That title makes it sound like I’m up to something, doesn’t it? But really all I’m doing is planning the garden. I’ve gardened off and on for years. I didn’t really grow up with it. I remember twice in my childhood begging my mother for a small patch of dirt and growing radishes and a few other easy things, but my mother wasn’t a gardener then. Perhaps she’d left her years of being a farmer’s daughter behind her.
I remember growing tomatoes and carrots between my freshman and sophomore years of college, and then I didn’t garden again until we bought our first house in July of 1998 and it came with an already planted garden full of tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, beets, strawberries, and black currents. When all you have to do is harvest, it makes gardening extremely attractive and the next year, with my garden already in place, I ammended and set out learning how to garden on my own.
The garden was never as magical again as that first year, but slowly I began to figure out how to make things grow and thrive in that mountain environment. Except for the year I was pregnant with my son and on bedrest, I gardened every year until 2009, when my knee began to stop functioning and eventually gave out altogether. It wasn’t until last summer, 2 and a half years post knee surgery, that I planted a garden again with the help of my children.
There are some things that I will likely always need help to do. I can get down on the ground, but getting up again can be very difficult because my knee never recovered a full range of motion. I have to plan for it, so I will sink my shovel deep into the dirt before getting down, so that I can use it to climb back up. I had to really adapt to be able to make it work. But the kids help with the weeding and the planting and making sure I don’t get stranded. If I had unlimited resources I would build an elevated table garden that I could sit at, but since that is not an option, we do as we must.
Fortunately the kids have inherited a love of gardening from me and both are very happily putting in requests this year in the full knowledge that they will be my child laborers. Based on what worked last year and what didn’t, we have put our heads together to figure out what we’ll try again this year and what we’ll add.
Cauliflower is a no go. It grew stunted and was persistently attacked by slugs. I don’t like it enough to put the money or effort into a plant that yields me nothing. Although the kids and the husband enjoy it, it’s not high enough up on their lists to add. Cucumbers did not do well, either. I harvested two from a total of 4 plants. I am not giving up, and will give them another chance in a different location. Yellow zucchini yielded 2. After all the horrors you hear about zucchini plants taking over I only planted one. Again, I will change the location and try again.
After a slow start the tomatoes thrived, but I will not be planting more than 2 varieties this year. As much as I liked the striped paste tomato that plant doesn’t yield enough to take up limited garden space. I will not be planting any paste tomatoes as the time and effort of making sauce again is not worth it to us, either monetarily or for the hours involved, at this time. So I will be growing them simply to can diced tomatoes.
I will grow broccoli again, but I will plant it sooner. When you don’t start harvesting something until October, and only then because you are having a freakishly warm fall, you know that despite the 90 days from blossom that it says on the tag, it’s really more like 130. I will grow bell peppers again and perhaps some jalapenos. I planted one bell pepper plant last year and I got some peppers that matured. What I will do differently is plant four plants in some tires. That will allow them to be elevated and also warm the soil more from the black rubber for these heat lovers.
I didn’t plant nearly enough green beans. Mostly because by the time I was ready to plant them, there were no longer pole bean seeds for sale, just bush beans. I didn’t have the space for bush beans so the only pole beans I got were in a one gallon pot and had six plants. It did really well once transplanted, but it didn’t have a chance of filling our needs.
Kohlrabi did wonderfully well so I will plant a lot of that again. We could eat it every day. Lettuce did great until it bolted and was more than able to supply our needs. Our meager strawberries in the window boxes seemed to thrive so I will plant more, again in window boxes or in elevated pots. We have too many slugs to put them in the ground and expect to get any. Plus the chickens don’t go up on the front deck even when they get out. My tricolor sage, oregano, and thyme made it through the winter and thrived. I may dig it up and put it in pots though since it’s taking up space in an awkward shape.
My onions overwintered well so I am going to dig them up and separate them and replant them so they will have a chance to gain more size. I saw garlic starts at the food co-op yesterday so I will get some of those and plant them as well. I meant to plant garlic last fall, but things got away from me, what with the unexpected homeschooling. They had lettuce starts as well, but with us going to Disneyland in 3 weeks, it seems silly to get them now. Especially since I won’t be home for a week to bring them in if frost threatens. I picked up two packages of pole green beans there as well and safely put them in my dresser drawer, and I plan to plant enough of those to can a year’s supply if all goes well.
I am going to attempt cabbage this year, since the success rate on brassicas was 2 out of 3. I will plant them out of the way of the main garden since they take forever to grow. I will grow it from starts, though. I also plan to grow parsley, cilantro, rosemary, dill, and basil. I’m not sure turmeric will grow here and I need it for making mustard yellow, but I will attempt it. Also I am going to plant white mustard for the seeds. I don’t care for the bitterness of the other colored mustard seeds.
There is an old potato plot that volunteers. Last year it had quite a lot of potatoes. I don’t think I’ll bother planting them as they just come up in that spot and have done for over a decade with no replanting or special care.
As for fruit, I made six kinds of jam, strawberry, blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, grape, and apricot, last year and there is still enough left of it that I will not need to make any this year, and possibly the year after that. Instead my focus will be on freezing whole fruits. I still have blueberries and raspberries from last year in the freezer, but I am sure they will be gone by the time the berries are ready. I still have some frozen Italian prunes as well. Last summer was an excellent season, but the summer before there was nothing, so you can’t count on them if there is a frost at the wrong time and it kills the blossoms off.
I will be making apple sauce and pear sauce again this year. Making pear sauce is a bit of a pain, only because pears are not easy to peel like apples, but since my son is allergic to the salicylates in apples, I’ll continue to do it. I’d like to can pear chunks this year as well. If I can find a source of nectarines or peaches that have not been sprayed and don’t cost too much, I will do some of those as well.
Ah, I am really looking forward to spring. I can’t wait to get my hands dirty and to eat that first lettuce leaf of the season.