The Constant Gardener


Isn’t that a beautiful picture?

That is an heirloom caprese salad courtesy of my own garden, circa September 2009.

And as winter drags on in it’s pithy little way, I find myself drawn to the photos I have of my garden (or the spoils thereof) to help keep me going during this wretched time of year.

As usual, I had seed catalogues to pore over at Christmas again, and have spent the better part of a dozen hours agonizing over what I should, would, could grow this year.  In a surprising twist of fate our condo board reversed their decision to rip up and replace our roof deck this year, so I unexpectedly have the luxury of planning a 2010 garden once again.  It may seem early, but once I determine what to grow, seeds will need to be ordered and started indoors, so really, I’m right on schedule.

Given my (ample for a roof) yet rather confined space, it’s always a difficult task deciding what I should grow.  Successes from previous years fight for acreage against new plants I’ve been seduced by but have yet to try.  The fun part is attempting to harmoniously blend them all together in a symbiotic way.

Tomatoes always receive a significant share of the available space in my garden because they’re just so delicious and beautiful to look at.  Consulting my list from last year, I grew close to 30 plants.  It’s now a matter of trying to remember which ones were worthwhile enough to make the cut for 2010.  I grew many new varieties last year, but it was also a pretty shitty year for tomatoes in my garden, so that begs the question of whether certain species deserve a second chance.  Then there’s the question of size.  In previous years I’ve always grown a blend of  beefsteak, small heirloom and cherry-type tomatoes, but this year I’m considering sticking to one kind only.  Every weekend last summer I spent over $10 at the farmers market on pints of cherry tomatoes, because our supply was so sparse.  If I devoted my tomato allotment to 30 of the smaller, more fruitful varieties, I’d be rolling in tomatoes all summer.  One thing I know for sure is that there will definitely be more Sungolds and Currant tomatoes this year, being they’re my most favourite of the smaller ones.

That being said, I’m relatively clear on what will be jettisoned from the roster this year.  The artichoke plant was a rather spectacular failure, producing only 1 choke between the 3 plants I grew.  The shallots will also likely be retired, since they didn’t grow anything more than a handful of chive-like sprouts all season.  I’m undecided about the celery/celeriac though.  The celery grew many tasty, slender bunches that made a wonderful all-purpose pickle, but the roots barely grew at all, and certainly not to a point where they were edible.  Both ancho and jalapeno plants were lacklustre, but I think that also owed to the crappy weather we had.  The sunchokes weren’t a huge success either, but I think they might have done better had I grown them in their own container rather than with the potatoes.  I’ve also made up my mind that after 2 years of failure I am throwing in the towel on the lemon cucumber idea.  We just had too many pests and not enough space to make that worthwhile again.

I know I will certainly be growing potatoes again this year, and am looking at some variety bags from West Coast Seeds that include blues, fingerlings and golds.  I might also try planting some of these red fleshed beauties that Bob’s been selling to us recently.  They’re so pretty and pinkish when you cut into them, and the flavour is quite enjoyable, too.

I’m considering devoting a chunk of space to asparagus, garlic and rainbow chard, and revisiting the appeal of vining peas.  I want to do some more beans, but haven’t decided between something like a butter bean or a (more likely to be eaten) string bean.  I’ve been looking at cranberry and orca beans for several years now, too, but beans require so much trellising and vertical space that I’m just not sure that I’m up to the challenge.  I recently fell in love with the idea of Friar’s hat peppers, so will likely find a small corner of the roof for them, too.

On top of that, I’ve come to realize that I need more bee attractors.  Both years my harvests haven’t been quite what they could’ve, primarily because I didn’t have enough bees pollinating my bounty.  I wanted to install a very tiny hive of 20 mason bees on the roof to combat this issue (not even honeybees like I’ve always wanted) but the Everyman kiboshed that dream pretty quickly.  Instead I’ll have to settle for planting a few crops of lavender, catnip and dill around the deck to coerce them into hanging out in my garden.

Beyond that, I still have several more seed books to flip through before I finalize my list of intentions.  In a few short weeks the gardening will begin in earnest in my basement, as the seed starting gets underway via some high powered grow lights.  Squee!

Until next time…

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One Response to “The Constant Gardener”

  1. murphyjenn says:

    I’m involved in the community garden up here in Penetang this year and thank god for it. Every year since we’ve been here I’ve bought seeds, bought seedlings, planted and watered and weeded and cared for and damn it if we don’t have too many big trees and not enough sunlight on our property for me to find a good garden spot. Last year was the most disappointing yet – huge tomato plants full of gorgeous tomatoes….that never ripened! On the plus side, green tomato ketchup is tasty.

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