I’ve made some remarkable leaps in growing food in the year I’ve been at it. As I enter my second growing season, I am happy with the both the diversity of food crops I’m growing and some of the methods I’m using. I started to mentally draw out a list of all the vegetables and fruits I’m growing, and it was pretty satisfying:
- Tomatoes: 10 Ace, Cherokee, Roma, Italia and a cherry. Transplants both from The Natural Gardener and my parents
- Onions: Yellow Granex, 1015y Texas Super-Sweet (white), Southern Belle (red) from Dixondale Farms
- Carrots: 3 varieties, 2 of whose names escape me. Some of the seed was from Home Depot, and 1 variety (Danvers) was from Botanical Interests
- Radishes: French breakfast and Cherry Belle (seeds from Botanical Interests)
- Blackberries: Brazos, from The Natural Gardener.
- Lettuce: Red Sails, Butterhead, Oak-Leaf. Seed from Botanical Interests
- Cantaloupe: unknown variety, seed saved from volunteer plant from last year
- Potatoes: Red Pontiac, Kennebec, seed potatoes from The Natural Gardener
- Strawberries: Chandler and Sea Spray(?), both from The Natural Gardener
- Broccoli… transplants from my parents
- Snow Peas. Seed from Botanical Interests
- Bush cucumbers from Botanical Interests seed.
- Assorted herbs, including italian oregano, rosemary (3 varieties, including Tuscan Blue), lavender, flat-leaf parsley, chocolate mint.
Last year, I managed 3 varieties of tomato and wasn’t very happy with them (grocery-store bland taste). I had two types of pepper, poblano and jalapeño, neither of which had any heat. I was moderately successful with bush green beans, though the yield wasn’t as high as I thought it’d be. I had basil and the other herbs. So this year is a huge jump up.
As far as methods go, I have added more raised beds, bringing my total to seven and approximately 105 sq. ft. of growing area. In addition, I am trying the cucumbers in pots, and potatoes in both the ground and a cage. I have paid a LOT more attention to the quality of my soil, and have done the most I’ve ever done to make sure specific crops get the right soil. Especially the potatoes, for which I imported a half-cubic yard of Natural Gardener turkey compost. Other raised beds have gotten a mixture of compost from my own piles, Hill Country Blend soil from Natural Gardener, and a sandy soil from the Houston area brought in by my parents.
I’ve built a trellis for the peas out of a section of iron fence, extended my micro-irrigation in ways I hadn’t anticipated to make it efficient for the plants it serves, and reconfigured whole swathes of the back yard to take advantage of Winter sun. And I’ve even considered another way I can re-arrange some features to take advantage of even more of that precious sunny space, while eliminating even more “grass area”: relocate the fire pit to a truly shady area and expand the growing space to where it currently sits.
And I’ve even been happy that I managed to get a lot of this done at the proper time of the early growing season here. Much of the winter garden was planted in early November (onions, carrots) with some following in January (potatoes, radishes, lettuce). The double freeze was rather harrowing, but I pulled all my seedlings through. Tomatoes are in the ground, though I did start seed for peppers and tomatoes too late for transplanting. However, I am happy with the backup plan – purchased transplants.
And all of this, I realize, is still a big experiment for me, with this blog serving as my logbook into successes and failures. It’ll be interesting to look back on this next year and see whether I judge this year as being unambitious (hopefully!) or successful in all the right ways.