Thursday, September 20, 2012

Garden Roulette

Gardening seems to me like some kind of elaborate game of chance, into which you insert seeds in the spring and then spin the wheels of sun and rain and bugs and at the end come out with some mysterious combination of vegetables and failures.

Every year, it seems, our jackpot is different. Like the amazing pepper crop four years ago (which we've never replicated). Or like the year it rained nonstop and the only thing to come out of the garden were big, beautiful onions. Two hundred dollars worth of big beautiful onions. Can I make a recommendation? Don't ever compare how much you spend on seeds with what you actually produce for crops. Especially if it rains all summer and all you get is onions.

Of course I know there's a such thing as planning, and controlling with things like irrigation and pest management, but around here we pretty much leave it up to chance (I should probably not speak, since I'm not the actual gardener, but I am not complaining, just observing).

This year we got some lovely potatoes; approximately exactly as much poundage as the seed potatoes we put in. We had great and early peas (but just enough to eat fresh; which is OK since we're not huge frozen pea people). We got a good crop of garlic, but left it in the ground too long so that many of the cloves split out of their skins. We have a gorgeous row of Russian kale, which we mostly admire from afar, rather than actually harvest and cook (although a gardening friend says it's sweeter after a frost, so perhaps we'll just pretend that we were waiting for that all along). And amazingly, we have had almost no slugs, thanks to the chickens, despite their untimely demise. C accidentally killed many of the seedlings he started (don't ask––let's just say it brings up the sticky and irreconcilable topic of whether or not toxic chemicals should be kept in containers intended for beverages; you can guess which side of that argument I am on), so our tomato and pepper and tomatillo crops were small, and the tomatoes, as usual, dropped from the vine due to some mysterious blight.

Z and E brought home seedlings from school in little cups, which we unfortunately did not attend to quickly enough, so they died off, but then after a few days of rain, one revived and Z and I planted it quickly in a corner of the garlic bed, not knowing what it would become. It turned out to be a very prolific slicing cuke, and Z proudly harvested two or three green fruits each day for the month of August. Our pickling cukes did well, too (unlike the year when from all the cucumber plants the only thing that emerged was a single, golf-ball-sized cucumber; but oh, what a delicious little green ball that was!) and I did up a quick batch of Catherine Newman's refrigerator pickles. I had to use dried dill, because dill was another crop failure this year (mainly because we didn't plant any), so I'm afraid the results aren's as good as could be (but I keep thinking I could add some later). I don't know how long they last in the fridge, but they take up a crapload of space, so we need eat them up quick, regardless (M can be counted on to down four or five pickles at a sitting; E and Z have developed an unaccountable aversion to them).

We're still waiting on the second crop of beans, which C planted in early August, of all times. He claims they'll be ready before the frost, but now they're on a race agains fall. I'll let you know how it goes.

How did your garden grow this summer?


  1. That first paragraph says it all. 'Least we got some peppers this year.

  2. Summer seriously killed most of it. In the cooler months, I tend to have luck with peppers and lettuces and legumes (and herbs).

    Tomatoes only seem to grow well for me if I plant big plants, not little starts, and I keep failing at squash and having those one-delicious-cucumber cucumber plants.

  3. Our garden did okay. Lettuce and cilantro were colossal failures given the early and unrelenting heat. Basil did its usual magic and peppers have been surprisingly good. (They're still going strong, although we're under constant nighttime frost warnings, so I suspect their days are numbered.) Tomatoes and cukes both did fine. I'm hoping to harvest a few more before calling it a season.

  4. I love the gambling metaphor.

    Our garden surpassed my expectations which were, admittedly, fairly low. We had a lot to eat and ended up with a (huge) surprise crop of hot peppers from mislabeled seeds--like, ten times the total number of hot peppers I've actually bought in the last two years. I froze most of them, which may or may not have been a good idea. We shall see...


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