Thursday, December 31, 2009

The year in gardening 2009/Resolutions for 2010

My plot back in early September

The past year may go down in history as one of the worst years in gardening, at least in the past decade. Above-average rainfall and below-average temperatures during the crucial months of the growing season resulted in a below-average yield, especially with tomatoes. In November, I abandoned my experiment of determining how much I benefited monetarily from planting and harvesting edibles, reporting a negative balance. And on some days, I spent more time clearing out infected fruits and vegetables than harvesting healthy ones.

The Minton Stable Garden in bloom, August

However, I still find gardening to be a satisfying act, providing physical and emotional benefits to those who participate in it. Another year at the Minton Stable Community Garden led to more friendships with gardeners and other Steering Committee members. A community of bloggers provided advice and ideas for improving my garden practices as well. And the rain had some advantages, including a lower water bill for the community garden (only $141.82, down from last year's $203.40). As long as I have my 140 square feet in JP and land at home, and Massachusetts hasn't yet disappeared under rising sea levels, I'll continue gardening. Here is my second annual set of lists, with items not in any particular order.

Top 5 successful plants:
1. Kentucky Wonder pole beans
2. Fiesta organic broccoli
3. Forellenschluss Romaine lettuce (grown in Minton Stable Garden)
4. June-bearing strawberries (before the botrytis set in)
5. Volunteer raspberries--they liked the fall conditions

Top 5 failures:
1. All tomato varieties (except volunteer cherry tomatoes)--due to below-average temps and late blight
2. Anything I tried to grow in my backyard--too shady
3. Spinach after the invasion of leaf miners
4. Irises I tried to transplant to a sunnier location in front yard--maybe they'll bloom next year
5. Zinnias--planted late and not given enough room

Resolutions for 2010:
1. Continue growing the same volume of tomatoes, trying some different varieties, but make a point of pruning them to strengthen plants and ensure that they get more light.
2. Grow more varieties of broccoli, like Piricicaba and broccoli raab, and other plants, including kale and other greens, coriander, parsley, and other herbs, carrots, and cauliflower.
3. Reduce the size of the strawberry bed to make room for the raspberries.
4. Keep trying to achieve that fall crop of greens, perhaps by planting better varieties sooner, starting some indoors in August so they can grow out back under row covers, or by some other means.
5. Be more aggressive in thinning out perennials, to avoid diseases like powdery mildew or to keep them from taking over my MSG plot. Black-eyed susans, anyone?
6. Take better photos, including sharper close-ups and documentation of the garden over time.

Happy New Year! I'd be curious to read the resolutions of other gardeners.


Daphne said...

Happy New Year! I don't usually make resolutions. Last year was the first year in over a decade that I did. I always want something different from the garden, but I rarely resolve for the new year.

Barb Mann said...

...and another Happy New Year! Don't worry about the irises; they frequently don't want to bloom the first year after dividing, particularly if they are going into a better-fertilized bed. That makes them think they need to put on new growth instead of blooming. But if the leaves look good and they are increasing, you should have a good display this spring. Just don't give them any nitrogen fertilizer before then!
My resolution this year is to start a long-term rotation in all my beds (it's Gene Logsdon's fault. I read his terrific book "Small Scale Grain Raising" and got inspired). The rotation will go corn-wheat-alfalfa-vegetables & annual flowers-beans-iris for two years-back to corn. I'm hoping this will improve the soil in the beds, which never hurts. I'm also hoping I will have the physical stamina to get through an entire rotation...

Martha said...

I love to grow the chards, kale, broccoli, raab, veggies. They are so much more reliable than other veggies.
The weather was awful for tomatoes in 2009 wasn't it?...maybe 2010 will be better.

We grew Tennessee Above Ground Sweet Potato Squash - 10 to 15 pounds, hard shell, not stringy.

We saved lots of seeds - if you want some to try next summer let me know. (my email is

My resolution for the gardening year ahead is to plant fewer things and work less.

Bryan Bunch said...

I don't really have a resolution list for gardening (my diet and exercise resolutions are plenty) but I do want to order seeds from catalogs this year instead of just buying the best I can find at our local good fruit/vegetable/gardening supermarket. Potatoes have been a big success, so I may try some exotic varieties. It took two years to get my raspberries in some kind of order (still many volunteers in the old asparagus bed), which was my resolution two years ago--but it was really worth doing.

Sally said...

Daphne: I don't have a long history of making resolution either. I would resolve in my mind at the end of the season to do some things differently, but then forget half of it by the next season. I like blogging the resolutions because it helps me remember a few of them and it's a good topic for the off-season.

Barb: Thanks for the reassurance about the irises, as well as advice about fertilizer. Good luck with the rotation; I try to change the location of different crops based on what I've heard, but it seems like you have more room to do it right.

Martha: I agree about the veggies you mentioned. Spring plantings are reliable. I'd like to grow squash but my space is limited. Thanks for the seed offer! Although I don't really have any to offer in return, I may take you up on it. It's good to hear from you.

Sally said...

Bryan: And to address your comment that came in as I was commenting: I did my first catalog ordering last year and I have been pleased with the results. Fedco provides lots of details about their varieties in their catalog that you just can't find on a seed packet in the store.

Bryan Bunch said...

I did some research this afternoon after ordering four varieties of potato from "The Maine Potato Lady" (French Fingerling, Laratte, Sangre, and Purple Sun--all organic except the last) and concluded that Fedco was the place. But I was so overwhelmed with all the choices that I failed to order anything after the potatoes. Maybe tomorrow.