skip the eggplant or try a different variety.
Onions: I’ve managed some decent onions – all on the small side, but sweet & tasty. Not sure if I’ll include them again next year, though.
Carrots: I planted a bunch. I’ve picked two very sickly looking carrots – not sure what I should do differently next year, because I want carrots, but I believe they’re the preferred snack of the rabbits that I just can’t keep out of the damn garden. Next year: skip ’em.
Spaghetti Squash: this is a winter squash, so it’s over the next few weeks/months that I should actually start seeing – the first fruit I managed took forever to ripen, but it was quite tasty when I cooked it. There is a huge one that is just starting to turn from white to yellow. Next year, only include as part of a second, fall-harvest planting.
Watermelon: I bought four watermelon plants, because my daughter can put away watermelon like nobody else. But the plants never really made it beyond their infancy because of the next item. Next year: try again
Pumpkin: I cannot believe this pumpkin plant. I guess the soil in my yard and the weather have been prime for pumpkin growing. I, in fact, didn’t even want to put in pumpkin — but the kids begged for it, so I planted it. I’d leave work, come back home, and find that the plant had taken over all of the real estate granted to it. I’d try to force it, and nearby plants, into directions that would allow everything to live, but, within a week, this plant had “eaten” all of the watermelon plants. Then the blueberry bushes. Then the strawberry plants. Then the blackberry bush. Right now, I have 7 or 8 good-sized pumpkins which are just turning orange. Next year, if I plant again, plant later & far, far away from anything else.
Strawberries: I managed some decent strawberries – but the issue was harvesting at the right time — I’d leave for work to strawberries that were still ripening and return to strawberries that were either overripe or had portions that were on the ground and never turned red. Next year, elevate the crop
Blackberries: until the pumpkin plant ate the bush, I had some decent blackberries . . . I’m hopeful that the bush isn’t damaged too too badly, and can get more next year with minimal upkeep.
Blueberries: blueberries were few & far-between for me (until the pumpkin plant felled the bushes). I think part of it may have been the soil (not acidic enough), but mostly, I think birds got in the way of a decent blueberry harvest. Next year: bird netting
Now that the lettuce, carrots, green beans, and cabbage are all done (while I’m still hoping for plenty from the remaining crops), I believe the next few weeks well see me planting cauliflower, broccoli, and more lettuce in hopes of a decent harvest this fall. We’ll see how that goes.