Early this spring I sat down with the latest volume of the Territorial Seed Company catalog and planned my garden. I used their Garden Planner to plot everything out perfectly, and ordered my seeds and starts according to the numbers and sizes they recommended. Taylor built me three big, beautiful raised beds (6′ x 12′) that we placed out between the fruit trees on the edge of the yard. I bought a giant stack of those seed starting trays, a couple bags of organic potting soil and as the seeds arrived in their designated months, sowed them with love and care.
Unfortunately, whether it was my lack of experience, inconsistent watering or insufficient light and heat, most of my seeds never made it past infant hood. The only starts I ended up planting in the garden were peas, which did quite well thank you very much.
After licking my wounds from my seed starting experience, I got a new wave of motivation and planned a trip with my mother-in-law to her favorite local nursery. I filled my cart with already established shoots and starts and felt confident I could keep them alive and thriving. I took them home, threw caution and my Garden Planner to the wind and did my best to plant everything with correct spacing, as designated on the little garden tags they came with.
Here’s what we ended up with:
6 Yukon Gold Potato Plants
6 Lacinato Kale Plants
6 Kale Plants
1 Butternut Squash
1 Delicate Squash
1 Acorn Squash
1 Burbank Slicing Tomatoes
1 Sungold Cherry Tomato
1 Brandywine Tomato
1 Jalapeño Plants
2 Red Peppers
5 Spinach Plants
6 Pickling Cucumbers
2 Yellow Summer Squash
1 Pole Bean
1 Green Bean
3 English Peas
12 Lettuce Plants (Mix of Romaine, Italian Blend and Red Leaf)
12 Corn Stalks
6 Walla Walla Sweet Onions
1 Strawberry Plant
1 Rhubarb Plant
Assortment of Herbs (Basil, Chives, Thyme, Lemon Verbena, Lavender, Mint, Bay, Rosemary, Cilantro)
While we’ve done pretty well, and I’ve got tomatoes coming out the wazoo, there’s a few things I’ll change up when I go to plan things out next year.
1. Order starts instead of seeds, but still go through Territorial Seed Company as they have more variety and it’s easier to get the exact number of plants you want. The local nursery has no organic selections and lots of the starts come in a six-pack.
2. Speaking of six packs, I ended up with waaaaaay too much kale, lettuce and summer squash. We love our greens as much as the next person, but one or two kale plants (both of the lacinato variety next year) and 4 lettuce plants should do the trick. I also goofed and only grabbed summer squash instead of zucchini, and for some reason the green version seems so much more versatile.
3. More peas and beans. Peas and beans are easy to pick, eat and freeze. We use peas and beans in cooking all year long and it would have been nice to have enough to put up for winter instead of barely having enough for a dinner or two.
4. I forgot to get parsley! One of the most commonly used herbs ever. Doh! I’ve felt so miffed every time I have to buy it at the store this summer, meanwhile being able to cut the rest of my herbs from the back porch.
5. Plant more cilantro. I only had one little pot, and it just didn’t last through the heat wave. Ideally, I’d love to add at least one more raised bed (maybe two!) next year, and devote that one entirely to herbs so they can expand a bit.
6. Plant more corn. I’m not sure how that’s going to work, but maybe we just need to find a spot to designate as a corn field because my 12 stalks just did not quite pollinate properly. All the husks I’ve picked so far have a serious snaggletooth situation going on.
7. To try next year: Hard-necked garlic, carrots and radishes. And whatever else strikes my fancy between now and then!
A few weeks ago, I read this article from Little House in the Ozarks: The Rediscovered Writings, written in February 1918 by Laura Ingalls Wilder and it totally cracked me up.
Anyone can be a successful gardener at this time of year, and I know of no pleasanter occupation these cold, snowy days than to sit warm and snug by the fire, making garden with a pencil–in a seed catalog.
What perfect vegetables we do raise in that way and so many of them! Our radishes are crisp and sweet, our lettuce tender, and our tomatoes smooth and beautifully colored. Best of all, there is not a bug or worm in the whole garden, and the work is so easily done.
That Laura Ingalls. Always nailing it right on the head. How have your gardens been this year? Any genius insights to share? Do tell!