You know how when you first start out gardening, it seems like EVERYONE knows more than you do and seems to enjoy effortless, months-long harvests of magazine-worthy produce while you dutifully water and weed your scraggly plants only to end up with one misshapen, partially ripened tomato by early September? No? Was that just me? In any case, it’s been three years since we bought our house and started gardening in earnest, and I’m still learning. My refusal to buy pricey starts and sets and grow everything from seed probably doesn’t help, but each year our yield is slowly improving, and the variety of plants we have success with is slowly expanding. Take a look at what is and isn’t working for my brown thumb so far this year.
This is our strawberry patch (and compost), which grew from two little starts I got from a friend in 2009. It needs intensive weeding, but last year it yielded 3 pounds of strawberries, and looks to exceed that this year, so long as we’re able to get to them before the slugs do. (A few from today shown above.)
We started with just a few seed potatoes (red- and purple-fleshed), and they’re already starting to fill up the enormous box we set up for them. We had similar success with Yukon Golds last year, so my hopes are high.
Starting tomatoes in the greenhouse.
I’m a notorious too-early tomato planter, but this year I started seeds in the house, transferred them to the greenhouse in early April, and planted them in the ground at the very end of May. Now we’re about to get our first sungolds (we’ve also got pineapples and Cherokee purples), despite the fact it’s still raining with temperatures struggling to reach the mid-60s. I’ll count that as a win.
Another win for the greenhouse. Despite an early setback with slugs, they came back like gangbusters. (Yes, I know it’s this is a pathetic amount of carrots, but given that they’re 50 cents a pound at the store, they’re kind of in the why-bother category anyway. I just think it’s fun to pull them out and see what color you get.)
Rosemary, sage, thyme and mint. Here’s a tip, folks: DON’T EVER plant any of these things in a raised bed intended to be shared with other plants. As you can see, these guys have not only taken over the bed, but most of the surrounding area as well. (Struggling for a piece of the action in there somewhere are an overwintered Yukon Gold plant slowly being killed by flea beetles, two tomatoes, some onions, celery, and bolting daikon radish.)
I kept the raspberry bush in the greenhouse this year for the first time, and while it leafed out and blossomed very early, it didn’t get very big or particularly fecund. I’ll probably plant it in a bigger container and keep it outside next year.
Assorted winter squash.
Some of the squash plants are in the greenhouse, some are in pots waiting to be transplanted, and some are in the ground. The ones in the ground are doing great. The others are not.
Peppers (bell, poblano, pasilla, cayenne, and jalapeño).
I have never, EVER been able to successfully grow peppers in Portland. This year I started them from seed in the greenhouse instead of indoors. Some are still in there and some are in the ground. My fingers are crossed, but my expectations are low.
The chickens initially destroyed the peas when they were little shoots, so these two plants were the only ones that made it. They’re producing an awful lot, but again, there are only two of them. (In the foreground are some anemic-looking squash plants.)
Didn’t really work:
I’ve got three kinds of lettuce going outside—red oak-leaf, mesclun, and this regular green lettuce. I may as well be rolling out a welcome mat for the slugs with flashing neon signs and no cover charge. Lettuce might be an indoor Aerogarden-only crop in the future.
To be fair, this (the tall thing to the left) is one of three rhubarb plants in the yard, and one is doing very well, but this one bolted. As did the sorrel next to it. The oregano, however, seems to be having no problems. (The rest of the bed is mostly onions, plus some wax beans that are just starting to get going.)
Eaters of strawberries; destroyers of peas, beets and spinach.
OK, so the chickens are technically working, given that they’re laying eggs and all (at least, the larger two are; I still haven’t figured out the purpose of the smaller one’s existence, other than a court jester of sorts for both us and her roommates), but they’ve been so destructive, despite our elaborate attempts to keep them out of the edible portions of the yard, that they’re no longer allowed outside their run. This means they subsist mostly on $27-a-bag layer pellets, which they need every couple months. So yes, at this point it would be cheaper to buy eggs at the store. But we love them anyway.