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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.