After last years’ less than successful Intro to Big Country Gardening, we approached this growing season with a pretty hearty measure of realism. We had a new baby, only weeks old, not many openings in the calendar, and we could still feel the sting of last years’ lack of success. So we decided not to put in a garden at all. That’s right, I told myself, just let go of the idea that you have to put in a garden and supply all the veggies you want your family to eat for a whole year. Ok. Done. I looked at my fresh-from-the-womb baby and thought, yes, I can let that go.
So I bounced the radical idea off Andrew, who took some coaxing, but then also agreed to let it go.
And then, the weekend before Memorial Day, we found ourselves unexpectedly at home, a WHOLE WEEKEND with no plans; a blank slate. So, of course, we went to the Farmer’s Market with our newly-acquired (rummage sale!) off-road Radio Flyer wagon and I filled it to the brim with heirloom tomato plants, peppers, cabbages, an eggplant, fennel, onions, collards, and, oh my gosh – CELERIAC! (I really, really wanted to grow celeriac) We returned home with a tiller, obliterated the overgrown wasteland that had triumphed over last year’s efforts, and tucked in the last plants and seeds as the first drops of rain arrived, the precursor to a nice, soaking thunderstorm. We talked about how, for it to work, we had to keep up with the weeds, as a family. The spring air was swollen with hope and optimism and water-soaked seeds.
Then, of course, Summer hit us with its full force. We got out to weed a few times in the first couple of weeks and then completely lost control. But what a strange summer it was – so cool, even cold, much more than it was seasonably warm. We harvested a couple of heads of broccoli. Come tomato-harvesting time, our tomatoes were lagging behind, firmly stuck in the green and hard stage. As they slowly started ripening, I realized they were stricken with the blight that was prevalent all over. I harvested a handful of jalapeno peppers and one bell pepper from the few plants that managed to sneak past the neighboring bully weeds. The red cabbage has still not formed heads. The green grew to the size of a softball before I harvested it. (that is very, very small)
A triumph, though, was the garlic. Planted late last fall, I again called upon the talents of my Garlic Girl and we harvested a healthy stash of garlic to carry us through the winter. Also, there was a lot of popcorn. I waited patiently to harvest it, letting it dry on the stalks. Mostly, I forgot all about it, until that day last week, when we set out in the sunshine.
After all that hard work, we shucked the cobs, and laid them out on the picnic table to admire them.
There was a lot more drying that needed to be done, so they were loosely piled in a bushel basket….until they were discovered on Sunday to be molding. Sigh. “Popcorn” has been moved from the Garden Success column to the Abysmal Garden Failures, Threatening all Future Garden Plans column. And that is where this year’s harvest leaves off- frustration and bitter disappointment.
Same mantra for next year: scale back. Because we will no doubt try it again; such is the way of gardening, I’m gathering. We will surely give it another go. But there will be store-bought popcorn this winter.