Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Garden Season: A Look Back At 2015

Garden season 2016 is in full swing under the grow lights that consume my dining room table.  I have seedlings popping up in every direction and it's simply delightful.  But before I get to talking about this year, I want to do a quick review of last year for posterity.  It was a doozy to say the least.

Last year I moved from my beloved tiny plot of two years up a few spots to a plot that is 50% larger and overall just in a better area.  It's towards the back of the garden and therefor further away from the annoyance locals who harass me frequently.  It's also a bit flatter.  My first plot was at a very steep slope and I would slip a lot.  I still have a slope but it's a lot less and so much nicer to work in.

The season started out rocky and it honestly never really got better.  There was drama every single week.  Drama over an old hose.  Drama over the new hose that I bought for us.  Drama when the new hose was damaged and then I had to buy us a second new hose.  Drama over plots.  I am a great gardener and asked to use the unused plot next to mine so it wouldn't go to weed.  Was told yes, put in a TON of work, and then a new gardener came in and claimed the space as her own.  In the end I lost and did get to use some of it but not the half I wanted and OMG it was ridiculous.  But I pressed on.  Drama with personalities in the garden because that's the thing about community gardens- there are lots of strangers all sharing space and resources.  I finally at the end of the summer figured out that the best way to keep out of the drama was to just stop reading the endless reply all email chains. Drama drama drama.

As is often the case, lots of vegetables were stolen from the garden.  We have a six foot chain link fence around the garden but it's easy for kids and adults alike to climb and steal things.  It happens every year and to date, no one can figure out a best practice  to avoid it.  Sadly, my most beautiful pumpkins and squash were all stolen .  There one day and just completely gone the next. 

I literally cried big ole crocodile tears right there in the garden when I realized it.  I started those seeds in April and come October, it was all gone.  Others lost tomatoes and a sweet friend lost every single one of her Brussels sprouts.  A dozen Brussels sprout plants just chopped down one night and gone when she came to water before work.  She isn't coming back to our garden this year- that was her last straw.  And I can't blame her.  I nearly did the same thing.

And finally, let's talk about growing veggies.  My squash grew well.  They were mostly stolen but they grew well.  I did manage to walk away with six or eight butternut squash that I am still using up and have loved having them.  They are topping my list of must grow squash this year.  Peppers took forever to get going but in the end, they produced amazingly.  I was thrilled to be able to slice and freeze so many baggies to use all winter long.  Yum!  Kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels spouts all grew well,  However, we had critter problems.  A woodchuck kept digging holes (a few of us would fill them in but new holes were constantly dug) and decimated almost all of the brassicas in the garden.  Even with my own fence around my plot, he got in and ate everything.  Literally every one of those plants.  Along with most of my carrots and bush beans.  Everyone had the worst year for tomatoes last year locally.  I often equate my community garden to a preschool.  If one kid, or in this case plot, is sick, everyone gets it.  So things like blight and flea beetle spread like wild fire in our garden.  It's inevitable and I do my best to stay on top of things.  But when you add in human and critter pests too, it's just a sad story.  In the end, I ate a lot and shared a lot but only had enough to can up 6 jars of tomato sauce.  Which is depressing considering I planted twice the number of plants from the previous year.  

For the first time, I grew peanuts.  Just for fun and to try something different.  They grew OK.  I have a few left so if I have a little empty space when something eventually gets eaten, I might try them again.  But a peanut farmer is not in my zone 5 New York gardening future.  I also grew sweet potatoes and I can say with certainty I will do my best to get them into every garden I ever grow in the future.  They grew so well and served as a great space filler and ground cover.  Plus they were delicious!  

Let's see if I can get a full list of what I grew last year from memory.  In no particular order, in 2015 I grew...  Tomatoes, peppers, carrots, beets, Swiss chard, radish, white potatoes, purple potatoes, sweet potatoes, rhubarb, strawberries, ground cherries, broccoli, cauliflower, bak choi, Brussels sprouts, artichokes, bush beans, pole beans, sweet peas, sugar snap peas, Lima beans, cantaloupe, watermelon, kale, peanuts, acorn squash, mini pumpkins, Cinderella pumpkins, red kuri squash, butternut squash, buttercup squash, yellow summer squash, zucchini, white patty pan, yellow patty pan, tomatillos, leeks, fennel, Egyptian walking onions, chives, okra, French sorrel, cucumbers, marigolds, zinnias, Shasta daisies, and sunflowers.

I know this was long but I want it to look back on in future years.  I am also hoping that all the work I did in the fall (next gardening post) will pay off in 2016.  

I post almost daily on Instagram,  While I will definitely do most regular gardening posts here, please feel free to come chat me up over in IG  if you want the garden play by play.  So many big changes are taking place in the garden this year and I can't wait to tell y'all all about it!

What's growing in your garden this year?  Have you started your seeds or do you plan to plant anything new this season?

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