With the start of the 2010 gardening season, my mind has turned to the task of setting some goals for myself. It may be a sign of too many years of writing professional growth plans as a teacher, or of writing too many SMART goals (you know, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely), but it seems like an important thing to do. So, at the risk of appearing like an idiot for not getting this all right the first time, here are my 2010 Garden Resolutions (so far), in no particular order.
(1) Grow better carrots. Last year my carrots were sort of pathetic. They weren't very big, and too many were clubbed, or multi-rooted, or covered in little black lines that I think are a sign of a carrot rust fly infestation. This year I plan to use our longest-pronged pitchfork to loosen up the soil as deeply as I can, and cover my freshly seeded carrots with row covers until the danger of carrot rust flies is past (whenever that is - note to self: check on this).
(2) Remember to fertilize. I was really good at applying lots of lovely compost to each garden bed at the start of the spring, and then again when I planted the fall/winter crops. But somehow I forgot about feeding the plants in between. This year I am going to make compost tea, and nettle tea, and comfrey tea and feed the plants regularly.
(3) Provide better winter protection. I was pretty casual about this last year. For one bed I used a cold-frame cover that was left behind by the previous owners. But it was too big for the bed, so all the cold winter air was free to come in from underneath. I also used a small poly tunnel and some floating row covers, to see how they would work (answer: not so well), and I used straw to mulch the rutabagas. My conclusions: the straw worked just fine, the poly tunnel was way too cumbersome to open for watering, and the floating row cover was pretty much useless. Plus, I was left wondering exactly why I didn't plant anything in the greenhouse, for goodness sake. This year I will make full use of the greenhouse beds, which will mean transplanting seedlings into those beds once the tomatoes are done. And we'll build some better low tunnels out of PVC pipe and plastic, with hinges to tip the cover out of the way for harvesting and watering.
(4) Harvest more herbs. We have mint growing everywhere, which is generally not a good thing since it's so invasive. I have to keep pulling it out and cutting it down or it will take over the garden, but while I do that I might as well harvest the leaves, dry them, and make tea! The same goes for all the oregano and lemon balm we seem to have. I plan to have a lot of fun doing this, and to make it even more fun I have started chamomile and calendula seedlings for even more happy herbal harvesting.
(5) Be nicer to the blueberries. We had a pretty pathetic harvest last year. We think this is because the plants are quite young, we didn't water enough (What did we know? It was our first year!), and the soil wasn't acidic enough. This year we know we can trust our well to give us all the water we reasonably need, and we have a soaker hose system worked out to make sure the water gets used efficiently. As well, we have been saving all our coffee grounds to work into the soil around the blueberries to make it more acidic. We'll be sure to use our new pH meter regularly, to make sure it's working.
I think I understand why I always enjoyed writing professional growth plans in my former life: there's something so hopeful about imagining and planning for future success. I have a picture in my mind of eating a beautiful, well-fed carrot harvested in the middle of a snow storm in December, with a side dish of happy blueberries from the freezer and a cup of mint tea. What could be more perfect than that?