Our garden: a retrospective

When we were planning our first garden plot at our new house early last spring, the trees were still bare and chilly winds still whipped through their branches. Moving into our home in November, that was really the only way my husband and I had experienced our property. 

After some deliberation, we chose a level, grassy piece of lawn in our front yard, about 10′ x 30′, to repurpose as our garden. We tilled up the soil, which was actually more rock and sand than anything else, worked in plenty of organic matter and applied an organic weed killer. The real fun began when we visited Adam’s Farm Market, just around the corner, and selected the young plants, seeds and roots which we hoped would supply us with abundant organic produce in the months ahead. We spent a fulfilling day tenderly planting our new garden.

And then, over the next few weeks, we watched as the green canopy filled in overhead, and almost completely shaded our garden patch.

As it turned out, the best yields we had were from a few extra plants my husband Steve planted in his brother’s field, in all-day sun. From that plot, we had plenty of acorn squash, most of which now sits in our pantry as delicious squash-ginger soup. Summer squash grew in abundance, and the zucchini were nothing short of ridiculous. One lesson learned: unless you have an extraordinarily large family or you plan on donating to a good cause, start with two zucchini plants. You can always plant more next year, but I doubt you will.

Our shady front-yard garden was hit-and-miss. The many varieties of lettuce we planted did quite well, as did the jalapeño, banana and NuMex peppers. We didn’t see a single bell pepper, however. The broccoli, Brussels sprouts, onions and cabbage struggled along, and although the potatoes didn’t rot, they also didn’t really grow.

The biggest disappointment, though, was the tomatoes, to which we’d devoted about a third of the garden. We had a few big, juicy, wonderful fruit specimens, and many more rotted, shriveled tomatoes clinging to brown, dry plants.

I believe our tomatoes may have been struck by late blight, a highly contagious fungus that swept Michigan and was only encouraged by our wet, chilly June. However, we didn’t get our plants from a “big box” store, where many blighted plants were said to originate. Yet the crinkled dry leaves, wilted plants and moldy fruit all seem to point to late blight. We did not treat the fungus, but rather harvested what we could and then pulled up the nearly-dead plants.

Thankfully, several grape tomato bushes Steve planted in pots and set in the sun did wonderfully. Although they didn’t serve us for tomato sandwiches or the classic caprese salad, they were plentiful, and everything that a tiny tomato should be.

Next year, we’ll likely break ground in a different location on our very shady property, and possibly invest in creating raised beds. We’ll learn by research, talking to other local gardeners and trial and error. I’m looking forward to the new experiences, and to all the delicious fruit and vegetables we’ll enjoy.

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Published in: on November 25, 2009 at 10:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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