Words to Grow On

Now that we’ve officially rung in 2015 (which in my case consisted of dozing on the couch, living vicariously through Ryan Seacrest), talk at our house has turned to planning our next garden.  And of course it’s the perfect time to reflect on our first attempt – what worked and what went wrong (in some cases, terribly wrong).

So here you go: my top five wins, losses and lessons learned.

Wins

Garden Structure:  It was exhausting, pain-staking work, but I’m so happy with the final result.  By building up the walls we kept critters out.  The soil, a special garden blend, produced strong plants.  And the coat of green paint was the perfect finishing touch.

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Sun: We were effective in maximizing the limited amount of sun  in our backyard.  It took patience in plotting out where the sun was hitting at various times of day before building the garden… we used every possible inch.

Tomatoes, Peppers and Beans:  We grew A LOT of them!  The final yield of peppers was lost in first hard frost… in mid-November.  I was surprised by  how well they stood up to the chilly fall nights and the overall amount produced, especially from the beans.

Radishes:  I will definitely include radishes in our spring garden.  The plants took off quickly in the fall and produced the best radishes I’ve ever put in my mouth – tender, delicate and just the right amount of bite.  No one else in my house liked them.  That’s fine – more for me.

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Learning:  My heart skips a beat when my daughter starts talking about the garden.  I’m amazed at how much she learned and her genuine joy in “working in the garden”.  Of course, her experience with gardening may mimic my experience with fishing – I thought it was cool in preschool, but later wised up (love to eat it – won’t catch it). That said, she is very aware of where her food comes from and is eating (and enjoying!) vegetables.  Win, win!

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Losses

Support Structures: This was by far my worst mistake.  The bamboo stakes I used to support the tomatoes and peppers were not nearly strong enough.  The tomatoes collapsed a number of times.  I had to constantly replace the stakes, reinforce by adding more, and move the vines to redistribute the weight.  Coming this year, proper cages.

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Variety: I planted a total of five tomato plants and four chili pepper plants, but only two varieties of each.  I wound up with too many cherry tomatoes and serrano chilis.  I was able to stock my freezer with chilis, but having more of a variety would be a plus.

Carrots, Peas and Eggplant:  I failed miserably with all of these – even after attempting the peas and carrotts in both the spring and fall.  Each time I ended up with one teeny tiny carrot and no peas.  I did have the beginning of a nice pea plant in the fall, but it froze before having a chance to do anything.  At one point I thought I had an eggplant… it was a weed.  Not my proudest moment.

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Eggplant, aka – weed

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Sad little carrot

Strawberries and Edamame:  We did not eat a single strawberry.  The few that we saw were tiny and rotting.  I think the birds may have enjoyed the ones that were decent for eating.  I won’t be attempting strawberries again.  The edamame are a win in the sense that we enjoyed what we grew, but I underestimated the amount each plant would produce.  The plants are small and low to the ground with limited pods.  This spring I plan to use the space occupied by the strawberries to plant more edamame.

Herbs:  I also came up short in the herb department.  The basil took off and was strong all season, but only because that was a transplant from the garden store.  The herbs I tried to start from seed (cilantro, oregano and thyme) did absolutely nothing.

Lessons Learned

1) Plant more radishes and edamame

2) Don’t waste time starting beans indoors – completely unnecessary

3) Plant peas as soon as possible in the spring

4) Trim small vines from bottom of tomato plants to increase production

5)  Have fun experimenting!

And there you have it.  Cheers to 2015!

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