I’ve been feeling blue for a couple of weeks. Temps have been dropping and my harvest has been drying up. My once lush and prosperous plants have been drooping and shrinking. Then Sunday afternoon the Hubs and I stood in the kitchen looking out to the garden, knowing it was going to freeze that night. I was a little teary and he put his arm around me and told me what an awesome garden we had this year and how much he enjoyed it and all of the fresh food. Awww…
It was 32 degrees when I went to bed that night, so I knew it was over then. Black leaves are so sad…and overtly symbolic. While I pulled the green tomatoes off my blackened vines Monday, I reflected on this year’s garden and already found myself planning for next year. One way to shorten the mourning period over the end of this season is to look forward to the next one. If only I didn’t have to wait sooooo long. First goal for next year: plan for Fall gardening, so I don’t have to feel soo sad when summer harvest ends.
Whether you had your own garden this summer or you’re planning to try one next year, now is a good time to start planning. Most of my early planning is focused on which type of plants I want to add and which I plan to skip. But, along with those plans I’m realizing that I’m going to have to expand my garden space. Luckily, I have room, so I just need to get the dirt worked – and I should do it before the ground is totally frozen to get a jump on soil prep for next year. I also need to incorporate my compost into the soil now so it can get happy for next Spring.
But let’s talk plants because they’re more exciting than dirt. I have been thinking about what I’d like to add and subtract next year. My big lesson from this year is to grow what I like – well, love. If you don’t like it – or love it, you might not use it and find yourself swimming in produce you’re not very excited about, which can lead to waste. This year I realized I don’t need to repeat a few things.
- Broccoli – I like it and the Hubs likes it, but I guess we don’t love it. The plants take up a ton of space and really don’t produce as much as a huge plant should.
- Elephant garlic – it’s supposed to produce really large heads, but I wasn’t very impressed with its size or flavor. Regular garlic is better.
- Sandia and Big Jim Peppers – I ended up with way too many of these and didn’t find them to be hot enough for my tastes, so I would rather plant some hotter peppers instead.
- Tomatillos – I got some in my Bountiful Basket and LOVED them. I want to make and can salsa verde next year.
- Cucumbers – I’m not crazy about pickles, but cucumbers are great in a salad and when you’re eating lettuce daily for months, you need some fixins to make it more interesting.
- Radishes – as with cucumbers, I think they go nice with salad, so I would like to grow a few.
- Beets – I really love pickled beets and have seen some good looking recipes for roasted beets, so I think I would like to have some fresh beets.
- Brussels sprouts – no idea if I can grow these in SW Colorado, but I like them, so I’m going to find out. I bet they will be really great when they are garden fresh.
- Peas – maybe. I love peas and have grown them previously, but they take up a lot of room and take a lot of time to shell, so we’ll see.
- Herbs – mint, thyme and rosemary. I don’t know why I didn’t do more with herbs this year. I adored my basil, cilantro and oregano, so I want to include more so I have fresh herbs to cook with.
- Giant Sunflowers – not for eating, but for their supreme beauty. I just think they are cool to look at. Plus, they are handy for providing shade for tender plants during the peak of summer.
More or less:
- Tomatoes – I had three cherry tomato plants and two regular tomato plants. Apparently I’m a real gardener now because I’m totally obsessed with tomatoes. I learned to can, so I need MORE. Next year I plan to focus on romas since I tend to make a lot of sauce, but I also want some salsa varieties and about three cherry plants seemed to be just right.
- Onions – I felt like I planted bushels, but I know my stash will not last more than a month or two into winter. I need much more! I also plan to plant more green onions because they are so great to have and use during the summer while waiting for the big ‘uns to be ready.
- Garlic – I also need much more garlic since I go through a head or two per week. It stores easily, so I need to plant more – and should have gotten some in the ground before freezing for a Spring harvest.
- Bell Peppers – I had a few plants, but would like more variety than the purple and green I had: red, yellow, orange.
- Spinach – I had a very small crop this year, so I think I need a heartier variety and I need to get it in the ground even earlier so the heat doesn’t get it.
- Lettuce – I planted a mix that included about 4 varieties of heat tolerant lettuce and it was very, very prolific. I want to plant less of that mix and add some different varieties. A little seed results in mountains of cut and come again lettuce, so one needs to be careful how much they plant (remind me about this next Spring).
- Potatoes – our crop was very small because I only planted about five plants and they weren’t very productive. I think my seed potatoes were not good, so I will try another variety and plant more.
- Eggplant – my three plants had us swimming in eggplant and though we enjoy it, it was too much for us. Next year we’ll only have two plants.
- Pumpkin – next to tomatoes, my other favorite crop is my accidental sweet pumpkins. I have almost used all of my pumpkin crop this year, and plan to buy some during the Halloween season to preserve for the winter. So, obviously I need to plant more next year. I think I’ll do a whole pumpkin patch area in the garden.
- Basil – another favorite crop is basil and I must have more. I’m making pesto with the last of this year’s crop and wish I had more to put in the freezer for the winter because it’s so versatile and easy to cook with.
So I guess this is goodbye to Garden 2012. You were great fun and so productive! I can only pray that Garden 2013 lives up to your example…and then some!
Readers: what new plants do you plan to add to your garden next year? Maybe you’ll give me more ideas (I’m going to end up with a whole farm, aren’t I?)