Caroline and I are well into our third year of tending our vegetable garden plot at a local community garden. Previous years I blogged more often on our efforts to become locally renown green thumbs. Come to think of it, other years I just plain blogged more often.
Since it is August already I’ll give a very quick history of our efforts and observations to date:
- Planning next year’s garden starts pretty much as you are gardening in the current year. It also takes up to three mid-winter coffee and muffin meetings at Grounded Kitchen and Coffee House where you spread out all the books and records and bring out the planting wheel. We talk crop rotation, soil amendments, powdery mildew and companion crops. The planting wheel indicates which crops grow well or not well next to each other. It’s planning to make a project manager proud.
- We decided to start many plants from seed this year. Let’s just say Caroline is much better at it than I am. For weeks on end I had plants downstairs with grow lights, upstairs in the bedroom and living room, using watering mats and transplanting when they got bigger. End result? By the time I moved the plants out to harden them off gradually, I’d say at least 50% of those plants perished. Someone, please, tell me what I did wrong! What a bunch of work for nothing, I thought when it happened. I’ll never do try that again, I thought. And the next week I thought, this won’t beat me, I’ll go at it again next year. You have to be part masochist part eternal optimist to be a gardener. At least if you have my level of knowledge, you do.
- Spending money on vast amounts of mushroom compost, Lee Valley Tools Drip Irrigation systems and row covers is a good investment. Accountants and economists would not find the investment cost-effective if you look solely at the cost of buying things at the grocery store versus our inputs. We rationalize by factoring in the value of working with Mother Nature (good for your soul), knowing how the food was grown (totally organic, no animals were harmed in the making of these beans), spending time with a dear friend and boring our family and friends with talk about our “farm”. I think it’s similar to having an ugly baby where the parents see beauty and others look and say politely “Well, that’s a baby!”
- Parsnips are very difficult to grow, at least for us they are. They don’t want to sprout and after two plantings we have 4 lonely parsnips. Pretty pathetic. We had trouble last year too. However we learned then it was because we thought their tops looked like carrots and when other shapes emerged we weeded them out. Pulled out our very own parsnips, we did!
- You cannot outsmart Mother Nature. For example, we didn’t plant potatoes this year as there were too many potato bugs and diseases in the past. So this year the potato bugs decided to go at our tomato plants as a surrogate! Fortunately they haven’t been too bad at all compared to past years. Also, we have some sort of grassy weed that grows right next to our wanted plants. If you pull up the grass then you pull up the vegetable too. The weed is saying “Oh yeah! If you take me, I’m taking your plant with me .
- For every hour you spend picking vegetables be ready to spend one to two times as long cleaning and storing them when you get home.
- Zucchini wear camouflage. You look for them one day and there are none and a few days later they are as big as a baseball bat.
- Your vegetables will not necessarily be the size you see in the grocery store. We waited for a few of our tidy smallish cauliflower to grow into monsters and they grew grotesque and discoloured instead. We should have picked them earlier.