Happy New Year!
2010 was my first full year gardening here, after several years being gardenless. It was very rewarding, and the great thing about gardening is that you improve at it every year.
As usual, some things did great while other things didn't work out. The weather always plays a factor, and in 2010 we had a late freeze in March that hurt a lot of my plants, then a hot and dry spell in April that finished a lot of them off. The summer was typically hot and dry, until we got some rain in late August and a cool down and very rainy September, one of the rainiest Septembers on record. This was followed by the driest October through December on record, with no rain until Christmas week. The first frost came in late November, which is typical, and we've had a few freezes since then, including a good hard one or two, of course punctuated by warmer, sunny days, as winters here usually are.
Things that didn't do well were the peppers, eggplants, corn, melons, pole beans, and potatoes. Most of these were done in by the weird spring weather with late freezes and then baking heat. I tried replanting some of them, but then it was too late to get them to a good size before the summer heat came and toasted them. The potato crop was disappointing, but I have never grown potatoes before, so I might have done it wrong. I didn't plant them in trenches, for example. The only peppers I got a good crop of were the jalapenos I got at Home Depot after my seed-started peppers didn't make it.
Things that did do well were the tomatoes, garlic, squash, sweet potatoes, peas, and greens. The peas and greens survived the unusually harsh winter just fine and grew well into spring. I had a good crop of tomatoes, enough for plenty of fresh eating and a little drying and canning (wish I had room to plant more for canning). The garlic did wonderfully, and the sweet potatoes also gave a pretty good crop, especially compared to the regular potatoes. The squash is a complicated story. What didn't get killed by squash vine borers before it could make a crop did well, but I did plant several more varieties that didn't make it at all. The only squash I actually got to eat were some yellow crooknecks that developed before the borers killed the plants, and I got a bumper crop of cushaws, but only after the squash vine borers were mostly gone in the fall.
2011 New Year's Garden Resolutions
1. Get a soil test - Just to get some sort of baseline for fertility here.
2. Continue to work on "hardscaping" - That's a term I just learned for the non-plant components of a garden. I have been making borders for the beds with rocks as I dig them up, and I laid down that black landscape fabric on the paths, but they soon deteriorated from exposure to the elements. I know that stuff is meant to be under mulch, but I didn't get around to putting down mulch on top of it right away. I'm considering whether it would be worth it to get a truckload of mulch delivered.
3. Be more careful about water - As you may have seen, rain is unpredictable here. I need to make use of my soaker hose and rain barrel water when it really counts - which is mainly while plants are small, and once plants are established, only water when they really need it. Irrigating the garden really shows up on the utility bill!
4. Keep on top of Bermuda grass - It's a constant battle to keep that stuff under control. Organic weed killer (made of strong vinegar and orange oil) doesn't work very well. Roundup is more effective but not organic. Solarization didn't work, probably because I didn't have the plastic down long enough, but I don't feel like waiting a year or two with the garden under plastic to kill that stuff. It grows right through mulch. The most effective thing might actually be digging it up! Too bad that's also the most labor intensive, since I need to get out every little piece.
5. Direct seed onions - I still haven't had good luck with onions. Those thin, delicate little sprouts are just so hard to transplant. Next year I might try direct-seeding them, so I don't have to handle them so much.
6. Start fall greens earlier - This year I tried starting my brassicas, salad greens, etc., in the garage in August, but it was much too hot in there, so I had to replant in September, which means that right now I don't have any big enough to harvest. I had to BUY collard greens for New Year's! This year I might try having them on the porch in the shade, where they might get better air circulation, or maybe I could even find somewhere in the air-conditioned house to stick them, though right now I have no idea where.
7. Harvest garlic earlier - I harvested my garlic in May and June, but after curing, it turned out a lot of my garlic could have been harvested earlier. While they were fresh it was hard to see, but after the wrappers dried out, I could see that the cloves had already started to separate on some of them, especially the softnecks and elephant garlic. Not a big deal, but still good to know for next time.
8. Kill those squash vine borers - Next year I'd like to have some squash other than cushaws! I heard that neem oil is effective against SVBs and organic, maybe even a mixture of Bt and neem oil. I know for sure Bt alone doesn't work, because I already tried that.
9. Don't bother with corn this year - The hybrid sweet corn I tried last year didn't amount to anything. I would like to some day grow heirloom corn that gets nice, big, robust stalks, but that takes up a lot of room. I think I'll take a year off of trying corn this time.
10. Start fall tomatoes in May - Last year my little fall tomatoes fried in the heat. This year I'll try starting them earlier and transplanting them out when they're nice and big and won't dry out as fast. Spring-planted tomatoes die out around July and August, so it would be nice to have a second tomato crop in the fall, especially for canning.
11. Save more seed - and write more about it in this blog. I've always been interested in saving seed, but I think now I can get serious about it. This blog really helps me keep track of things like planting and harvesting, so I'm sure it will also help me keep track of seed saving. Of course if someone out there reads about it and finds it helpful in some way, that's good too.
That's all I can think about right now. Have a happy and bountiful new year, everyone!