Do you sometimes feel like your garden is toying with you? Me too. Here’s what I learned this year.
1. Sick plants make for a sick garden; or – don’t buy sick plants from the grocery store. Last spring I felt quite lucky to stumble upon some cheap cheap cheap tomato seedlings at the grocery store. Yes, they were a bit dried up but I was sure I could nurse them back to health. And did I mention they were cheap? That should have been my first clue, along with the brown leaves, that these seedlings were sick. But in the euphoria of springtime planting, I purchased three or four of the offending plants and plopped them into the garden among my homegrown seedlings. With some water, sunlight, and TLC they came back to life and started producing tomatoes – briefly. Then the plants turned brown and started dying very early in the summer. They didn’t seem to have an insect problem, but before I knew it the whole tomato bed was slowly dying before the tomato harvest amounted to much. It not only affected this year’s harvest. Since I have no idea what caused the sickness, I don’t dare plant tomatoes in the same place next year. And instead of composting the tomato plants I threw them away. Lesson learned – step away from the cheap plants!
2. It’s possible to keep up with a prolific zucchini harvest – but just barely. The tomato harvest was slim but the zucchini harvest started early, lasted late (just picked the end of them last weekend), and was almost overwhelming at times during the summer. For a while, every meal required zucchini, just so it would drown us in our own kitchen. It was stir-fried, baked, made into bread, shredded and frozen, dried for soups this winter, grilled, turned into brownies, given to the children in large amounts – you name it. Luckily we all love zucchini, otherwise it would have been a long summer. Find all my zucchini recipes here. I may grow fewer zucchini next year, but I can’t truthfully say that. I always seem to get carried away. Lesson learned – I often grow too much zucchini!
3. Cherry tomatoes can be too little. I always grow lots of cherry tomatoes. The grandchildren like to eat them right out of the garden, and I like to dry them for use during the winter. But this year I grew tomatoes that were more like cherry berries not cherry tomatoes. Teensy tiny little things. It took longer to pick them then it was worth. Lesson learned – next year it will be bigger cherry tomatoes for me.
4. Eggplants are beautiful plants. Before this year, I had never grown eggplant. Not really sure why. We all like eggplant, and I buy it at the Farmer’s Market, but had never thought about growing it myself. But I had a bare spot in the garden and, looking for something different, picked up an eggplant seedling and plopped it into the ground. What a beautiful plant. The leaves a long and lobed, the flowers are a beautiful purple. It really is a show-stopper of a plant in the garden. Lesson learned – next year I will grow more than one plant.
5. What is wrong with the fennel? Once again I tried to grow fennel this year, and once again I failed. Last year I tried growing it on the deck in pots and ended up with a few fronds and nothing else. So this year I devoted a whole row of the garden to fennel. It came up with beautiful fronds, then turned to seed with rock hard stalks before forming a bulb. What did I do wrong? Lesson learned – guess it requires some research before next spring.
6. A backyard garden is the world’s best playground. My grandchildren love the garden. They love to help plant the seeds and plants. They love to play in the among the raised beds. They love to pick tomatoes or peaches or raspberries or carrots or green beans and eat them out of hand. They don’t seem to be outgrowing the experience, from 3 to 13, they all love it. For me, there is no better reason to plant a garden. Lesson learned – passing on my love of growing and eating fresh foods is a wonderful gift.
What lessons did your garden teach you this year?