[personal profile] blcwriter
The garden this year was by turns a success and a bust.  I've taken over the gardnening, mostly, from my dad, who now finds it too hard to stoop much, and whose shoulder and back hurt if he does too much digging.  While I was a brat about getting sweaty and hot as a teen, now I don't mind it at all; the pruning and trimming and digging all have realizable results, and sometimes when people are being awful elsewhere, there is nothing like a good day with the electric hedgetrimmer or chainsaw to get out the aggressions.  (Yes, I have a chainsaw.  There's a vicious vine on the other side of the fence and twice a summer I have to cross the boundary to cut it all down to the ground so it doesn't uproot the third fence we've put in in ten years.)  I like the medium-term return of a vegetable garden, and cut flowers inside the house, and homegrown things to cook into dinner.

We have four raised beds in the back yard, a decent back porch with railings, two fencelines and a garage for wall-plants and roses, plus the space in between the raised beds, but it's a bit more riotous than I would like at high summer, and if I had my way I would take out a few of the hardy heirloom roses, prune some others back to half their current size, and do a long narrow bed of nothing but herbs.  I could probably even get those dug-out roses to grow in the crappy soil on either side of the house, but it's a lot of work all by myself, and I am kind of fat and out of shape, still.  I just started doing couch to 5k, though, so we'll see what shape I'm in at the end of September.

In terms of the actual food, it was kind of hit or miss.  My windowbox kale and mesclun were overcrowded, and crapped out early.  So much for not having to walk all the way to the vegetable beds.  However, round two of lacinato kale (which I can grow and keep going until February as of last winter) is coming up well in the beds, and the romaine that volunteered itself after I uprooted the arugula has given me several nice salads so far.  My windowbox purslane and sorrel have been a great success, but the cilantro was a bust-- that will have to go back in a bed next year.  And I don't know why I can't grow chives, anywhere.  Meanwhile, the rosemary and basil, both in enormous ca. 1900 egg pickling vats, are going like gangbusters in the sunny spot next to the tomato plant bed. My first round of spinach failed; my second one got moth-ed before I could pick and eat it.  There was way too much arugula (there always is, I need to use only half the envelope at a time, and then it bolted, so I ripped it all out, made a really, really bitter pesto to freeze, and I will mix the rest of it with ricotta all winter to make savory tarts & pastas.  My beets and carrots, however, are plugging along, and need to be thinned.  I wish I liked beet greens more, because there will be lots and I can never connect with the people at work more devoted to greens than I am.  As it is, I pretty much only grow kale and lettuce, because that's what I can stand in the salads I am trying to eat more.

The sorrel is its own beast.  After years of reading British cookbooks, and now Scandanavian ones too, I decided I'd grow a long windowbox of it.  It's terrific, and next year I will plant three times as much so I can have it in salad once a week and put more in omelettes.  It's like lemony spinach.  It bruises easily and doesn't need a lot of cooking, but it's sooooo tasty.

The container strawberries I transplanted to the bed last fall overwintered successfully with all the salt hay I put down; they have given us a good several handfuls this year, but the problem with strawberries is you need half a mile of plants to get a good yield.  I am going to move the container strawberries from the porch to the ground, too, and see if I can't get more yield from them that way. I'm having the same problem with the rhubarb.  Three plants isn't enough, but if I plant it outside a bed it gets choked out by the violets that have taken over the whole back part of the yard, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the peony this bed was built around is also sucking away all the nutrients from everything near it.  I'd just as soon move that peony to the front of the house, to free up the two + square feet it occupies for food plants.  I could do a small square bed, tucked in between the back bed and the hydrangeas, where I could put just rhubarb so it could riot all by itself.  When we went to Norway last year, the best rhubarb plants I saw were all gathered together like that. I planted the peas too closely together, and they only gave me one meal's worth; either that or the heirloom types I planted just have a low yield.  Radishes were as they always are; lots more than you planned for and then gone quickly.

We have a big lavender in the strawberry and salad bed that I was worried wouldn't overwinter, but I pruned and hayed it like Fine Gardening said to and it's doubled in size this year.  However, I missed the window of two days where the flowers were perfect in order to harvest and dry them, so while the flower heads are fine for culinary use in their slightly grey state, they're not all lovely and even like I would have liked.  I should have trusted the instinct that said "go in late, cut and hang the lavender first."

Our tomatoes are really slow this year; Dad got obsessed with starting from seed, and there was a several month span in late winter where all he did was run up and down the cellar stairs to water his seedlings in the contraption he set up with lights and warming trays and a bunch of other gadgets.  We had a close call with the milk-room heater he was using under the frame-- he was letting it run! all! day! despite telling me it was on a timer (it wasn't) and it started to melt the power strip it was plugged into.  Needless to say, this is when I made him go out and get the warming pads, which have a built in timer and draw far less power.  (And yes, there was a fight about my tossing the melted power strip and the ca. 1944 heater, the one with the now melted-cord.  It was only when I made him take them down to the fire house for inspection that he let the fireman throw them out.)

Disappointingly, my broccoli has done bupkiss for the four foot square it's taking up.  I think I expected too much from it, and that I planted too early; the plants are too tall and I've only gotten two heads out of the mess.  I'm probably going to cut it all out this weekend and see about getting some plants of it instead, later on in late August so I can have some fall plants, since that's what the Farmer's Almanac says is the best.

(Yes, you're reading all of this and saying "Aren't there directions? Couldn't you take a calendar and then plan your whole season?"
You'd be right but you'd forget I am 1) contrary 2) forgetful 3) occasionally depressed and inactive until I impulsively decide I am not and then I plant All the Things.)

I always do green beans but am so indifferent to them that I never get a good yield. I like bush beans better than pole, the opposite of my whiny 73 year old toddler; next year I will plant only bush, and tell him he needs to shut it, since he's not out there turning over the soil and weeding.  This year, there were too many cucumber seedlings; I've got pickle recipes lined up, and have been making a cucumber-rhubarb light pickled salad with the rest of the rhubarb.

I think we lack the right amount of sun for zucchini; I pretty much only ever get two. Last year, we got one pumpkin for pie, and one for the jack o'lantern.  I expect it's the fault of the ornamental crab; I need to climb up on top of the garage to top-trim it, and then in October take a saw to some of the lower limbs that are casting too much shade over the yard until noontime.

I have to admit I find most of the flowers we have kind of boring.  We have a ton of roses because those are Dad's jam.  There are front-porch windowboxes full of annuals; my way of amusing myself was to plant them all purple and silver this spring after Prince and David Bowie died.  Right now, they're all orange and pink and yellow, just because, and I'll do something rainbowed in a few weeks for the rest of the time up to Thanksgiving, so I have gay windowboxes for pride month in October.  The far side of the house has more roses and two giant rose of sharon trees, pink and white single flowers.  The trees are great; the shoots all over the rest of the side of the house are pernicious, so that I've mostly given up on anything except perennials and butterfly bushes that are sturdy enough to withstand the ROS' desire to create a two-mile hedge.

Dad insists on zinnia and cosmos and cleome, but only in the boring colors.  I want the doubles, the stripes, the all-whites, the lemon-limes, the deep bloody chocolates, the red-and-limes.  The weird, kind of messy, kind of showy stuff.  And he insists on planting the tallest ones in the front, so that then you can't see the zinnias.  (And then he complains about it, and then bitches when I tell him I told him, again, to put them in dwarf plants all mixed together, then zinnia, cleome, and cosmos.  But what do I know, I can only read the plant labels and put them in order by height.)  I got my way with some lilac and white striped phlox and some asiatic lilies along the driveway; I just got a few more phlox-- plants-- and am going to put them in to supplement the purple with hot-pink and lime striped phlox.  It's going to be wild.  And I do now get my way about the viridiflora and parrot tulips, so that we get about half Darwins and the rest multicolored.  I still haven't won on multicolor and double daffodills, though I have hopes.

We don't have dahlias.  I have accepted, by way of the sheer number of dahlia growers I follow on Instagram, that they're more work than I will find time for, and that I need more space than I have, not without digging up something else.  And we don't have lilies of the valley, and I am going to dig up a ton of the violets where the lilac once stood (I cut it out and planted a new one this spring, but it'll be a decade before it's any size) and put the mugets in there.  We have a weedy yellow hollyhock on the Rose of Sharon side of the house that is old and has fungus.  I need to dig it all out, amend the heck out of the soil in October, and then do a combination of seeds and plants to restart it.

I got more systematic last year and drew maps of the beds with notes of what we had and how it did, but I think I will do better if I put it into a scrapbook along with some pictures so I can look back and see how it looked in January-- that way my planning will be a bit more forethoughtful about what I want to repeat, and what I want to scratch and start over.  Since that will mean actually processing my pictures and printing them, that's all to the good.

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