Veggie Gardener: Season Two

comments (0) May 10th, 2009

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curryleaf curryleaf, member
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Planning. I did my garden layout in Adobe Illustrator last year. This was my plan for the seed section of the garden (except the zucchini and potatoes--I didnt grow those from seeds). This section pretty much worked out according to plan.
More planning. This was my design for the herb and tomato section from my garden last year. This half was a mess. As I mention in my post, my tomatoes grew into a massive tangle! And I gave some of the herbs way more space than they deserve. This year, Ill be less generous and see what happens!
Planning. I did my garden layout in Adobe Illustrator last year. This was my plan for the seed section of the garden (except the zucchini and potatoes--I didnt grow those from seeds). This section pretty much worked out according to plan.Click To Enlarge

Planning. I did my garden layout in Adobe Illustrator last year. This was my plan for the "seed" section of the garden (except the zucchini and potatoes--I didn't grow those from seeds). This section pretty much worked out according to plan.


Yeah! I turned in my last paper of the semester for grad school on Thursday. This means that I can spend all my free time now digging dirt and pulling weeds!

Last year was my first year as a veggie gardener. I got two plots in a community garden and planted everything from purple potatoes to lemon grass. My biggest struggles were plant/seed spacing, weeding, and pests. But I learned a lot of lessons that will hopefully make this year's adventure more productive.

Here's what I learned:

Successes:

  • Lettuce. You can never have too much lettuce. Lettuce was one of my biggest successes. It grew well, was very forgiving, and I love salad so I never tired of it. I just wish I had planted it in stages so I could harvest at different intervals
  • Green beans. I planted a half row of bush beans. They were delicious. My whole harvest came in about two weeks, but I had no trouble keeping up. Note to future self... go with some pole beans too so the harvest is spread out.
  • Cherry tomatoes. I had a pot on my deck and one in my garden. They were stress-free and delicious!  Even a veggie-hater will love these.
  • Zucchini. The pests eventually won out and ate up my zucchini plants, but we got a ton of great produce out of it before that happened. When I was gone on a work trip in July two got away from me and got enormous! But waste not, want not, I shredded them up. I got about a gallon of grated zucchini and made muffins! I popped them in the freezer and my husband had a muffin a day for breakfast for ages.
  • Lemon grass. I bought this Southeast Asian herb as a plant and it went crazy by August. It loved the sultry heat and dominated the weeds in that corner of the garden.
  • Basil, chives, parsley, and even rosemary all did well. These herbs definitely make me feel like a successful gardener! The rosemary is a bit more temperamental and the basil is fast to bolt, so I try to keep a close eye on it, lopping off the tops before it begins to bloom.

Semi-success:

  • Potatoes. I build a hill of potatoes over the summer, fingerlings and purple ones. They took off really fast but then all died off mid July... I think I crammed too many on one small hill, but I did get a small potato harvest. Thing is... we actually don't really eat many potatoes. Even though it's fun to make a hill of potatoes, it's not something I love to eat. But I did notice a couple volunteers that had sprouted up from last year's potato crop. I guess I left a couple potatoes buried in the dirt.
  • Cilantro and dill. In my mind, you can never have too much cilantro. It's fantastic in Mexican/South American or Southeast Asian cooking but it bolts so fast! It's almost like you always need to have a new cilantro plant waiting in the wings. It seemed to be the same story with dill (I started adding it to salads last year, delish!). I love having dill and cilantro available all summer long. We'll see if I can make it happen somehow. I know that there are slow bolt cilantro seeds but they never seem to have them at my local stores.

Lessons learned:

  • Thinning stinks! I planted all my seeds way too close together. This year, I'll try to plant them evenly spaced. I tried thinning them and it was just a pain. 
  • Tomatoes. My tomatoes (except the cherry ones) were a disaster! They grew all over the place (in spite of their cages). I bought some plants labeled “heirloom” who knows what type and they never really ripened. They just split and got all messy. This year, I'll try smaller varieties and will actually try pruning and staking!
  • Beets. Plant more of 'em! I only really got one beet out of my garden last year. They were slow-growing and the other plants sort of overtook them or the critters began nibbling on them before I could get them home. This year I'll plant more and give them more space.
  • Plant the spinach rows closer together. I planted it to eat as baby spinach in salads so I harvested early. I didn't need the full 18 inches between rows as the packages recommended. Also, spinach can only be harvested once. It's not one of those cut and come again varieties. So, to get the most for your space, get a plan for what to with that space once the spinach runs its course.
  • Bok choi. I bought some toy choi seeds. I fell in love with baby bok choi recently. It's so fresh and tasty (if you're unsure about the veg, try this recipe, it's sure to make you a convert) but, I think I got the seeds and planted them too late in the season. The plant bolted really fast and never got the bulbous bok choi shape at the bottom. It was just one long spindly plant racing towards the sun. We still ate some of them, they tasted fine, but it was a little odd. I'll try them again this year and see if it works out better. I hope that May is not too late to plant 'em.
  • Who needs turnips? For some reason I planted turnips... but I don't like turnips? What was I thinking. Sure, they grew pretty well and I guess it was fun to try them out. But, this year, I won't bother.
  • Carrots. Same thing, I'm not really a huge carrot fan. Why did I plant three different varieties? I guess I was excited about the colors and have nostalgia about eating carrots (after a rudimentary wash) from my dad's garden in childhood. But my carrots were too tightly spaced and the wispy tops got all tangled together when I tried to thin them... this year, I won't bother.

Anyway, with these experiences under my belt, we'll see how season two goes for this veggie gardener. I bought a whole mess of plants this weekend and filled one of my raised beds with 9 wheelbarrows full of compost. Ouch! My back is going to kill me tomorrow. But, I planted all my seeds and will plant my tomatoes and such next weekend.

Gina in Connecticut


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