I recently heard someone say that the perfect garden is the one in your imagination in January. Isn't it easy to feel the allure of lush tomatoes, abundant greens; a perpetual salad bowl right outside your door? It is this little deception I play with myself every year. It becomes especially enthralling while I am planting little seeds into soil in early spring...before the bugs awaken.
Earlier today while I was in the garden picking peas I was thinking that this post would be filled with all the good things that are doing well in the garden. There is much to boast about. I have never been very lucky with peas. It seemed my germination rate was poor. They would not produce enough to fill quart bags for the freezer. I would hoard them from random boys who would wander into the garden looking for a quick snack. I would, inevitably, buy shelling peas. Those are too expensive to do now. Last time I priced them they were 16.00 for a peck, or two quarts of peas, frozen. Then last spring I noticed that robins would perch on a fence post, swoop down to my pea patch and then flit away with a new, very tasty pea sprout. This year I covered them up with row cover until they were several inches tall. My germination rate was excellent. I chose an edible pod pea to reap the most calories and the least effort in processing. So far I have collected 6 quarts for the freezer. We have had them in salads and with lunches.
There are some other successes as well. The fertility of my soil has improved greatly. I have a nice patch of beets. Many of the plants in my garden are from seed I started indoors or outside. I have had to buy very few seedlings this year. This feels like a big step towards reducing the cost of gardening and reaping the financial benefit of self sufficiency. We have eaten large green salads. I have more food in my freezer than I did this time last year. Given that this is still early in the season I hope to have a goodly amount of food put up for this winter.
I really should not complain. Relatively speaking it has been a great garden this year. I have learned to plant a fair amount of cold weather crop so that the garden can withstand the wet summers we have had over the last few years. I am learning to adapt to climate change.
But....there is always a but...I have planted cucumbers, winter squash and zuchinni 3 times now. Each time they grow enough to give me hope they will survive the onslaught of the cucumber beetle; only to find lacy leaves. I have covered them, spread DE. Short of firebombing, I have tried everything. They are just terrible this year. I think it may be the very warm winter we had last winter. The ground did not get a good freeze last year. This is what happens. I will probably buy some winter squash from local farmers to keep in the cold room but it will not be a big staple for us this coming winter. Eliot Coleman says that pest and diseases will diminish as the health of the soil improves. I hope to see this theory put to the test over the next few years.
We also have a garden visitor or visitors. I have been planting successive rows of beets. One spot started showing wilted greens. and nibbles on the tops of baby beets. Mice! Last year they enjoyed our potatoes. I have plated the spuds in huglekultures in different spots around the yard this year. The critters have decided perhaps beets are just as tasty. So the other day Evan and I set out a trap with some raisins on it. We also invited Scuffer cat to wander around the garden. The trap has not caught anything yet. But the beets are no longer bothered. The local animal shelter is giving away adult cats with all their shots and spayed/neutered. Think it is time for a good barn cat.
So far the garden in in good shape. I can see the improvements over last year in the vibrant health of the greens and the abundant production of the plants. It is not a perfect garden, they never are. There are always challenges. It is what we gardeners face very year. We commiserate with each other's woe. We share the bounty. We share our successes with pride. It is life in microcosm each turn of the calendar page....