Monday, October 19, 2009

The Trial and Error of Gardening: Part I

The harvest is winding down and frosty weather is upon us. Now I'm reflecting on the growing season past and considering how I might change things next year.

If you've been reading this blog since its inception in the spring, you know that I had ambitious garden plans that were derailed by concerns over my health that cropped up (pun not intended) mid-summer.

Even though the year didn't turn out the way I hoped it would, my efforts weren't all for naught. I did get a tremendous yield of tomatoes as well as a good deal of basil, oregano, carrots, zucchini and a few other things. And most importantly, I learned many lessons throughout my second edible landscaping season.

For example, I learned that while the four square foot garden beds I created in the back yard did bear fruit, they were not nearly as fruitful as I expected. The biggest problem with the SF beds was that larger veggies ended up exceeding the space of their squares and choking out nearby vegetables and herbs. Next year I'll probably focus on using the square foot gardens for onions, carrots and other smallish root vegetables and grow wider and taller plants elsewhere.

I was also reminded this summer of a lesson I am apt to forget: the virtue of taking baby steps. Next year, instead of biting off more than I can chew, I hope to focus on fruits and vegetables I know I can grow successfully. I'll limit my experiments to one or two novelties and focus on the tried and true with most of my energy.

I was also reminded of the importance of staying on top of watering. The summer of '09 was very dry. Between mid-June and mid-August we hardly received any rain at all. My rain barrels were empty almost all summer, and I hate moving around a hose, so I admit that things got a little, shall we say, parched. Thankfully many of my plants seemed to do OK in spite of this, but I wonder how much better things would have been if I had used my sprinklers more.

I did nothing to deter pests this year, and while I didn't have a problem with rabbits or other mammals, slugs and cabbage worms did a fair amount of damage. Next summer I'll get serious about deterring pests using organic home remedies.

One of the greatest of my discoveries this summer is that vermicompost rocks! Whenever and wherever I use it the plants seem happier, bigger, and more disease resistant. It's worth battling occasional outbreaks of fungus gnats and fruit flies to keep my bins going. I just moved my two vermicompost tubs to the basement and I'm back to the routine of fertilizing our indoor plants with a weekly dose of vermicompost tea. Depending on how much I want to trek out to the backyard compost bins this winter, I might just start another worm bin or two in my basement. It'll be much easier to compost kitchen scraps indoors in the winter, and I'll have more luscious vermicompost to use on my gardens next spring.

For my next blog post, I'll share a more detailed report on the various plants I grew in my garden this summer and how they turned out. Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. yep, I'm going back to rows next year. My square footers were problematic indeed! Last year my cukes did great in them, and carrots did well this year, but not much else! Oh, broccoli did- but only grew sprouts and no center head this year or last. So, rows it is. I don't believe the hype on the square footers unless you're growing very small things.

    I've been wanting to write up my garden summary, too. hopefully things will slow down soon and i can get to that! thanks for lighting the fire under me!