Lessons learned


Things I need to do differently in 2012 2013 2014:

The two most important things that I need to do differently in 2013 are the same two things I should have done differently in 2012. These were: PLANT THINGS FURTHER APART and DON’T PLANT THE SUMMER GARDEN TOO EARLY OR THE WINTER GARDEN TOO LATE.

No over or  under planting. Just stick to one thing per row.

No more tomatoes from seeds.

Things I didn’t do, based on last year’s lessons were that I didn’t plant things that the whole family hates (parsnips and radishes!) and I didn’t do any under planting.

Unfortunately, this year I learned not to pull up any unfamiliar weeds: there is a very sad reason for why there are no lupines growing this year. Come back lupins…come back!

Ruthless weeding is the reason why there is only ONE CHOCOLATE LILY this year. 😦

Looking back on 2012- how it all worked out

It’s always valuable to compare the plan to what happened. So taking my garden plan into consideration, here is what happened.

1. An emphasis on acid awareness. I planned to do a lot of pH measuring and adjusting this year. I used pH  paper, a pH meter and what I learned is that nothing seems to make much difference. I AM going to spread a lot of lime this winter as all the Pacific Northwest garden guides recommend that to counteract the acidity of the rain, but I am not going to try to measure pH any more.

2. The four year rotational plan. Overall, this was not a great gardening year in many respects. My first few rounds of seeds all rotted or were eaten and in the end my garden started late. Unlike last year, I wasn’t begging people to take my kale away, because I didn’t have much.

  • The potatoes didn’t do well at all. The plants didn’t flower, and the potatoes had a rough skin, and there were very few of them.
  • Peas – all rotted. Boo.
  • Spinach and salad both did very well,especially after it got  hot.
  • Cucumbers and zucchini both new vegetables for me and were unexpectedly successful. Note for next year: start cucumbers inside, and seed zucchinis outside. PLANT ZUCCHINIS VERY FAR APART. PLANT FEWER! Female flowers are close to the base, male flowers are far.
  • Swiss chard. Grow from seedlings.
  • Kale – I grew about four different types and none of them went out of control like last year.
  • fava beans. these were the best things ever! I LOVE favas.
  • Carrots – grew well. Very few diseased ones. Next year grow with leeks.
  • Beets and parnsips. Planted lots, none grew.
  • Tomatoes. Boo. I grew them in containers and they did not thrive. This year will be different….
  • Garlic sucked, possibly because I bought them from a questionable source (Pemberton hippie) who claimed that they were for planting. Each bulb ended up with 2 or 3 cloves max, instead of 6 – 8. This does not leave any to plant again next year. I am taking a break from garlic this year. \
  • This was a GREAT year for flowers – including every type of sweet pea, calendula, poppies and nasturtiums.

Looking back on 2011

The big plan for 2011 was to plant veggies using a four-year rotational strategy, suggested in “Gardening in the Pacific North West”, by Carol and Normal Hall. According to the plan, the plots are rotated each year to meet nutritional needs and to balance out pH, early and late plantings etc etc.  This is what really happened:

The veggie garden
Raised beds installed in the fall of 2010 in the back garden. The apple tree is on the left, behind the fifth box. 

Plot A: This was supposed to be Brassicas: broccoli, kale, leeks, kale, swiss chard and kale. What really happened: three rows of kale, two rows of carrots, two row of parsnips, four rows of beets and a row each of lettuce, spinach and radishes. The beets and radishes were fine, but the carrots didn’t thrive and I only ended up with four GIGANTIC parsnips. At the end of the season I also put in pumpkins and lettuce and it all got overcrowded.

Plot B: Root vegetables: beets, parsnips, potatoes, carrots.  What really happened: potatoes. The potatoes were the winners last year. Not only did we get about 40 pounds, but the kids are still telling our friends how much they enjoyed digging them up.  This bed was planted with a winter garden in August, but only the cilantro, arugula and kale really thrived. The spinach got eaten and the onions and corn salad never made an appearance. Winter lettuce didn’t grow well….

Plot C: Garlic, peas (planted too early), followed by lettuce and beans. Beans and garlic were great.

Plot D: Pumpkin, squash and green beans. Was this the plan? In real life this bed was home to leeks, brussel sprouts and swiss chard, all of which grew all winter.

The bed on the left of the photo is going to be for edible flowers (calendula and cornflowers) and maybe some herbs.  What really happened: chives, onions, lettuce, radishes, spinach. This is planted with chives, nasturtiums, parsley and garlic for 2012.

This year tomatoes will be grown in containers only, and in their usual place will be corn. The rhubarb has been moved this year below the lilac bush.  The rhubarb had kind of a traumatic experience last fall so I hope it survives.

Stuff that didn’t work out in 2011.

  • Peas (snap sugar lace II) – planted too early and rotted.
  • Lavender: most of it died during the winter. I have about 6 of 36 plants.
  • Coastal star lettuce  – poor germination.
  • Everything in the moon garden EXCEPT the bleeding hearts.
  • Planting things too close together. For example, the whole companion planting concept for the potatoes and parsnips – the parsnips died from being in the shade.
  • Scallions (Pacific 22) –  wow, 6 mini onions.
  • Carrots – planted both little finger and purple haze. Both germinated well, but were overshadowed by larger plants and died.
  • Pumpkins (big max). Every year I plant them, every year they grow, every year they produce flowers and every year I am buying the biggest pumpkin I can find at the store.
  • Cucumber (sweet slice) – like the carrots, these didn’t get enough space or sun.
  • Hostas. They never tell you that hostas are candy for insects.

Stuff that worked out in 2011.

  • spinach (Space)
  • radishes (French breakfast and Easter egg blend)
  • potatoes (sieglinde organic)
  • purple kale, blue curly kale, winter kale blend
  • lettuce (roude d’hiver)
  • alliums (globe)
  • garlic!
  • chard (rainbow) planted from bedding plants
  • brussel sprouts (united)
  • bush beans (jade)
  • summer squash (summer ronde de nice)
  • pole beans (romano)
  • beets (beets blend)
  • leeks
  • nasturiums and calendula
  • parsnips (gladiator) – although only four plants survived, they were monsterous.

4 Responses to Lessons learned

  1. Dr. Mooks says:

    I have a couple of peonies in my “orphan garden”. This is the place where plants go because there is no where else for them. Apparently they don’t like being moved, but you are welcome to them. I think I also have a peony support that would be included in the give away.

    Maybe if you save up little bits of left over wine, you can use it as a decoy. Vinegar might also do the trick.

    I nurtured my Sweet Slice seedlings in the house until it was very warm outside – apparently cukes really hate being cold. Just like me!

    • Kalegrower says:

      Hey Dr. Mooks! I would gladly accept any orphan peonies as well as any peony supports. I promise to take good care of them.

      The concept of “leftover wine” makes me laugh…hahaha! Why would there be leftover wine? There never is in our house.

      You know, those delicate little cucumbers aren’t going to support the sometimes less-than-nurturing environment of my garden, but I will try them inside first.

      Talk to you soon and Happy Birthday in advance!


  2. Cathy McGuinness says:

    Yes, I’ve heard that peonies will sulk when moved and have experienced that, but they eventually took hold and flourished. They like full sun and if you re-plant, leave lots of room around them. One of my favorite flowers too. Check out Martha Stewart’s peony garden if you want to fuel your peony envy…….

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