Sunday, March 7, 2010

Garden resolutions

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?


Paula said...

Back when I was taking a CSA box every week, the farmer mentioned that he planted radishes with his carrots- evidently the flea beetles were more interested in the radishes and left the carrots alone.

I've never attempted carrots, and have had only a miserable failure with radishes. I notice that store-bought radishes are gritty with sand, so I guess my soil was too heavy. But I'll keep trying. Otherwise, you're throwing in the towel.

Good luck with your mint. I remember spending most of a summer vacation as a kid trying to eradicate mint and canna lilies out of my grandmother's back yard. If remember correctly, I was being punished for some infraction. Again.

~Kim~ said...

It all sounds like a good plan and I'll be anxious to see how the "best made plan" works! :-) I have to admit that I've never had a fresh carrot, I'll bet they are wonderful no matter how they look!
I also worried about using water from our well, so we set up rain-barrels at our down-spouts and hand watered some of the areas of our yard.
Hope your week is off to a good start!

Toni aka irishlas said...

I wish I had your steadfastness of putting plans to paper. I keep my lists in my mind - not the best place at times, although it may be well intentioned!
Here's to being able to cross all the things off your list with a sense of satisfaction!

Miriam said...

And I thought it was just me who couldn't grow nice looking and tasty carrots - how typical. I'll let you all know how the plan works out - I am very aware there is often a disconnect between a plan and how things actually come to pass!

jeanives said...

Finally all caught up with your excitements and am so glad you do this blog. Thanks for calling last night for just a chat. I seem to have disappeared lately under Jim's newsletter and my painting commitments and haven't posted a blog since our day trip to Vanoc. Give Kim a big hug for us and of course the same for you.

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