Garden Doom…No, Not Really

Sharon June 27th, 2008

Ok, you are a terrible person and you are totally doomed.  You see, you meant to plant a garden this year (or a bigger garden, or a better garden or something…), you really did.  But you were sick in May and then there was a work crisis, and the tiller didn’t work, and the guy who was going to bring the horse manure never came and somehow, here it is, the last week of June, and your garden isn’t even started, or is only half the size you intended, or three of the beds aren’t planted.  Or maybe you did plant it, and the drought or the floods or the locusts or the herds of armadillos destroyed it completely, or weeds the size of Godzilla have sprung up and you are fairly sure there were some carrots in there once, but you can’t find them.  And here it is, the end of June, and you have no garden, or only half of one, or nothing like what you’d thought you’d have.

 And you are thinking… I’m doomed.  My family is going to be eating bugs, and not the good kind of bugs, which will all have been harvested by Sharon and her family who are so far ahead of us.  No, we’re going to be eating the bugs she wouldn’t even post recipes for.  You are thinking…if I can’t even get one stupid little garden planted/can’t protect it from disaster, my whole family is going to starve to death…and it will be all my fault.  I am bad.  I am worthless.

Ok, stop.  Guess what. You aren’t doomed, and my family is pretty much like yours.  You see, there were these sheep, if you’ll remember.  That took care of the strawberries, the early tomatoes.  Then there was this book – do you remember that, the thing that meant that I didn’t even start until June?  And then there were a host of reasons, some real and some stupid,  why half my garden is in cover crops or something else – I could claim it was because of my deep commitment to the soil, but that wouldn’t explain why I was crawling around on my knees sticking random unplanted onions in between things…onions, folks.  Do you know when you are supposed to plant onions here?  The middle of April.  And I was planting them on June 26.  Nor would it explain why there are sad looking hot pepper plants looking at me and crying “plant me….for the love of god…plant me…I could fruit still before frost if you’d just get me the hell out of my flat, where I’ve been since March…!”And if I don’t get them planted by the time I go to Boston on Monday morning, they are mostly going on the compost pile.

 Am I panicked?  Guilty?  Nope, (well, a little), but only because I’ve been here so often that I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with the reality – all the perfect gardens live in my head, and the truth is, every year’s garden is totally messed up.  The thing is, I end up eating a lot of food from that messed up garden, and it does get better every year.  Or at least every year without sheep in the front yard.  And since the disaster is bad, but not that bad yet, we’ve all got another year of screw ups.   

Heck, this sort of thing happens to everyone – and I do mean *EVERYONE* – there are thousands of farmers in the Midwest who have absolutely no choice but to say “ok, no corn this year…hmmm…soybeans or do I wait for winter wheat?”  That’s not to suggest this isn’t hard, or scary or painful, or that the consequences of having a bad garden couldn’t get a lot tougher than they are.  They certainly are for those farmers, and I’m not trying to mock the sheer pain of seeing something you’ve worked on washed away.  But now that we’ve mourned our follies or nature or whatever, it is time to move on.  And it is not too late to produce a good bit of food for most of us, while loftily implying that you meant things to come out this way. (Gardeners are like cats - everything they do is intentional, even when it isn’t.)  The trick is knowing how.

One option for most of us to just say “the heck with the summer garden, I’m just going to have a super-amazing fall garden.  For us northerners, that starts right quick now.  I finish my summer planting on June 30, and then I begin my fall planting on July 1.  Sounds crazy, but that’s when I need to start cabbages and other late crops by (ok, actually it’s usually more like July 7, but it sounds better this way).  The thing is, most fall crops need time to mature while days are still long - some things, like spinach and mustard greens can be planted as late as September here, but this far north, most of the fall garden gets planted in July and August.  And fall gardens are the best – no bugs, things don’t require as much attention since the weeds grow slower, etc…

 You can also plant most short season summer crops now – near me it is by no means too late to plant cucumbers, basil, zucchini, green beans, etc… Other than a few beets and carrots for summer enjoyment, I don’t even really bother to plant my main crop of most root vegetables until early July – we are so busy in high summer eating tomatoes and eggplant that I don’t really want turnips, cabbage or the main crop of carrots until late September – so why rush about madly trying to get them planted when everything else is going in?  And some crops, like lettuce and rapini do better in the fall anyway.  No worries about the broccoli going to seed at all – just enjoy having a good fall crop. 

The other things I plant late are canning vegetables. I used to plant my cukes in late May, when everyone else did.  Then I realized something – I don’t really love standing over a hot canning kettle in July.  Now I can do it for the blueberries – that’s their time, and there’s no good way around it.  But the cucumbers keep coming until October…so why is it I was I melting here again in July?  Oh, because I have a giant glut of pickling cukes, and I don’t want to waste them. But if I make the glut come when I want it…  So now I start my cucumbers in mid (or sometimes late) June and the glut comes in early September when it is cooler, and I don’t mind canning as much. 

 It probably is too late for tomatoes and peppers and eggplant, at least from seed.  But what if you have some, or if your local nursery is trying to get rid of its stuff so it can start the Chrysanthemums, and you want to try it.  Well, my suggestion is to go for it – pull off any blossoms, plant them deep, and take a shot at it.  Or even better, stick them in a nice big pot.  Because then, if frost hits before the tomatoes do, you can drag it into the lobby of your building or into your garage for those first few frosty nights, and stretch the tomatoes out a bit.  The peppers and eggplants are true perennials, and you might even be able to overwinter them, if you’ve got conditions, and then brag to everyone about how smart you are and that you’ve got hot peppers in June.

The other possibility is that you can put in cover crops.  Now this is especially good because true serious gardeners know that soil is everything.  In fact, serious gardeners believe that the vegetables are mere by-products of the good soil – you pretty much just plant the chard to keep the earthworms happy.  So if you tell everyone “Oh, I put 80% of my garden into vetch and oats for green manure this year – I really felt the soil needed it” other gardeners will nod wisely and feel sad and selfish because they don’t love their soil enough to forgo pumpkins and parsnips.  It helps the effect if you look sad at their selfishness too.

Some of these cover crops actually produce food, too.  For example, buckwheat has a delicious salad green, and if you are lazy about cutting it down (which I often am) produces tasty and nutritious seed.  It isn’t quite as good for your soil after going to seed, but it isn’t terrible either, and I won’t tell if you don’t.  Red clover makes a nutritional tea if you harvest the blossoms.  Daikon radishes break up soil, and I promise not to tell if you accidentally harvest one or ten and make kimchi or Japanese pickles with them.

You could even experiment – I have some seed potatoes I have not planted this year – I ran out of space in the potato patch, and I had thought I’d allocated all of the rest of my garden to other things.  But I’ve got a spot and I’m curious as to what kind of yield I’ll get from potatoes planted at the end of June around here – for those in warmer places, fall is a good time to plant potatoes.  And since my potatoes keep best if they are harvested when it is quite cool, this might actually work out well.  ‘Twill be worth a shot, anyway. 

“Experiment” explains anything.  Just point to your flooded out plot and look wise and say “This is a test garden, planted to compare how well hybrid corn does in marginal conditions vs. open pollinated.”  Imply there’s a comparative plot “over there somewhere” and that it is all supposed to look that way. 

 Most of all, remember that you are not doomed.  Your next garden will be better, because you will have learned from experience.  You have mastered something – next year you will do remarkable things.  You will probably make a whole new set of mistakes next year, and come up with a new, creative range of personal excuses.   See, you’ve learned something!

 And you needn’t worry that my family will get all the good bugs.  We’ll be right there along with you, trialing recipes for the discards while some other family, who always does it right, eats the locust croquettes with their correctly succession planted arugula, that never bolts before another crop gets put in place.  I already hate them, don’t you? 

Cheers,

 Sharon 

45 Responses to “Garden Doom…No, Not Really”

  1. NM says:

    That’s hilarious! Thank you for making me feel better about the fact that I just got the starts for leeks, lettuce and celery in this week (!) and the tomatoes have been languishing in one-gallon pots since April because before I can plant them, I have to finish pulling out the waist-high weeds and 8-foot thistles in the garden (nicely scattering their well-ripened seeds all over the garden as I do) and turn all the dirt … and it’s supposed to be in the 90s this weekend! Could I borrow your sheep?
    I planned it this way. Yeah, yeah, that’s right. I was experimenting with … uh, something really technical that you wouldn’t understand anyway, so I won’t explain it.
    If only I could my husband to believe it! :}
    Weed seed bread and tomato leaves, anyone?

  2. My garden suffered from a drought so we got no corn and few squash and beans. Now it is raining and the weeds are out of control and we are getting tomatoes, peppers and soon eggplant. We just harvested all our potatoes yesterday and got quite a low yeild. But it was the first year I tried to grow more than a few. Yes next year will be better and we may try fall potatoes.
    Cindy in FL

  3. Maryann says:

    Planting ‘on time’ was not so great for our tomatoes and peppers, because, though our last frost was on April 13th, we were still burning wood on May 20th, after setting out the nightshades and cucurbits. We’re eating zucchini and pickles now, but there are practically no little green tomatoes or peppers, and the pepper plants are stunted. Our onions are swelling very nicely, and the pea harvest is excellent. We lost most of our broccoli to a rabbit, two days after setting them out, so I’ve started four dozen broccoli seedlings and some cabbages to go in at the end of July. I sowed alfalfa down the middle of the broccoli bed, and am keeping the edges weeded, in waiting to be replanted.

    I had planted most of the corn and beans by early June, later than usual, but we got a deluge of rain before I finished that job. Every time the remaining corn & bean beds were dry enough to work it rained again. So I raked in alfalfa which has just germinated. We have plenty of soup beans still from last year, so I know we’ll have enough to get through the winter, as long as we can keep the Japanese beetles from devouring the bean leaves. They were in the bazillions last year. The chickens enjoyed them by the tubfull.

    What I like about asparagus & garlic is the reliable harvest without the anxiety of preparing beds and planting ‘on time’. For the first time, last fall, our garlic failed to ‘show’. But the stalks are as robust as ever, so I think we’ll get a great harvest. Timing the garlic planting in October is iffy, because I don’t want them to ‘show’ too much, since the green sprouts just get frozen, wasting energy. But there’s plenty of time to plant the cover crop the previous fall, and till it in in late August or September and prepare for the October planting.

    We planted twice as many potatoes and winter squash this year as a hedge against hard times. The first potatoes are now blooming.

  4. e4 says:

    My garden is not overrun by weeds. I’m actually committed to an intensive breeding program designed to produce weed-tolerant garden crops!

  5. feonixrift says:

    I’m trying to plan a garden with a friend right now, that we MEANT to do an entire living-location ago. I so needed this right now.

    Oh, oh, and I have an onion! I grew an onion! *grins* (One, singular, onion.)

  6. Well this is a comment on several recent blogs Sharon, I read you all the time but never get round to replying.

    We have 3 & 1/2 acres in suburbia, a tucked away abandoned market garden, we are trying to build up. The soil needs lots of healing. The veggie patch is not finished yet, they will be back next week to finish it I’m assured. So no crops this winter. Yes winter is our growing season, summer is just too hot. We have 2 moldy old pet horses who I hope never die cos I’ll be really upset, some chooks and geese and cats. That’s why we’re getting professional fencers in to build the cage for the veggies (a la Sharon’s lesson with sheep).

    Money going in now to infrastructure, sheds and water and power to the sheds, that sort of thing. I’m 45, Stephen’s 60 and we’re both carrying some ‘war wounds’.

    Three & 1/2 acres are enough for us, more than enough may be. But we are starting small. There are bees in the rainforest patch (artificial, cos nothing else would grow there), and some fruit trees in the back yard and one day we will have a second veggie and fruit tree patch on the hill near the new shed.

    We have feral sweet potatoes and even one tiny feral silverbeet so that has to be a good thing!

    I’ll email you Shane, we do need to make contacts and keep in touch. We are in Rockhampton.

    Susan in Australia

  7. Adam in Western Washington says:

    Great and funny post, Sharon! Makes me feel better that all hope hasn’t been lost :) Here in the Northwest we had an usually cold spring that felt more like a winter, so most of our garden was pretty much stunted and is finally now starting to take off. I’m now planning on getting some fall garden crops in and I haven’t lost hope at having a productive garden this year.

    -Adam (18) in Western Washington

  8. Sueinithaca says:

    whew! at least I’m not the only one. I just put in about 15 tomatoes that I “rescued” from a friend’s greenhuse, as well as about 8 eggplants that she had germinated and then abandoned. Not so sure if the eggplants will give me anything, since they only have one set of true leaves yet, but you never know. That brings my tomato total to about 60 plants, so I’m likely to have plenty of tomatoes even if these don’t do much for me. Also stealth planted some zucchini, tomatoes, and basil in an abandoned garden at a house that friend will be renting beginning Wednesday. I think it’ll be nice for them to move in and find zucchini ready to be picked and eaten on the first day (I bought relatively large plants at a clearance sale). Planted them yesterday and checked today – there’s a teeny baby that should be ready to eat by the middle of the week.

  9. Kati says:

    *grin* Sharon, you’re so good at making us newbies and lazy folk feel good about simply making the effort. My guilt has not been over the lack of planting, but the lack of harvesting. I could have a first batch of rhubarb picked, chopped, and frozen by now if I’d stop being so lazy about it. And the chives are totally overgrown with weeds and the whole bit will have to be weed-whacked before I can get a bunch of chives. (Not that I don’t still have a HUGE jar of chives left from last year’s single batch that I actually cut and dried, but….. The point is I could have FOUR large jars of the stuff by the end of the summer, if I wasn’t lazy about getting the weeds picked. *grin*)

    Thanks for giving us hope that our misfortunes and laziness isn’t the end of our gardening ambitions for the year!

  10. Me too, me too! Makes me think you’ve been peeking into my yard and know that I spent all the recent time I could have been planting, putting up the fence instead, since I’m in a new place this year. I have only a few things in the ground yet, and teeny tiny seedlings indoors that sprouted but didn’t seem to get big enough to transplant.

    So, this year’s EXPERIMENT is planting seed this late (was such a late spring anyway) to see how far toward mature they get in our short season.

    Thanks, as always, for the perspective!

  11. Becky says:

    We had a couple of warm days, lots of squashes and cukes came up. There is still hope.

    I tend to keep one raised bed in disarray until I really need the space. Whatever edible germinates, I let grow and go to seed. Last year I had a couple of giant mustard greens or something similar from a wild garden greens mix. All kinds and lots of precious pollinators were attracted to the bright yellow blossoms which must have bloomed for many, many weeks. I also let some corn salad (mache) overwinter and go to seed in late spring. The soil tends to be nice crumbly after cutting the mache to make room for something else.

    And of course, the garlic and shallots! I never dig up all and even let some go to seed. This way, I have garlic and shallots in all stages, shapes, and sizes, and all edible.

    Kind of interesting to see what happens and grows in a less tended little plot. Sounded like a good excuse anyway.

  12. mims says:

    sharon, I laughed so hard, i actually drooled!

    methinks this is your finest post yet.

    a wise friend used to say…Your life is an experiment and you live in your laboratory…dont be afraid to try new things. indeed. maybe box elder fritatta? maybe not.

  13. Hummingbird says:

    Wonderful! Perfect!

    How did you know that’s what I was feeling right now?

    I’m still trapping the chipmunks who were eating the peas (I got 3–chipmunks, not peas–I got more of them than they did.)

    Now there is a black walnut tree that has grown large enough that it has killed one tomato plant and is sickening two more and a cucumber vine. I never knew they did that, so we are going to have to figure out how to get it taken down.

    I just had to cut half of a mimosa tree that grew up and was shading out the wild blackberries.

    The chickens are loving the cicadas. I can hardly wait to start feeding them the Japanese beetles!

    Thanks, Sharon, for this post at this time. I guess we all needed it.

  14. Lynne Marie says:

    I needed this reality check. I’ve been focusing on the 10 tomatoes with blossom end-rot rather than the huge amount of turnip greens that beg to be harvested.

    I’ve also found myself slipping into that comparison-with-the-neighbors trap. One of my neighbors kinda over-emphasizes how his flowers have done so well and I seem to be having a growth problem. I remind him and myself (and everyone else…even friends tend to compare front yards) that

    1. One neighbor planted bulbs and then those multi-gallon seed mixes (which he didn’t thin). Another started everything from mid-sized plants and seedlings. I have some late-summer perennials that are coming back and a few potted herbs that were transplanted. Other than that, everything I’ve done this year is from seed. I’m hoping by next year to be a fairly plastic-free gardener.

    2. I had the attack of the killer Empress tree, and in my weeding, I know I killed a bunch of flowers that I actually wanted.

    3. Because I’m planting from seed, and I’m still a learning horticulturist, I’m going to make lots of mistakes…and learn a lot in the process. This is a lifelong gig for me.

    But, you know, logic Lynne says those things, but then 10-year-old competitive-as-all-get-out Lynne stomps her feet and screams, “Why didn’t those candytuft seeds sprout?” That’s why I’m grateful for posts and comments such as these. Puts me in the right perspective. :)

  15. Chile says:

    Sharon, I’ve got a link in a post on eating pests for lots of tasty insect recipes! But why settle for the bugs when you can also take care of those pesky pigeons, starlings, and house sparrows? Better eatin’.

    Now that we’ve finally moved into our summer monsoon season, our plants are far happier. I’m working on some contouring to get more rain to the garden plants rather than having it flow off our property into the street where it just adds to traffic problems (not that making driving a car difficult is a bad thing.) And this year, I will learn how to make prickly pear jelly when the fruit are ripe. Nopales salad anyone?

  16. Brenda says:

    Sharon – I needed to feel better about where I’m at garden-wise, so thanks! I keep telling myself that standing in the forest and pointing out where the corners of the garden should be constitutes *progress*. Perhaps it does :-)

  17. Shira says:

    Ah, deep breath, relax, it will all be OK. I find that we somehow manage to have so much to eat from the garden that we give it away, despite new learning every year, unsteady weather and visiting deer, birds, cats and small children, despite its small size, only now pushing 400 square feet of raised beds after years of work. I live right in the middle of a city on a tenth of an acre and garden in a narrow L shaped strip on two sides of the lot.

    The trick with small space intensive gardening is to just keep at it. Missed the pea season because the crows ate all the sprouts? Plant beans, continue to march, next year mulch the peas with an old piece of chain link fence..

    We had a cold rainy May and storms and chills in June. The tomatoes that survived recovered and are growing. Mulch seems to help. I put a bunch of old horse bedding under a layer of topsoil in one bed and on top another bed (it just worked out that way), and both worked.

    I have only one bed which is much bothered by insects, despite the stress of the weird weather, and it is the only one without a nearby flower border. The older beds are next to the sidewalk, in my laughable “front yard”, a ten foot strip formerly sporting tatty grass. The city requires a 24 inch offset, so I put in cheerful annual flowers. Then I ignored the dead flowers through last winter and the beetles and predator bugs overwintered happily. The newer bed has no flower border and something chewing found it.

    The winter garden is my big money saver. I buy bulk onions, garlic, carrots, shallots and potatoes from local farmers in the fall, can the tomatoes, make jam, pickles, and condiments, and then we go through the fall, winter and spring eating beets, chard, leeks, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, salad greens, stir-fry greens, scallions and herbs from the pocket garden.

    I go nuts for about five weeks in August and September when the peak of canning, freezing and dehydrating coincides with deadlines in my business, but at least I know that it is coming.

    Weeds? You mean that shelterbelt over there? It’s habitat for the garter snake..

  18. yooper says:

    Hello Sharon, I’ve left a little comment towards the bottom of the last tread. I wouldn’t want you to miss it. Comprehend this concept, and you’ll better understand, how we got where we are today. Once electricifaction has been decoupled from machines that mass produce uniform parts, strong machines, not hand built, (think heavy equipment, pc’s, toasters, washers, medical equipment, etc.), then it cannot support a population (one that it created) of 6.6 billion people any futher…

    Thanks, yooper

  19. Thanks for so eloquently making me feel better about my stunted garden. After our super long winter here, and complete lack of spring, it’s finally sunny and in the 80s this weekend. We’re all hopeful that summer is really here to stay.

    The green beans, peas, pumpkins, and squash have really begun to perk up in the warm sun. Still don’t know if the cukes are going to keel over or revive, but I think I’ll tuck some more seed in there today, now that you’ve assured me it’s not too late :)

    I keep trying to remember that the whole urban farm was really truly honestly my experiment for the year. After the seeds sprouted and then sat in cold wet weather limbo for a month, it started to feel like a giant failure, and wow, I didn’t put all this time and money and effort into the creation of this garden only to feel so damned bad about it. So I try to step back from the success/failure question and just watch what happens in my experiment — and learn from it.

    Thanks for the help in changing my perspective.

    Off to weed!

  20. Ani says:

    yep- every year I sit down with the seed catalogues and plan the perfect market garden- you know- this will be the year everything gets planted on time, the weeds are under control, the works….. And every year about this time I realize that perfection has once again eluded me……. but somehow there is still quite a bit I’ve done right and there is always next year…..

    Here it has been so cold and wet that only the greens and strawberries have done anything- no peas yet even-just the vines…. but they are good greens and strawberries……

    The slicer cukes have all been eaten by someone- all of them- not even a single one left- so replanting from seed is the only option now but why not…….

    But the potato plants look great, the blueberries are loaded with fruit and loving the rain and I am thankful we are not in Iowa or Missouri and under water- just kinda damp…….. and there are the fall crops as you noted- which I think many gardeners forget about- I’ve got to plant rutabagas and daikon, more green beans, kale, chard, etc for late summer/fall harvest, as well as extra zukes, cukes and summer squash to replace the earlier planted ones when they tire (or are eaten)…

  21. Maeve says:

    My spinach isn’t actually bolting, it’s setting seed for my fall planting. :D

    Thanks for the fun post. It was a lovely respite from the heavier things we all face in our daily lives.

  22. Susan in NJ says:

    Apparently you saw me out in my backyard yesterday getting the last 6 tomato starts from seed into the ground. Good post.

  23. TH in SoC says:

    I have a question. I planted fava beans early this year and now the bean pods seem to be maturing. How do I dry them for long-term storage? Also, what is the best way to keep some of these seeds so that I can re-plant them this fall as a cover crop? Thanks! Also, I have the same questions regarding lentils.

  24. karen says:

    Nice post. I would love for you to do a blog on what the easiest full proof plants are to grow. Every time I think about us having to feed ourselves on what we grow and I get stressed and tense about it because of all the failures, I think about how easy it has been to grow buckwheat and amaranth. I would really appreciate you writing a piece to reassure us that we can have growing success and listing the essentials for a full proof garden that you can imagine.
    Karen

  25. Paula Hewitt says:

    We have just ripped out a lot of spent plants in the veggie garden (the chooks were thrilled), and eating ‘almost bolted to seed’ bok choi for dinner…again. We have replanted with new seedlings. We are still at the buying seedlings from the produce store stage, but i have just ordered a pile of non-hybrid, heirloom, open pollinated veggie seeds so we can start producing our own seedlings and saving seed. one more step in the right direction. other than that I wander around the garden wondering what weeds are edible if the SHTF. we have a lot of warragil greens (NZ spinach) self seeding around the garden, to supplement the diet of bugs. We are planning to plant the ‘be all and end all’ of summer veggie gardens in a couple fo months … just as soon as we sort all the other stuff out!

  26. Phil Plasm says:

    Thanks Sharon!

    Of course as it is my very first year of gardening I have not and did not expect to get a whole lot out of it, but reading your Independence Day posts about the hundreds of different things you have done has left me wan with respect to how I feel about my own progress. This post has definitely made me feel better about things.

  27. I planted at least 20 tomato plants, grown organically from seed. Watered, cared for …

    .

    .

    .

    .

    Yesterday my next door neighbor took pity on me and brought over a sack of tomatoes from his garden.

    *sigh*

    At least they were good tomatoes. Maybe next year.

  28. simplephat says:

    I love you.

    I use to say every year that next year will be better now I just say that is will be different.

  29. Karin says:

    Sharon,you are not planting late; you are planting after certain pests have their season. You won’t have to worry about flea beetles or potato beetles.

    Isn’t this why we home garden, so we aren’t victims of monoculture. Somethings do really well and some things don’t but there will always be something that comes out of the garden. We preserve it and we eat it. If we have connections to our local agriculture then we can supplement what doens’t grow well in our own gardens.

  30. Actually, our garden looks quite amazing this year. But after reading this I’m wondering if you’ve jinxed me! lol!

  31. bridget says:

    Last year we couldn’t get into the community garden plot until mid June. In late June we were putting in all our tomatoes, peppers, etc. And they turned out beautifully, and I was pushing all my extras on people.

    This year we are enjoying the extra rain, but battling the extra weeds. Always an adventure!

  32. LOL, we always have a fairly good total yield due to the CSA, its amazing what you get acomplished when others depend on you. But thats not to say there aren’t always gliches :) . I didn’t start my lettuce on time nor did I start enough (I had to care for my father twice in lettuce starting time, good as excuse as sheep right :) ). Then those 40-50 plants which would have tided me over just right till I got in my second planting got eaten and or rolled in by the wild turkeys. Members should be drowning in lettuce and I’ve not harvested one :) .

    Personally I wanted to plant lots of dry corn and oats, not one seed planted dh is the tiller and he ran out of time and be honest interest for personal items. I figured if he gets as worrried about food as I am he’ll prepare spots for personal storage crops :) .

    Week two starts today, the stars of which are snap and snow peas and swiss chard,, what else? Got to go harvest, maybe a few beets might have scallions, inmature volunteer garlic (bulblets) some scapes…….When are the red potatoes ready :) .

    Beth in Massachusetts

  33. Shira says:

    More tales of garden disaster, OK, learning opportunities and unexpected directions. I went off to school in summer a few years back and left the pocket garden in charge of my family. I was so proud of myself for leaving them well supplied with fresh vegetables and briefed on succession planting. When I got back, it was September, and the whole garden had bolted and set seed.

    I harvested the seed, bagged it up and stuck it in the back of the fridge. Despite dire warnings about cole family members crossing and hybrids not breeding true, the seed from my out of control garden grew fine vegetables and I am still using some of it. Enough seed shook down into the garden when I was clearing out the debris that I just sprinkled on some organic fertilizer and turned over the soil to plant. The fall garden grew bountifully. My mother is living there now and my old pocket garden still volunteers broccoli and lettuce among her ornamentals.

    Shira in Bellingham, WA

  34. Student says:

    A quick note on rabbits eating your crops – I found this on the internet looking for natural methods of pest control – lay a garden hose around the perimeter of your garden. Rabbits won’t cross it – they think it’s a snake! It worked for my folks. (My garden is in pots on my deck.)

  35. Desert Rat says:

    Thank you Sharon – yours is the second word of encouragement in the last week I have received on this subject – that it’s not quite too late to do some summer garden stuff as well as plan for fall. Here in southern New Mexico we have a nice long growing season, few bugs, but have to watch the watering pretty carefully until the “monsoon season” ( late July/early August. We’re in a sort of oasis here, lower and wetter than the rest of the state. Some rabbits around and we often say “Oh deer- oh deer-oh deer”, but there are ggod natural fence boundaries in this particular spot. No good excuse for not having more planted- just laziness. Tomatoes, basil, dill, cilantro, sage are all still in pots, most of the rest still exists only in my fertile imagination. Thanks again for the encouragement, and for your thought-provoking posts on other subjects.

  36. sealander says:

    Since I started keeping chickens I no longer have crop failures or weeds….it has all been reclassified as chicken food :)

  37. Ailsa Ek says:

    Every year my garden is a bit better. I don’t tend to expect a lot from the new beds, because we only just dug them (come fall, I’ll be piling them all under in leaves and letting them sit there over the winter). My oldest beds produce the best, although I am still having more luck with some things than others. My spinach bolted before it ever got big, but my peas are gorgeous.

    Now if I only had the least idea how/when to harvest them. They’re supposed to be shelling peas for split pea soup.

  38. Shane says:

    Hey Sharon

    Hmmm…the sheep ate your vegetable garden? I would be about to say those dreaded four words except my ducks have just discovered my vegetable garden too (luckily while I was planting out some strawberries, so I had the chance to fence off the gate right away, but a day or two either way and I could have been in the same boat).

    One point I would add here is the benefits of growing from your own saved seed here. For one thing planting seed is generally much faster than transplanting seedlings. If you have your own seed you normally have much larger quantities than the pinch you get in each commercial package. This means you can sow more generously and resow any time disaster strikes, meaning you only lose a week or two each time. Your own seed should be stronger and more vigorous as well, not to mention it being much more economical.

    My leeks went in a bit late since I didnt trust the commercial seed quality/quantity for direct seeding, but Ill keep the best ones to seed for future crops if they grow well in our climate. Our winters have periodic dry windy spells so I am going off the idea of maritime humidity loving crops. Tatsoi does well for a month or two, then gets stressed and leathery when the wind changes. Solution- grow resilient collards instead- they do the same job in a meal anyway.

    One thing that has helped me enormously in getting good timing with plantings is to divide my garden into two halves, one for winter and one for summer. On the off seasons each side is buried in green manure crops that are regularly slashed- I think this does more lasting good for the soil texture than manuring and even mulching in our humid subtropical climate. The added bonus is that you can turf out the green manure whenever you need to. You arent juggling the returns of the last crop that is hanging on with the timing demands of the new crop that is going to replace it.

    Shane in Australia

  39. Tara says:

    I’ll just add my gratitude to everyone else’s here! This was my first year to plant a garden, and everything was thriving and looking wonderful in April and May, but then the heat came. And then the drought came. And then the bugs came. And more and more bugs came. And now almost everything looks dead, chewed up, withered and sad. I’ve been feeling really discouraged, but this post helped a whole lot!

  40. [...] Sharon Astyk makes us all feel better about not getting that dream vegetable garden planted this year. Its a great article. If your garden isn’t as full as you’d planned, don’t panic. Growing food is a steep learning curve, and whatever you plant, your garden will get better every year, what was once hard work becomes easier, and even the most messed up garden still produces some food. Don’t panic! Ok, stop. Guess what. You aren’t doomed, and my family is pretty much like yours. You see, there were these sheep, if you’ll remember. That took care of the strawberries, the early tomatoes. Then there was this book – do you remember that, the thing that meant that I didn’t even start until June? And then there were a host of reasons, some real and some stupid, why half my garden is in cover crops or something else – I could claim it was because of my deep commitment to the soil, but that wouldn’t explain why I was crawling around on my knees sticking random unplanted onions in between things…onions, folks. Do you know when you are supposed to plant onions here? The middle of April. And I was planting them on June 26. Nor would it explain why there are sad looking hot pepper plants looking at me and crying “plant me….for the love of god…plant me…I could fruit still before frost if you’d just get me the hell out of my flat, where I’ve been since March…!”And if I don’t get them planted by the time I go to Boston on Monday morning, they are mostly going on the compost pile. [...]

  41. BoysMom says:

    We had snow on June 10th. After finishing planting on June 9th. Much of the field corn came up–except for a ten feet stretch in the middle of row 3 of 4. I wonder if it will polinate or not. None of the dry beans have appeared. 3 green beans and 3 sweet corn have appeared. (I think I can forget sweet corn–7×4 patch, we’d have to be awfully lucky for them to polinate.) One variety of summer squash, one of cucumber, two melons (the watermelons alone survived!) and half my pumpkin and winter squash plants never sprouted. Only two cabages put in an appearence. No broccoli, but it was planted somewhat earlier, so I think maybe the seed was too old.

    But it looks like I’ll have extra radishes in just a few more days! Does anyone have any good radish recipies? Can I store them somehow? I think every single seed came up. 3 year old seed, at that. My tomatos are blooming, and the swiss chard looks great albeit only 3 inches tall. The lettuce will be ready soon if it doesn’t get too much hotter, and the spinach is getting close. The onions and potatos look good, and the peas and carrots. I wonder if I dare replant any of the stuff that didn’t sprout due to the snow? Anyone have any guesses what fall weather will look like? Spring was quite random–80 one day, 30 the next.

  42. Shira says:

    Radishes: sliced radishes and young greens are excellent in stir frys. Radishes make good pickles. One year I made radish pickles with white wine vinegar, some mini onions and a hot pepper in the jar. Turned pink, very stylish. Korean radish kimche can be made with any radish, not just a daikon, eaten fresh without kimche’s notorious fermentation, and adjusted from hot to not. The flip side of Garden Doom is Gardeners Eating Strange Things Because That’s What Grew. I made a radish and snow pea fritata from volunteer radishes in my flower border for breakfast last week and it turned out to be delicious.
    I have had good luck storing radishes in green “vegetable saver” baggies in the vegetable bin in the fridge. The baggies have tiny holes for ventilation all over.

  43. Oldnovice says:

    Heh. First post of yours in a long while that reflected positivity, IMO, Sharon, yet first in a long while that relates to me, as well.

    We’ll not have the cool nights to fruit my tomatos until maybe September and it doesn’t bother me at all that my official garden plot might not be ready until August. The heat’s here already in North Texas, and it came earlier than last.

  44. Hey mate, I love your site. With the abundance of misinformation regarding this subject on the internet, it’s great to see some refreshing content. Keep up the great work!

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