Monday, March 9, 2015

Way to Plant, Part Two

Posting my summer 2013 gardening minibook has got me in a gardening mood and getting excited for spring. I promised a while back that I would do a plant-by-plant recap of last summer's garden, but never got around to posting before I left for Tunisia for the fall. With the 2015 season fast approaching, this is standing in as my garden journal so I can remember what worked and what didn't.


Green beans
. Seriously, I now think that grocery store green beans are the biggest scam of our time. You pretty much just have to throw seeds on the ground and you will have armfuls of food. They did come with an associated flop, though: I accidentally bought bush beans instead of climbing beans, so my brilliant plan of having green beans climb up my okra didn't pan out. Which brings me to...

Okra. This was mostly for the novelty, since other people in the gardening class last year planted it and it seemed to grow well. And yep, my okra grew tall and produced a ton. The thing is, I don't really eat okra. So I procrastinated picking it, and I ended up with two freezer bags of huge and woody okra in my fridge. Lesson learned that, as fun as it is to try new things, you should probably plant vegetables that you actually eat. (Austin might put this one in the "loser" category for that factor alone.)

Peppers. Bell peppers are the #1 staple of my diet along with Annie's and Chipotle, so they are always what I'm most excited about it. They did okay last year, but great this year. Though I did fail to pick a couple almost-ripe ones (like half-red, half-green) and then they were gone when I came back. I also planted a bunch of different varieties of hot peppers - the jalapenos were definitely the winners there. 

Zucchini. All my squash plants died last year before I got any squash. Community gardens are like daycares or public transit - everyone shares diseases - and this moldy disease felled a lot of our collective squash plants. I finally got to eat some home-grown squash this year, though I never did get the armfuls of zucchini that everyone warns you about - maybe just one or two per plant - and then some of the plants did get sick and die. I did have lots of squash flowers that didn't turn into fruit. If I had had more time or ambition, I would have liked to try pollinating the squash flowers by hand - maybe next year. 

Kale. This was an experiment because I planted pretty late, after kale season ended. But I planted the seeds in the shadow of the strawberry plants, and they grew, and once it got cooler they grew a lot bigger. Hurray for hardy plants!

Eggplant. I had both traditional (?) and Japanese eggplant. Not much to say other than it's pretty awesome to see a big fat eggplant hanging around in the leaves, and the Japanese eggplants grew super-fast.

Cucumbers. I let a couple cucumbers get overripe (to the point that they turned yellow) last year because I was shy about picking them. When fruit gets overripe, it signals to the plant that its job is done and it can die. I got tons of cucumbers this year, even though they never really figured out how to climb the stakes I built for them. I also had some moderate success companion planting carrots and radishes with the cucumbers.

Instagram. Sometimes I think I like photographing my vegetables more than I like growing them or eating them. I don't know if my Instagram followers share my fondness though.

Plants I was kind of "eh" about: 

Tomatoes. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE tomatoes. They are the #1 reason to grow a garden in my book. But I found it pretty challenging to grow good ones. Their color would look underripe but then they would start cracking like they were overripe. They were mostly heirloom varieties from the farmer's market, so maybe they weren't supposed to be a vibrant red. After I initially staked them, I didn't do a great job maintaining them and culling dead leaves, so that may have been the problem. My cherry tomatoes were awesome, though. 


Sage. So cute and pretty for a couple weeks, then went dead as a doornail. I think my parsley ate it (or at least its sunshine).

Melon. See my previous post re "I need more space next year." I didn't really leave my melons enough room. A honeydew rotted during a wet spell, but I did get a tasty palm-sized watermelon. 

Sweet potatoes. I was excited to harvest these later in the fall before leaving for Tunisia, but other than a couple good ones they were pretty "meh." They never really got big and so I ended up picking mostly thick roots. I was running out of steam when I prepped this part of the garden, so I think maybe I didn't break up the soil enough, or maybe I planted them too close together. I love sweet potatoes, though, so this will be worth another shot next year for sure.

Bottom line: I still love this hobby. Now that I've got the basics down, I am hoping to learn more this year about helping plants thrive and not just survive.

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