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Vegetable Garden Postmortem: 2012

December 6, 2012 | By | 12 Replies More

Vegetable Garden Seedlings

Brussels Sprouts Seedlings

The word “postmortem” can be used as an adjective to describe something as occurring after death. It can also be used as a noun and defined as an analysis or review of a completed event. So, for my first ever vegetable garden this year, the term applies in both ways. The gardening event, or season, is now complete, and there was plenty of death involved. This annual garden postmortem will help me to learn and improve each year, as well as impart some of my hard-learned lessons to you.

About 2012, I would say that overall…OK…get ready for this (talking to myself)…it didn’t go so well. Wow, it’s out there now. That was hard for me to do. As you might know, or will soon find out if you frequent the Tomato Envy site, I am not good with failure. I have high expectations for myself. With regard to gardening, these expectations were fueled by all the preparation I was doing for the garden during the most bleak winter months.

All New Square Foot GardeningEverything seemed so easy when I pored over my copy of All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. I was sure that the seed catalogs, full of stunning imagery of colorful heirloom vegetables, foreshadowed the overwhelming success and joy my own garden would bring.

Here is a breakdown, by season, of what really happened:

SPRING:

  • good success with lettuces, snow peas, fava beans, chard, and spinach.
  • Broccoli did OK but we didn’t get much from each plant
  • no luck with carrots, beets, onions, or radishes

SUMMER:

  • remembered as the birth of Tomato Envy, in the literal sense
  • one dozen tomato plants of several different varieties and none did all that great
  • stunted, unhealthy looking plants especially after I’d followed some online advice to prune them all back to single stems to improve yields
  • one of four pepper plants survived transplanting but produced no peppers
  • I planted four eggplant plants and one of them gave me about three smallish fruits
  • cucumber vines were very hearty, but produced only very odd looking, distorted cucumbers that looked more like little green and yellow gourds
  • good yields from bush beans, will plant more next year

FALL:

  • a total bust
  • plants just never really grew beyond a certain point, some never more than an inch tall
  • parsnips, planted early in the spring, were very tiny when harvested
  • fall carrots were “calorie negative”: It took more calories to pull up the plant than I would have gotten by eating the root!
  • cabbage worms discovered too late

Lessons for 2013 Vegetable Garden

1. Keep records: This is my biggest take-away from the year. I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping records to include information about what was planted when and where and what varieties had the best and worst performance. I didn’t write down anything, and I will pay for that when I struggle to remember what I did and didn’t do that could have had an impact on my success. I haven’t decided how I will keep the records (homemade journal, notebook, index cards, spreadsheet, etc), but I will have a plan in place by the time I sow my first seeds.

chard from vegetable garden

First Swiss Chard Harvest

2. Experiment with organic fertilizers: According to Mel Bartholomew, if you use his prescribed Mel’s Mix as your growing medium, you should never have to use any fertilizers. I now don’t know if I really believe it. I would like to make use of some fish fertilizers, earthworm castings, and different types of compost to see if they make a big difference. Again, I will have a concrete plan in place, especially after I….

3. Do a soil test: I like science, and I like things that are objective. What better way than a soil test to see what my Mel’s Mix looks like now in terms of pH and nutrient balance? Maybe I’ll find out exactly why my root crops did not mature properly or why some of my greens failed to grow more than an inch tall.

4. Get organized: This goes along with record keeping. I will find a suitable container for all my seed packets that will organize them according to the time they are to be planted. I think I’ll get one of those portable filing boxes from an office supply store. I can start a “file” for each crop and maybe that’s also where I will keep the notes and records for each.

5. Pare down the varieties: This will be difficult for me. I didn’t heed the advice I read about trying to do too much the first year. I thought, “That’s for other people.” But really, it was for me. I tried to grow everything we eat. Instead, I ended up buying everything we eat at the farmers market. Next year, I will grow only the most common things we eat and supplement our harvest with the more unusual items from the market. Simplifying should help me get better at growing some things instead of continuing to stink at growing all things.

Despite my disappointment, there WILL be a next year for my vegetable garden. I am determined to get better at growing food. Even with my paltry yields, there’s nothing quite as gratifying as watching a plant grow from seed, get bigger, and grow flowers that eventually turn into food you can eat. I will share my plans for the garden as the winter progresses, and I’d like to hear your garden lessons and wisdom as well.

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Category: Home and Garden, Kitchen Garden

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