Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The garden year in review

Inspired by a fellow garden blogger, here's my synopsis of what worked and what didn't in this year's backyard garden:

Herbs: yes!

1. Basil thrived between tomatoes. I made enough pesto to freeze and share with friends. My basil bush is still going even now, woody at the bottom and leaves turning yellow!

2. Parsley (flat leaf)also did well near the tomatoes, although the leaves got tough and pithy toward the end of summer. Perhaps harvesting more often would keep tender new leaves coming? The curly-leaf parsley got lost under marigolds and lettuce, which might explain why the leaves yellowed, making it look less appetizing.

3. Cilantro was lovely while it lasted, but in mid-summer it bolted and produced queen-anne's-lace-like flowers, then the leaves went ferny. Still smelled and tasted good (and looked nice in wildflower arrangements), but not ideal for recipes.

4. Chives got lost under the butterfly bush - but thrived in early summer. This was the year I discovered that the flowers are edible.


1. Tomatoes. Grape & Cherry: had trouble picking them all before they fell. Grape plants from the market developed sunscorch, but the cherry volunteers remained healthy. Heirloom: Prudens purple & Brandywine both produced despite yellow/brown crispy leaves. The Goliath hybrid did pretty well too, and all three large tomato varieties make store-bought tomatoes pale in comparison... but that's to be expected.

2. Peppers. Jalapeno was lonely, yielded one or two all summer. Sweet didn't produce much either until I read that they cross-pollinate better in pairs, so I brushed the flowers a bit to spread pollen and a few weeks later there are enough peppers that I hate to cut the plant down!

3. Eggplant: did well as a pair. A bit sparse in the warmer months, but I picked enough (one a week?) in September that it was becoming a challenge to work them into new recipes. I like that the leaves remind me of moose antlers.

4. Beans: scarlet emperor, beautiful twining up the bean strings I strung up under the deck, and location made for easy snacking!

5. Peas: not a good year. Or maybe the seeds left over from last year didn't keep well.

6. Onion & garlic: I tend to forget about root vegetables because there's so much happening above the dirt... I did plant a few of these though. Got a few beets also.

7. Lettuce: salad bowl blend. These leaves are soft, and the plants bolt after a few months, but it did well under the shade of tomato plants. I'd prefer a crispier lettuce next year.

8. Zucchini again fell prey to squash vine borers, despite several grub extraction surgeries, but not before I got enough to fry, steam, bake, boil, freeze, and generally get tired of. My housemate invented a delicious zucchini soup incorporating the blossoms - a new favorite.

9. Pumpkin vine promptly came down with something grey and moldy, but managed to produce one gourd that I'm watching carefully for Halloween carving.


1. Marigolds flourished under the tomatoes - I didn't expect them to grow as tall as they did! Naughty Marietta is my favorite, with the dark/light color blend, but Petite yellow & mixed varieties did well too (although they weren't so much petite).

2. Zinnias and Cosmos were tall and leggy, not so many flowers, perhaps dwarfed by nearby

3. Sunflowers. Wow, this was my first year with them and they were huge! Unfortunately the squirrels got to the seeds before I did, grrr. I swear, squirrel is just a rat with a better suit.

4. Nasturtiums: first year with these also. They started out pretty, and edible as advertised, but the long, slender stems got all tangled up and bug-ridden in August... might not plant these again.

5. Xeriscaping wildflower blend went crazy. Not sure if the giant flowerless stalks were weeds or part of the mix, but the orange cosmos-type petals and celosia paintbrushes added character.

Plans for next year:

1. Better tomato cages. Bamboo tripods didn't cut it this year.

2. Get a watering timer that works. My Nelson model from last year refused to work, even after a few troubleshooting exchanges with Watson's, so I gave up and watered manually with soaker hose.


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