I should have written this post a long time ago, when my memory was fresher. In any case, writing it now has helped me refine my plans for this summer. Here then, are my reflections on the 2007 season.
Broccoli/Cabbage: I learned that although I like broccoli and cabbage, they are a pain to grow because of all of the pests they attract. And it wasn’t just one pest at one point in the summer, it was a succession of different pests that required different methods of control and constant monitoring. It really wasn’t worth it, in the end. I’m not in a big hurry to grow them again, but if I do, I would put them under a row cover. The problem with row covers is that you need to allow for pollination, but that isn’t an issue with these two plants, so I think it might be the perfect solution.
Plastic Mulch: I know it seems so unatural, and it feels a bit wrong to use it, but I have to say it really seems to work. I did a little experiment last summer, where I planted some eggplant with the plastic and some without. The plants with the plastic mulch were much healthier and more productive. It also eliminated weeding, and kept the ground moist.
Marigolds: I planted marigolds throughout the garden, in between the vegetables, and along the borders. I did this because I had read that they will help deter pests. I hesitate to put this in the “lessons learned” category because I really can’t say if it helped or not, but it might have. I have a lot of enemies in the pest world, but my # 1 archenemy is the squash bug. They didn’t seem as bad last year. Maybe it was the marigolds. Maybe I liked the marigolds because the garden looked so darn pretty with them all. In any case, I am planning on planting marigolds again.
Planting En Masse: There are some things you just always want to have on hand. In this group I count parsley, cilantro, and basil. I dedicated large sections of garden beds to these last summer, and just threw down lots of seeds. I had plenty to pick from all summer long, and the parsley is still growing! The photo above is not the prettiest, but it shows how the parsley looks in March after having survived winter snow. The cilantro reseeds itself (and I harvested the seeds for my coriander stash), so I didn’t need to worry about replanting it, it just came back on its own. Better to have too much than not enough of these three staples, and it is nice to start the spring with pickable cilantro and parsley without having to seed.
Strawberries: I didn’t realize how quickly they would spread. I initially planted 9 or 10 in each triangle bed and hoped they would spread to fill it up. They spread like crazy, and by mid-summer were spilling over the sides. Next time, I’ll plant very sparsely!
Watermelons: I finally learned how to tell if a watermelon is ripe, with a little help from Emma!
Thrifty Sunflowers: From my neighbor Tim I learned that you can cheaply grow tons of sunflowers by planting sunflower bird seeds.
A Plant I Didn’t Like
Yellow Pear: I planted several plants, but didn’t like the taste, and just stopped picking them partway through the summer. They are very pretty, and I hate to disparage an heirloom (life is hard enough for them, isn’t it?), but I found them bland and uninteresting to eat.