Thursday, October 28, 2010

This Year's Mistakes

A few months ago, my friend over at The Yarden did a blog post on her mistakes for the year. I think this is a fabulous idea. There is no such thing as a perfect garden or a perfect gardener. Every year you learn from your mistakes and the next year you hope to compensate and do better. Sometimes you succeed. Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you overcompensate and make exactly the opposite mistake. Either way, gardening is as much about learning what to do as it is about doing it. So I am going to follow The Yarden’s example and help you guys learn from my mistakes. It is also worth noting that I currently garden exclusively in containers, so many of my mistakes are related to that.

1) The Succession Garden

I am a big fan of succession gardening. The concept is simple: your spring veggies make way for your summer veggies, which make way for your fall veggies. There is just one problem: I tried to do that in every single container. So I had to pull up my peas before they were completely finished just to plant my tomatoes late. Then I had to pull up the tomatoes before they were completely finished just to plant my fall greens late. It shortened the season of everything and reduced yields. Next year I plan on more carefully sequencing my succession crops, only trying the method in a couple of pots. More likely, I will have a couple of pots that have spring crops and then fall crops, with no summer crops at all.

2) Not Testing My Soil

I bought a soil test kit several years ago and have managed to lose it. I still have it, I just don’t know what box it is in. I am also reluctant to buy a new one since money is a little tight. So I don’t know how good my soil is. I added a fair amount of organic fertilizer last year, but this year’s compost didn’t come in until September. Container gardens are limited by the nutrients in them. I need to either find the test kit or buy a new one by spring so I know what my soil needs.

3) Not Enough Swiss Chard

Last year, I grew a good fall crop of Swiss chard. As usual, it over-wintered just fine. Swiss chard comes back pretty anemically the second year, so I pulled most of it out, leaving one to produce seed. However, I never planted more. I got some from the leftovers, but for some reason, it never occurred to me to plant more. So I went the summer without my favorite vegetable.

4) Growing Tomatoes

I took my two biggest pots and put sunberries in one and ground cherries in the other. For some stupid reason I thought I could also grow cherry tomatoes in those pots and get a good crop of both. I also planted a cherry tomato plant in another of my large pots. The tomatoes got huge quickly, stealing all the sun from the other plants in the pots with them, yet somehow producing little to no fruit. I got an average of about 3 cherry tomatoes a day off of 3 huge plants. That was way too much wasted space and resources for my small garden.

So for next year, I will be planting a single, solitary ground cherry (well, maybe two…) and the rest will be greens and herbs, preferably with lots of Swiss chard.

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