Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gardening Goals 2012

I've definitely put off this post, procrastinating terribly! Nothing like a bad gardening season the year before to discourage one from ever attempting again. But, I WILL persevere, with a few changes so as not to have a repeat performance from last year.

It's not that anything went terribly wrong, but not much really went well either. My tomatoes struggled along all spring, so I purchased some larger plants. Those didn't produce until late in the season and by October 1st, I still had only green tomatoes on the vine. Fortunately, the frost was late and I harvested a few for eating, but not enough to can or dehydrate. (I realize I should have pickled or fried the green ones, but I was exasperated at this point.)

The potatoes were viciously attacked by gophers (okay, THAT went wrong!), but after trapping a culprit or two, the remainder never got very large or prolific despite rotating the crop location.

And onions... what onions? I forgot to plant them. Squash? Not one zucchini plant made it, only one crook neck and a spaghetti squash or two. Carrots never sprouted again this year despite the fact that the nation's largest commercial carrot farmer is within 5 miles.

What did go well? My cucumbers were the best I've every grown. The Swiss chard was nice, some of the lettuce, and eggplant. I also got my peppers to do better than they've done in the past, but somehow I'm not harvesting them at the right time because they started to rot before I can pick them.

Enough whining.

The important thing at this point is to focus on what I learned and will do differently.

I learned...

I need to have fewer goals that are clear cut. I tried to do too much too soon. Have you ever heard in gardening circles "start small and gradually increase what you grow"? Sage advice. Unless you're really young (ie: no kids yet) or retired with very few responsibilities outside of gardening, listen to this wisdom! I took on way too much before I had mastered certain skills.

I must stick to seeds that have a shorter growing season. Because of the mountains around my house and our microclimate, I have about 60-80 days for my heat loving plants. TOPS. Fifty days is more like it.

I need to cut back on the varieties I'm growing. I think diversity is highly needed, but not necessarily for the beginning gardener or until you know which varieties grow best in your microclimate. I have had repeated success with Diamond Eggplant, so now I know it's a winner for me. So now I'm going to add a totally different kind of eggplant to my garden. I need to do the same thing for tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers. Maybe lettuces, too. At least until I'm growing enough that I know I can feed my family with the dependable varieties first.

I need to mulch so I don't have to water as much. I'll talk more about this soon, but because I stressed over watering the garden (worrying about a high water bill), I actually didn't water enough. But without mulch, it quickly dried out and I had to water again! So I probably stressed my garden more than necessary (ughhh - both the garden and I were stressed!). To add insult to injury, we had a small section of water line not insulated and exposed... yes, it broke in a freeze and a day or two later we found it. I won't tell you how much that mistake cost me!

I need to create heat where I can. After watching a permaculture video of a guy in the alps who grew all kinds of things, I realize I CAN garden in my Zone 7 (actual microclimate more like a Zone 5 or 6).  He used large rocks to soak up sun and distribute heat to near by plants. And I have some ideas for other heat generating solutions.

Extend the season. I have GOT to get this thing down... shading lettuce in the heat and protecting tender plants from frost. I've bought supplies, I have covers, I have the basic knowledge. But I have to do it and keep it up! For some reason, I'm extremely intimidated by this subject, but I feel compelled to learn.

Grow more than I need. Lots more! If I grow more than I need, I will have plenty to share or feed to my animals. It's not wasteful because someone can benefit. Even if it's my chickens... that's less commercial feed I have to buy. This is not to be confused with the idea that I have to grow every single thing I put in my mouth, but rather if I think we will eat two plants worth of eggplant, plant 3-4 of the same thing. I get really stressed thinking I have to grow every single vegetable known to man. It's pressure I put on myself; why do I do that? I need to be more proficient at a few good vegetables that we like and feel good about it instead of feeling guilty that I didn't plant garlic or something!

Okay, those are the big basics. Now if things go well, I hope to slip in one or two additional challenges, but I don't want to get my hopes up if they don't pan out...

Grow a small amount of pasture plants for the goats and chickens. Okay this one is waaaayyy out there for me. I have no clue where I'm even going to do this, therefore I intend to start REALLY small. I just want to try growing it and see if they'll even eat it before I go hog wild.

Practice more succession gardening. That means growing lettuce more than once. Planting a second crop of peas in the fall. That kind of thing.

So... there it is. The list for all the world to see. I'm committed now. Thankfully, I've found some new inspiration this year, but I'll save that for another day.

What is your one biggest gardening goal for 2012? 


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