Guess what I am doing today ;). Nothing starts the new year for me like looking through seed catalogs and starting the planning phase of what I will be doing in the garden this spring. I also want to sum up how last seasons garden was. There was so much I wanted to blog about, I cannot fit it all in, even with 3 or 4 blogs, so I decided to hit the highs and lows, and this year, if I blog more often, I should not run into this problem at the end of the season.
With winter settling in, it takes me to thoughts about my last season of gardening. I love to have my hands in the dirt, this season was the first one in quite sometime that many of my dreams for my garden came to life. I have never had this much room to plant, and the time to take care of it like I do now, I love it! I still have so much to learn, I love every busy and slow moment in the garden, discovering new things and reconnecting with mother nature.
Thinking about my garden this year, all the good and bad things make me happy. I decided at the beginning of the season that this year would be an experimental year for growing and design. I spent the summer watching the sun, finding hot spots and shady delights, while figuring out a watering plan, as well as, shed and greenhouse placement. Which of course led me to have many new projects for next season, along with a much better idea of how I want things laid out.
Each year I plant something new that I have never grown before, this year I went a little out of control. I planted so many new things, potatoes, asparagus, eggplant, limelight zuchinni, ghost peppers, chili peppers, Serrano peppers, eggplant, tobacco, and cotton. All of those were planted along with the old standards okra, beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, tomatillo, cherry tomatoes, pumpkin, squash, garlic, rosemary, lavender, horseradish, jalapenos, 2 new mints, 2 new sage, cilantro, and of course basil.
I had many successes in the garden, the biggest one was the cotton, I am so excited about this plant. It exceeded all my expectations, and made for great conversation! The cotton blooms pink, then turns white, almost as if its blooming twice. Extraordinary plant to watch grow, they are so beautiful and delicate. The interesting thing about this plant, is that when the plant is dying and drying out, is when the cotton begins to just push itself out of the pod, expanding out its dense insides, and turning into a fluffy cloud reaching out to the sunshine, a bit of death with a touch of rebirth. Amazing! I learned a lot about the plant as it was growing, since it was a last minute choice, I kinda researched as it grew to find the next steps, along that path I learned many things I will do different when planting that one again! Also in that research process I have spent hours and hours learning how to harvest cotton. I learned more about what it takes to bring cotton from the plant all the way to the end when it actually becomes fabric, it fascinated it me. I originally wanted tobacco to be my new plant this year so adding cotton just seemed a natural fit. I started both from seed, the tobacco was a bit difficult and did not make it. Luckily, the cotton did, and what a joy it was! Next year I will try again with the tobacco, but, ssshhh, don't tell the ATF :).
Another new thing in the garden this year was asparagus, which was a hard choice, because you have to wait 3 growing seasons before you can harvest it. Over the summer I thought about making a move and buying a new home, but my perennial plants like asparagus helped in the decision to stay here. I also have horseradish, 5 kinds of mint, 3 kinds of sage, rosemary, lavender, garlic bulbs, 5 new roses bushes in the last 3 years, tons of iris, tulip, crocus, and hyacinth, I can't wait to see them all bloom again. I decided that holding out, saving my money, working towards my dream of owning and farming my own acreage is worth the wait, besides, I love my home, the garden feels like a continuing art project, I really enjoy it.
A surprise this year was the horseradish, it was last seasons new plant, I dug it up to move it, I thought I got it all the roots last year, however, I missed a few, and what was left blossomed into a huge plant, giving me 2 giant plants that almost took over the freshly planted asparagus! When I harvested the 2 year old horseradish, the roots were wonderful and very large. I made sure to get it ALL moved this time, they are not kidding when they tell you that the smallest bit of root will grow, whew!
That leads me to failures, there were plenty, I already talked about my tobacco, but I also lost many of my started seeds. I lost pumpkin, jalapeno, bell pepper, and squash seeds. I was totally bummed until my friend Marsha gave me 2 Jalapeno plants, a bell pepper, limelight zucchini, and eggplant. I scored with those and grew them all. The only thing from the gift plants that did not make it very well was the eggplant, they just did not flower early enough for me to harvest anything. (but the flowers on the eggplant were so pretty, I love to see things bloom) I consider the corn a loss thanks the either the squirrels or other animals that got in the yard and ate it all! I have to figure out a way to manage those little suckers next season, my yard and the yard behind me are the only two yards in the neighborhood with no dogs, so its like a wild animal super highway with everything from foxes, skunks, coyotes, and ALL the cats in the area coming threw there. The squirrels just don't care, the go anywhere and are a complete menace! Gotta do some serious pest control. I seemed to be over run with grasshoppers this year. They were not only out of control, they were huge, I did notice many gardeners mentioned the same, so perhaps next year will be better. I had lots of bees and spiders, a few snakes, basically the ecosystem seems to be really strong, I just need to do a little more spraying. I don't like to spray pesticides, I like to use a little dish soap diluted in water, that seems to work really well on most everything except the pumpkins, they do not like it. The last but most important failure was my watering plan, or lack of one. For the spring I must put in a watering system of some kind. I discovered that lack of water held back many of the plants in the garden, I tend to only water every 2nd or 3rd day, but in the heat of summer it needs to be more, and there are some plants that need it daily for sure.
Other things that worked, were the brandywine tomatoes that did fabulous, if you have never planted those, they are worth it. brandywine's are big, juicy, and almost sweet. Cherry tomatoes were out of control, my own personal natural vending machine in the yard. I picked off that thing all summer while I was working in the yard, my God daughter and I decided they were so good it was like eating sunshine. Considering she doesn't like tomatoes, (or didn't at the time) I take it as quite a compliment. Okra was a huge success, zucchini , 3 different kinds of pumpkins, all the herbs came back as well. The new roses did pretty well for their first season, the colors are now white, purple, yellow, orange, and red.
I am not sure who says that the winter months are a slow time for gardeners, but for me, winter is going to full of research for next season. I have so much more to learn and prepare for next season, this coming spring there will not be a weekend without work for me. New shed, greenhouse, watering system, pest control system, yard design, and yard art will keep me happily working away the hours in my yard.
Along with all the new things for the garden next year, I plan on doing Plant a row For The Hungry. I'm always giving a lot of food away from my garden, planting a row of things specifically for the hungry would mean a lot for my heart. Check it out and see if they have something in your area that is similar, if not, consider starting your own group.
Happy New year, and happy dreams of all that is to come. For more images from my garden check out my smugmug page