The 2010 gardening season is drawing to a close, although there’s still a lot of it left for those of us growing fall veggies. But it’s a good time to pause and take stock, as we officially slide from summer into autumn (on a pretty hot day with a small chance of rain). The garden, and my gardening friends, teach me new things every year. Here’s a little of what I learned in 2010.
1) You can have too much Swiss chard.
2) Don’t plant mint. Just don’t. Okay, plant a little. Whoops!
3) Rhubarb travels. I’m quite sure that two years ago our demo garden rhubarb patch wasn’t blocking access to the gate to the compost pile, but since then it’s snuck over there. We had to dig up the plants and move them; I hope they survive. Probably we should have moved the gate instead.
4) Don’t plant tomatoes and peppers in the shade. This should be a no-brainer, but we managed to do it at the demo garden this year, forgetting how tall Jerusalem artichoke and fennel get. Fennel is a no-no in most companion planting applications anyway.
6) On the other hand, mouse melons do not grow well in pots. Though it would have been a good idea to fertilize them more often.
7) Peanuts do grow in pots! Or at least it appears that way; I haven’t dug them up yet.
8) Summer squash started as late as early July grows quickly, is as overbearing as usual, and avoids vine borer attacks. Thanks for the tip, Bob! Also, Donna was right: round zucchini rocks, even though I don’t juggle.
9) By extension, staggered planting is a great way to handle pest problems with squash, cucumbers, and some other quick-growing crops. I should just forget about using the counter in the laundry room for folding laundry, and reserve it for continual production of new transplants, including basil, borage (which poops out just when I would like it to really shine), and some flowers. I would use my overcrowded deck for this purpose if it weren’t for the squirrels that dig up and eat seedlings.
10) Also start fall transplants inside. Especially spinach. I despair at getting it to germinate outside in August with no rain.
11) Brassica family plants grow well in the spring if we get a long enough stretch of cool weather, and they do fantastically in the fall once it really is fall, but August, September and early October are flummoxing me. I am seriously considering restricting my fall plantings to things harlequin bugs don’t like. Wish I could do the same for stink bugs, but it appears there is nothing they don’t like. They are the anti-Tigger, the anti-Mikey.
12) Speaking of spinach, as I did two items ago, summer spinach alternatives are very worth planting. Except for beetberry/strawberry spinach. The berries have no taste and I never ate a leaf since it died prematurely.
13) I failed utterly at growing beans while other people managed despite the heat. Variety selection? Not enough water?
14) Great soil solves a lot of problems, but we would have done better in general with more regular watering. Next year we WILL install a good drip irrigation system with a TIMER.
15) Beneficial insect-attracting flowers are also essential, but so is regular monitoring of insects that want to eat your veggies. Once a week is far from enough. Next year, demo garden IPM scout team? Bad Bugs Brigade?
16) My name is Erica and I am a seedaholic. Really, I cannot resist acquiring new seeds, especially free or low-cost ones. Luckily I have a large garden to play with them in, but seriously: just because Monticello is selling off 2009 seeds for 50¢ a packet does not mean I need Queen Anne’s Pocket Melon. You can’t eat them and the demo gardeners really don’t smell that bad.
17) Garden bloggers rule!!
The above is a subliminal hint telling you to plant mouse melons in 2011. But in any case: time to start planning for another great (hopefully much better) year!