Just as a warning, part 2 won’t be happening until like, November, when the garden is actually done. This is just a late term reflection on the bulk of the season. There are still things growing (mostly weeds) and hopefully we’ll still get some produce before the end of the season.
It’s sometimes hard to look back when you’re looking “back” to less than a month ago, but the days have been so packed that August seems like a lifetime ago. I look back as far as July and am astonished that it just happened. I really did all that? Huh.
The first reflection is that we didn’t plant enough, or enough of the right things, I should say. We had plenty of some things (zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes) and not so much of others. Because if you think about it, and realize that in your household you have one person that despises zucchini (him) and one person that despises cucumbers (me) and not much else but tomatoes, that does not a dinner make. I’m still not sure what else we could have planted for the middle of the summer. All my favorite summer vegetables (zucchini, eggplant, okra) he hates, and all his favorites don’t make for meals (corn, tomatoes). There’s only so many things you can do with tomatoes and corn and peppers. There’s also green beans, but they again are fairly limited in menu options. So what can I plant next summer so we have something else (preferably something green) to eat? This one is going to be challenging. I’m open for suggestions.
So, more variety, clearly. We had kind of limited ourselves in what we planted, thinking we would be overwhelmed, and in that we were correct. The plan had been to supplement with our CSA share and the farmer’s market, but we’ve mostly used the CSA for storage items (onions, potatoes, garlic for the winter) and I haven’t been to the market in months, because I have no spare time. And most of what we’ve grown I’ve stored- endlessly freezing zucchini and peppers, canning tomatoes and green beans, putting up dry beans… well, we ate kind of crappy all summer, which is supposed to be the time you eat the best, because there’s so much bounty. Part of the problem is that I was too busy canning to cook dinner, or even think about it. We ate a lot of pasta. This I hope to remedy next year.
But the actual garden- how did that go? I didn’t have enough time. That’s like my personal mantra- I didn’t have enough time. And it’s true. I probably took a total of 24 hours of personal time over the entire summer (ok probably a little more, but not much). Watering was completely overwhelming. We were in a drought for two months, and individually watering plants every morning with a hose was a NIGHTMARE. I cannot do that ever again. Next year we are buying drip tape, and fuck the cost. Then at the end of August we had all that rain- and everything rotted anyway. So all the wonderful things we should have had at the end of August (those beautiful cantaloupes! my heart is still broken over that) just rotted away. It was awful. It smelled. And at that point I was so busy doing other things I couldn’t even spare the time to do anything about it.
Since I had to switch to sewing, I literally have not even touched the garden, except to pick the one remaining winter squash. And that just does not work. Gardening with two full time jobs simply DOES NOT WORK. And it’s really, really depressing. I’ve never been so exhausted in my life and that’s really saying something, cause I used to work theater. So next year I really need to think about this- everything has to be done by the end of August, or it’s not going to happen. Fall crops just aren’t in the books for us right now.
Surprisingly the weeds weren’t that bad until I stopped dealing with them entirely, and then they went crazy. Given it was a lot of work, but the wheel hoe did a number on most of them. Except in the herb bed, which has been completely consumed by wiregrass. I despise that stuff. It was IMPOSSIBLE to keep it from growing faster than the herbs, so all the herbs constantly got overwhelmed and buried. None of them grew very well. And for some reason none of my starters did well at all. Actually, a lot of my starts from seeds did extremely poorly. Herbs, tomatoes, peppers. I think I have to do a better job of hardening them off next year, and also try out some different starter soils to find something that is a little more effective.
I also have to keep on top of trellising, and do it like every other day. And weeding. And next year the plan is to do a lot more intercropping.
We also had a complete failure in the area of corn. The stink bugs just ate everything, and everything they didn’t eat fell over in a storm. I have no idea what to do about that. Or about the pole beans that never got taller than four inches (too much manure, I think). Or the rotted winter squash vines. Simply no idea whatsoever.
I think all around the garden would do better if I had more time. The majority of the things that went wrong I could have corrected if I had more time, especially more time to check for bugs and do something in advance of them completely demolishing crops. But the light at the end of the tunnel is so far away it almost makes me think I simply can’t garden next year- there simply are not enough hours in the day to do it properly, and any attempt to do so left me completely broken. I haven’t been sick so many times since I was in college. I haven’t gotten so little sleep since I was in college. And it can all be traced back to the garden… which I loved, at first, until I started to resent it for what it represented: all the hopes and dreams for self sufficiency that simply can’t be managed when you work two jobs. (Is it obvious I am feeling completely defeated right now?)
If I do manage to do anything next year, here are some of the lessons I plan to incorporate:
1. More intercropping- planting a lot of things closer together, and planting a low cover crop with the main crop where possible
2. Where not doing the above, MULCH, and mulch as soon as the rows go in
3. Mix things up more (we were limited in this last year by what parts of the garden had been broken in)
4. Try and figure out what the hell was up with the lack of pollination in the tomatoes
5. Spend more time hardening off seedlings (and plant fewer of them)
6. Don’t plant zucchini so early (and so much of it), plant peas and lettuce a lot earlier
7. Stay on top of weeds… check for bugs… keep trellising… pick on time…
8. INSTALL DRIP IRRIGATION
9. More variety
10. The handsome fella has some ideas for mounding up rows in such a way that they will simultaneously hold more water and drain better… to try and prevent so much damage from drought/ rotting
If I get a second which I probably won’t I’ll post some pictures of the sad pathetic garden tomorrow. At least we’re getting lots of hot peppers still. Of course they’re all rotting because I don’t have time to pick and dry them…