Friday, 1 March 2013

Lessons From Last Year

The first thing any gardener does when faced with the prospect of a new growing season is to look at the previous year: the good, the bad, and the mediocre.

As I recall last year featured a nigh perpetual battle betwixt gardener and squirrels, and several other bugs/diseases. Mostly the damn squirrels. They are a little acknowledged (by the internet) source of urban gardening woes, at least for those of us with a walnut tree in their back yard.

Maybe I exaggerate. Maybe I don't.

Chicken manure pellets seemed to help there a little, but I'm not exactly sure where to obtain more of them (my supply came from an elusive stall in the Ottawa farmer's market the name of which I can't quite recall).
So the search begins.

And then of course there are the veggie variety lessons... 
With great reluctance, I must admit that I cannot grow winter squash in my yard. Reasons:

A: not enough sun; B: it takes too long to grow; C: pests; D: diseases (last time powdery mildew); F: fate?
Instead I'm turning to the realm of summer squash, which will hopefully give me more than 3 fruit before succumbing to any or all of the above factors.

Another flop were carrots. I don't know if it's the lackluster heirloom varieties I tried, or the less than ideal soil, or my lackadaisical watering regime, but I planted a bet about 4 by 7 feet with carrots. And I got maybe 5 tough, woody specimens far too late in the growing season.

Maybe I'll try some in a container this time round. Maybe I'm just as cursed with the carrots as I am with the squash.

Furthermore, my radishes turned into tough, pithy, pungent bundles of fibre before they had even begun to bulb. My beets did alright, but I don't actually like the taste of them all that much. I planted my kale out too early, and got a small harvest, but I'm not sure we'd use tons of it anyhow.

On the brighter side, my tomatoes pulled through drought and neglect and disease and less than ideal staking to produce a modest amount of delicious fruit for me. This year I'll plant more of them. And try to fix some of the other problems.

One thing I know I can grow is greens, so I'll repeat chard and lettuce and maybe try some new ones.
At one point in July, when we came back from the cottage to tend to the garden, our fridge was nearly empty except for...
Beans also produced long and happily. I have garlic bulbs in the ground, planted last fall.

The few fresh snap peas I harvested have convinced me to repeat, perhaps planting more earlier. I saved some seed from them (with a complete lack of method - survival was unfortunately the selection criterion).

Having fresh herbs right outside our doorstep was lovely - basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, dill, and cilantro all worked nicely. Mint worked too well, threatening to suffocate the other plant in the pot with it, and far outproducing our modest usage. One thing is certain - I will never plant the monster that is mint in the ground. The Picotee cosmos also were a great hit - they were beautiful, if a bit leggy, and continued to flower into November.

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