If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that my spouse and I have been doing a vegetable garden since we bought a house in 2012. In this climate, that means working the soil and sowing seeds in late April or early May, a mad scramble to buy and plant seedlings at the end of May or into June depending on the tenderness of the plant, and weeding and watering and harvesting up to the end of September or early October.
Turns out that’s a lot of work.
I was excited to finally have a house where I could garden, and I dragged my spouse into being excited too. But…problems abounded. We had too big a garden for our time and energy levels; there were hungry squirrels in the area who like to take one bite out of each ripe tomato; and the killer–an infestation of weeds that spread by underground roots and could never be completely eradicated.
So this summer, we covered over the vegetable bed with landscape fabric and mulch, and let it lie fallow for a year while (we hope) suppressing the weeds to some extent.
We thought we would buy some potted vegetables. We bought rosemary, which got used a little, and one cherry tomato plant, which was sickly all summer and produced very few tomatoes–just enough to keep the squirrels fed. One day I was out on our back deck, writing, and a squirrel picked the only ripe tomato and sat there …
What I have learned about life gardening this year:
1. Some things take a lot longer than you think; be patient. Other things happen so quickly they’ll surprise you; be ready.
We planted radishes for the first time this spring. They were ready to harvest within a month, and went to flower (meaning no good for eating) just a few short weeks after that. Conversely, we waited and waited for last year’s snapdragons and this year’s wildflower seed mix. After we’d given up, both kinds of flowers emerged and were blooming by mid-June.
2. Novelty is always more exciting, but reliability is invaluable.
Every year we try a few new vegetables. This year: parsnips (very few came up), beets (yum), red onions (they stopped growing while still small), snap peas (double yum), and cucumber (it died in the summer drought). Every year we also fall back on our favourites: three sizes of tomatoes, hot peppers, herbs. (And every year we keep hoping for better luck with the carrots and sweet peppers.)
3. Some things just aren’t meant to be.
We’ve tried growing bell peppers several times. What we end up with are stunted, squashed bells that don’t ripen past green. (Climate? Nutrients? Dunno.) We do have luck growing hot peppers, but everything we’ve planted turns out to be VERY hot and I can’t handle more than a sliver of it. This year we bought a sweet banana pepper plant and I was excited. Turns out? Either it was wrongly labelled or …