My gardening debacle (except for the awesome artichokes)

Some of you have asked me how things have gone at my community garden plot.

Well, it’s been a humbling and most educational experience.

I planted a whole bunch of vegetable starts in May: four artichoke plants, two kinds of lettuce, two kinds of onions, bok choi, Chinese cabbage, kale, collards, spinach, and vast quantities of cabbage. I was most excited about the artichokes (because it’s my favorite vegetable) and the cabbage (because I had grandiose dreams of making vast quantities of sauerkraut).

Although I was working in a well-prepared “lasagna”-type bed, everything got off to a slow start and looked sickly until I fertilized.

Then for a couple of weeks everything grew like crazy! The bok choi and Chinese cabbage bolted without ever forming anything resembling a head. Their tall sprays of yellow flowers were beautiful, but not what I had in mind. So I pulled them up.

The spinach, kale, and collards did well — too well. It had not occurred to me that I wouldn’t possibly be able to use all those greens when they ripened pretty much all at once. I looked at a huge thicket of greens and couldn’t figure out what to do with them all. I ate a little, gave a little away, and I’m still trying to figure out what to do with the rest. The spinach soon went to seed, the collards are now following, but the kale still looks good. Want some?

My lettuce met with a similar fate.

The onions would have been a great success except that I failed to fully separate the bulbs when I planted them. They taste fine but they are oddly oblong.

Then there was the cabbage. Unknown pests had mowed them down nearly to ground level before I fertilized, but then they made a tremendous recovery. I had a dozen or so perfect, growing heads. Then the slugs came.

Remember, this is the Pacific Northwest — land of giant slugs. These guys can mow through half a head of cabbage overnight. Yesterday I harvested what I could. Today I attempted to clean them. It was ghastly. They were riddled with slugs, cabbage worms, and earwigs. I salvaged parts of three heads. I’ll have to buy some more cabbage before I can attempt to make sauerkraut later this week.

My one huge success is the artichokes. I’ve harvested about a dozen medium sized chokes so far, and I have another 20+ medium and small chokes still coming. I have eaten several. They are delicious!!! Artichokes are perennials and get better each year for five years or so. I have big hopes for a bigger bounty next year!

So what did I learn?

1. Think about how much you can actually use and plant accordingly.
2. Don’t plant everything at once!
3. Organic gardening is great in concept, but I need to figure out how to do pest control.

And next year I think I’ll plant more artichokes.


Posted on September 2, 2012, in Learning, Nature and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. My garden was very disappointing this year. My version of your thoughts about organic gardening come with what I did for seed this year. For the first time in twenty-plus years of vegetable gardening I purchased all heirloom seed. I was so impressed with myself. Ha! I’m going back to Burpee this next year. I had some lovely specimens, but altogether too much trouble for too little result. I guess we learn along the way! 🙂 D

    • If you are still making mistakes and learning after 20+ years of gardening, I guess I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.

      Around here we have a local heirloom potato (the Ozette potato) that is supposed to be foolproof, but I couldn’t find any this year. Maybe I’ll try them next year, tucked in amongst my awesome artichokes.

  2. I think it’s one of those things you have to try, and then do it later, better.
    I tried my hand when I had an actual backyard in Halifax. It went really well, but we were a household of 4 and we really spread everything around. We had a lot of space. Our biggest problem was forgetting to check on it. Totally missed out on the strawberries!

    • Alicia,

      Forgetting to check on it is a big problem for me too. When all those greens started to bolt, I was not paying attention! That’s the downside of having a community garden plot a mile or so away from my house. It’s a much sunnier location than my back yard, but it’s “out of sight, out of mind” as they say.

  3. Now I’m inspired to plant artichokes. Wonder how they will do down here. Disappointed so many times by artichokes that I’ve purchased in stores. Sorry Lori, but glad I was not there to see those slugs. yuck. We skipped growing tomatoes this year due to travels, but missed the wonderful wonderful flavors (but not the tomato worms – ick!)….

    • The slugs were really, truly awful!

      I don’t bother trying to grow tomatoes anymore (the summers here are just too short) but I well remember tomato worms from my time in Anaheim Hills. I was always amazed by how, no sooner than I had planted tomatoes, the tomato worms showed up! They must use radar or something.

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