Friday, January 6, 2012

Garden Successes and Failures and Maybe Next Years

My garden had a big transition this year, moving from pots on the porch and a raised bed, to the new territory in the yard of my rental in June.  This was both a success and a disappointment in one.  On one hand, I gained a ton of space to play with and didn’t have to spend any more money on soil, and I still had space for all of my pots.  On the other hand…. All that free soil apparently sucks.  Add that to a poor weather year, with a cool summer and not much rain, and I was lucky I harvested anything.


Tomatoes (In Seattle! Be shocked.) – I had a handful of ripe tomatoes in 2011, with a bunch of green tomatoes that I was able to ripen inside.  I’m the only fresh tomato eater in the house, so next year I might grow more, but transition to something like romas, which will be good for canning (tomato sauce and diced tomatoes).  And I can always give them away to friends with a more elegant palate.
Also, the tomato plants I started from seed grew into nice little plants.  I had five prior to the move, but it was just too much for three of them.  Two plants survived once planted outside, but were started too late to grow and fruit.

Peas – I started peas in pots at the old house and was able to move them intact to their new location.  These guys thrived.  I planted multiple times to get continued harvest and every single one was delicious. 

Romaine – I planted more romaine from seed in pots.  I got to nom on seed starts, but so did the squirrels.  They liked to knock over the pots, so I lost all of the starts from one pot, but I still (in JANUARY!) have one head of romaine growing outside. 

Cucumber - Two starts went into my poor soil, and both ended up producing cucumbers.  Sure it was only a couple each and they didn’t’ get very big, but hey, it was a terrible weather year.  I’ll take my five cukes and be happy.  

Rosemary – Rosemary starts got tossed into a large planter I inherited from a friend.  Rosemary loves Seattle weather and I have even seen hedges of the stuff.  So far this winter it’s doing really well, but we haven’t had too much rain.  The large pot might have to find a new location when we hit the January/February/March rains. 

Thyme – Peat seed starters didn’t do much for my thyme seeds, but that may be my fault.  I think I let them dry out.  But I started several seeds in a pot inside and they were awesome.  Full of flavor and the smell was amazing.  The thyme got transplanted into the same container as the rosemary but has died off a bit.  Hopefully it will come back in the spring.

Roses – I planted some miniature roses I received from the Old Retired Guy/Master Gardner/Dad in front of the gate on our fence.  I think they were doing well – until the yard service took a weed-wacker to them.  They got leveled along with all of the actual weeds in front of the fence.  We currently don’t have yard service (whether due to winter or the transition to a property management company I don’t know), so maybe they will begin to grow back from the root stock this spring. 

Acorn squash – Powdery mildew! Yuck!  The plant seemed to be growing like a rock star, and had two little squashes growing, but then powdery mildew struck the plant and it was no more.  I will have to keep a better eye on it next year if I decide to grow it again.

Zucchini – I got really excited about several small zucchinis on my plants, but most of them shriveled a died, or just failed to grow.  Lots of blossoms dropped off, too.  I’ll keep trying, because I love the stuff, but... I'm not too hopeful.

Peppers  - My two pepper starts grew a bit in height right after planting, but then stopped.  One plant grew a pepper, but it never progressed past green to yellow.  When the weather started growing cooler, I harvested and ate it green.  Maybe I’ll go with a smaller pepper next year that is better suited to a very, very short, cool growing season in Seattle….  Does that even exist?

Basil – I may have planted it late.  It might be my fault.  But I kept reading you could plant basil throughout the season, and it was recommended to start some late to harvest with your tomatoes, but not a single seed germinated in the soil.  I planted a few in small pots, which germinated, but they got blown over before growing.  Next year maybe they’ll start inside.

Sprouts – I tried the jar method.  It failed.  All I got, after multiple attempts, was moldy sprouts too small to eat. Don’t know if I have the heart to try again.

Carrots and Radishes – More proof our soil sucks.  I didn’t get to harvest a single radish or carrot this year.  Le sigh. 

 Beans – I’m not quite sure where to put beans, in successes or failures.  We planted both pole beans and bush beans en masse.  The pole beans refused to germinate.  I tired soaking over night, planting as it, and adding different fertilizers, but not a single pole bean grew.  Bush beans, on the other hand, all sprouted and grew into tiny plants.  Not all of them produced beans, however.  I’m thinking this might have been an effect of the poor soil and potentially of uneven watering.  I plan on trying a new pole bean varietal next year to see if that works.

Maybe next year

Blueberries  We planted three bare root blueberries in large pots in the spring.  Only one plant produced three (delicious) berries, but I wasn’t expecting much.  After a year or so of establishment though…. I hope for a windfall.

Strawberries – The squirrels ate all of my strawberries.  Next year I plan on using a bb gun.  Who wants squirrel stew?

Tulips – If the squirrels didn’t eat all the bulbs, I hope to have several areas abloom with tulips in the spring.  I planted upwards of 40 free red and yellow bulbs (again from the ORG/MG/Dad) in swaths around the planting edge of the yard.

Seeds – I have really high hopes of starting all (ok, maybe just some) of my plants from seed this year.  Tomatoes worked well, so I hope to try them again, and add squash and cucumber and pepper.  New veggies I want to plant include beets, broccoli, and kale.  Yum!  I plan on trying the toilet paper roll method again, and using a clear plastic lettuce mix container to hold them.  My own small cold frame! I still have some peat pellets, so maybe those will be used as well. 

Herbs – I LOVE thyme, so I will be growing more, and will try to dry some next year.  I might try mint in a pot, due to its rapidly spreading nature, and the other usual suspects: basil, cilantro, oregano.  The family has a strain of summer savory that I am fearful of trying in case it doesn’t grow and I waste the seeds, but it’ll be on the short list.  And, I would LOVE to grow lemon verbena.  The smell would keep me smiling all summer long.

I have a few other tricks up my sleeve for the new year, including buying a yard or so of mulch/garden soil to amend my beds.  I’ve been hoarding toilet paper rolls, and have started keeping milk cartons and soda bottles to make cloches and pots.  One trick I saw at the community P-patch that I want to try is filling glass bottles with water and placing between the plants to absorb heat during the day and radiate it by night.  

Here's to a fruitful 2012!

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