Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Way to Plant, Ann(a)

(If I ever write a memoir about my farming life, and if people still remember Arrested Development in that future, that will for sure be the title.)

I have been meaning all summer to do a series of garden updates. But since I just pulled everything up and cover-cropped for the winter, this is going to be one big recap instead.

Overall, this was a fantastic year in the garden. I'd like to think that it's because I have some experience under my belt, but I'm not so sure. Sophomore year or no, I don't think I did anything very different. Maybe the weather was better (I think this was part of it – it was pretty cool and wet last summer). Maybe my Home Depot-supplied seedlings this year were genetically modified for survival, compared to their organically raised forebears last summer. Maybe I just had more magic on my side. 

So even though much of gardening is still a mystery to me, here are some of my big-picture thoughts and lessons from this summer in the garden.

Master the space issue. Last year I had a 12x12 plot. This year I had 24x12. It felt like an abundance of space, but when I hit Home Depot, my eyes were bigger than my plot and it filled it up pretty quick. It was enough to make me contemplate getting a full-size 24x24 plot next year so my plants are less squished – and so I could grow even more of what I eat, because how cool would that be?? But I also got lazy about garden maintenance by the time August rolled around. So maybe I'll stick with the 12x24 plot next year and just not cram as much in. 

Start with a clean slate. My 12x24 plot came with a little strawberry patch. I opted to keep them in, both so I could eat strawberries and because it seemed like the community-minded thing to do for future summers of gardeners (strawberries are perennial). But a ton of weeds popped up in the strawberries, and they were perpendicular to my other rows, which made for a sort of weird configuration. There were also big weeds growing on two sides of the garden that kept creeping in to my plot. Things got messy and hard to weed and maintain. I think next year I'll try to at least make everything neat at the start.

Plants are resilient and nature is so cool. The garden stayed awesome even when I got lazy and basically quit weeding – I only went once or twice a week as the summer wound down. Every time I'm there, I pick some squash that I hadn't even noticed before. It feels like free food.

I'm not sure what I'll do next year. I love love LOVE community gardening, but it can be sort of impractical to Metro to water it every couple days. We have some outdoor space at the new apartment, so maybe I'll go rogue and stick to container gardening, or some raised beds if I can finagle it. It would be awesome to be able to just step outside and fuss over my plants. But we shall see.

(Look for a post later this week with a plant-by-plant breakdown of how things went! Because I could seriously talk about this stuff all day.)

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