Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stoked about Stokes

Stoked about Stokes, my first 2010 seed catalog just arrived in the mail and I can't seem to stop drooling over the page after glossy page of beautiful photos and planting details. I've always enjoyed those seed catalogs!It's been two weeks since I've even set foot in my garden, most likely due to the near constant 35 to 65 mph winds between those heavy, ever-drenching rains, but I do miss it so. This pause in being able to get into my garden has provided a good opportunity for me to reflect on this last season and begin to form my strategy for next year. I've been giving some thought about what I really liked about my gardening efforts this year:
  • The location of my garden is absolutely perfect - even in our cloudy climate, it receives excellent daylight, and located at the base of a little valley, it's rather like a greenhouse there (without the building, of course). Plus, because it's barely a block from my favorite local produce market, Joe's Gardens, it's very convenient for me to stop and pick up any fresh, locally grown veggies that aren't growing in my own garden.
  • The raised beds worked very well - they worked great for helping to maintain moisture during that stretch of unusually hot weather that we had last summer, and helped to contain my herb garden and give definition to my different crops - flowers, fruits and vegetables.
  • That layer of five-way soil from Bakerview Nursery that I added and raked over each of my garden beds turned out to be some of the best soil I've ever had in a garden, except maybe those few years I gardened in that old hog lot just off the barn in Minnesota so many, many (too many) years ago.
  • I really enjoyed the large variety of crops that I was able to grow in what I consider a relatively small garden of 10' X 40' (I guess it helps to be a rather organized person). I had plenty of flowers for cutting, a row of raspberries and that late-season addition of two blueberry bushes, a wonderful herb garden with such a wide variety of fresh herbs to add when cooking, and lots and lots of different vegetables - purple cauliflower, green cabbage, several different types of radishes, fancy purple, orange, yellow and white carrots, both sugar snap peas and regular peas in the pod, potatoes, two different kinds of beans, Swiss chard, kale, several types of lettuce, red and yellow beets, onions and so much more.

And, of course, I'm pondering what I want to do differently next year:

  • Move my entry gate - the way the entry is now, it creates a bit of wasted space because it's an L-shaped entry. With my garden being long and narrow, if I move the gate to the opposite end, the gate would open directly into the pathway between the raised beds and not require that L-shaped turn in order to get to the main pathway. Then I could turn the current L-shaped entry walkway into an L-shaped raised bed, adding valuable growing space to my garden.
  • Remove the compost bin - turned out, the person I hired to build my compost bin last year maybe didn't quite understand what it's like NOT to be a big person, and perhaps had never built a compost bin before. The largest pallet boards available were used, and none of the slats in the front were made to be removable. At barely 5'-3", even when standing on a box to give me a bit of an advantage, I can still barely reach the bottom of the compost bin with my shovel, making turning it very difficult. Besides, as it turned out, my garden spot is located very near a community composting area for the entire Happy Valley Community Gardens and the City of Bellingham periodically scoops up the big pile of compost that the gardeners contribute and hauls it off to the City's Clean Green Transfer Station where it is added to other community compost and used throughout the City in our parks and along our greenway trails. If I remove my compost bin in the early spring (I suppose I could offer the pallet boards to someone for free on CraigsList), then I can turn the space that is now used for my compost bin into yet another raised bed for growing even more vegetables.
  • I won't grow turnips - last year my gardener friends, Ken and Gwen, gave me a flat of plant starts that they said were thought to be rutabagas. They filled up half a raised bed in my garden. Turned out, those rutabagas were really turnips, big, beautiful turnips, so I ate turnips until I was tired of them. Turnips have never been one of my favorite vegetables, yet I boiled them, mashed them, added garlic to them, diced them into my soups and stews and gave turnips away until my neighbors and friends would take no more. I love rutabagas. I'll plant rutabagas next year instead!
  • I'll grow more pole climbers than bush types - several different types of beans, sugar snap peas and maybe even train some of my squash and cucumbers up onto trellises. Growing things UP makes such a smaller footprint in the garden, plus I think the pole varieties produce a higher yield (beans for example). And, I certainly enjoyed the extra green privacy that plants growing so much taller than I added to my little garden (like my peas and sunflowers from last summer).
  • Maybe I'll plant a patch of corn - perhaps in the new raised bed I build once I remove the compost bin. One of my neighbor gardeners grew the most beautiful patch of corn in his garden last summer. Sugar dots he said they were, and delicious, absolutely delicious!
  • I should plant the different squash varieties in different areas of my garden. Last year, I planted all but one variety of squash, the pattypan, in the same large bed. The earlier squash varieties, like zucchini, were doing so well - until that is, the other squashes started to flower. The bees worked all the flowers so well, but I don't think the cross pollination of the different types of squash worked out so well because squash production greatly slowed down once all varieties were blooming profusely. The pattypan squash, on the other hand, in a bed by themselves, produced practically more squash than I could use or even give away. I may not plant as many different types of squash next season either. Maybe I'll just plant yellow pattypan, green zucchini and yellow crockneck. The other squashes, spaghetti, butternut and acorn, while were certainly great to have (I absolutely love butternut squash!), take up so much garden space, so unless I can build some more sturdy bamboo trellises and plan to train their vines UP, I'll probably just purchase them at the market rather than grow my own. Actually even though they produced a decent yield, I'm reallly not that crazy about the spaghetti squash, so I'm pretty sure that I won't plant them next year.
  • I will NOT waste my time, effort or garden seeds with the Community First - Cordata Community Gardens project.
  • Cucumbers - I want to grow lots more cucumbers next season!

Way too early to start any seeds for our next gardening season, but with one seed catalog already in hand, I can at least look forward to my mailbox filling with more.

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