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I have no problem admitting it: I made more than a few mistakes in the garden this year, not the least of which was taking off on a massive, two-week road trip right before the Fortress Garden peaked like mad. I tried picking blackberries last night, and when I saw all the sad, shriveled little berries I wanted to cry. Not that I would have missed out on my vacation, but jeez Louise, there were quarts of them dried on the vine.
Other places I blew it:
1. Too Much Diversity
I had too many tomato varieties, and not only did I lose track, but because I couldn’t bear to limit my choices, I overcrowded some of the plants.
I really, really didn’t need more than one zucchini plant. Seriously, those things grow about 3 inches a day and all you have to do is turn around and four or five more zucchini suddenly appear.
3. Not Staying On Top Of Watering
Just a few missed days can really stunt plants—more than I would have expected. And because we’re in a drought, I’ve been a bit stingy. Not good. We do have a brand-new drip system now, so at least I’ll be ready for next year.
4. Not Testing Soil
In some of my raised beds, nothing was thriving, but I just kept fertilizing and watering without checking the soil. Duh. I knew better, but my pH meter had broken and I kept forgetting to get a new one. Lame.
5. Not Harvesting In Time
For some reason, this year all my basil plants bolted really quickly. I went into some kind of weird denial —No! They can’t be going to seed this fast! I’ll just wait for the delicious juicy leaves!—and didn’t pinch back in time.
Fortunately, some things in my garden did work, though abundance presents its own challenges. We have tremendous crops of apples, plums, pears and walnuts coming in now, and I have to face up to the fact that I need a processing plant to handle it all. Here are a few varieties of veggies that worked out really well:
- Sun Sugar Tomato: Adorable, delicious and prolific, this sucka produces loads of sweet, orange, marble-sized tomatoes. Really, really tasty. It’s got a place in my garden next year for sure.
- Romanesco Zucchini: My pal, Barb, gave me a start, and it’s an amazing variety. Green-and-white striped with lengthwise ridges, it’s beautiful to look at, but the real wonder is the flavor. It’s tastier than any other zucc I’ve tried.I can tell this is a keeper because I was sad instead of relieved when it stopped producing. That literally never happens with zucchini. Ask anyone.
- Blueberries: I had a crummy crop last year, despite healthy-looking plants and careful soil checking. This year, I had ’em coming out of my ears, and the girl kid can pretty much eat her weight.From my four Southern Highbush plants (best for this area), I got at least 2 cups a day and even had enough to freeze and stash for later. Do not tell the girl kid about my stash, or she will eat them all.
- Curly-Leaf Kale: This is really my go-to crop. It’s easy as heck to grow and will keep producing well into fall and maybe even winter if I just pick leaves. Everyone in the fam likes it, and it’s versatile as all get-out—great for salad, chips or soup. If I’m in the garden and hungry, I just stuff a couple of raw leaves into the ol’ pie hole. It’s the ribeye steak of leafy greens.
- Padron Peppers: I don’t know what I was thinking. I should have planted 10 plants instead of two. These are very similar to the popular Shishito peppers and every bit as delicious when tossed in hot oil and salt. I’m not kidding, I can eat 30 of these little green gems in a sitting. Next time around, I’ll probably try Shishitos, too …
I still have hopes for the Kabocha and spaghetti squashes, and a couple of the Rosa Bianca eggplants are looking pretty good, too. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a no-fail fall!