In the same way that many people say “I can’t draw”, many people say that they have a “black thumb”.
Saying that you have a black thumb is a perfectly acceptable excuse for not starting a gardening practice. But if you want to grow your own food, you have to put your ego aside and stop making judgements about your inherent ability to make things grow.
Gardening is a skill that you need to work on diligently to in order to get good at, just like anything else. It is well-known that the person who wants to learn how to draw will commit to going to life-drawing classes, instead of just complaining about their supposed lack of talent. Similarly, the person who truly wants to get good at gardening will try putting a few seeds in the ground, and then plant some more, creating a dedicated practice that eventually leads to the development of a skill.
I love this time of year in the garden. There’s almost nothing to do, except for digging up frost-sweetened parsnips and figuring out what to do with the mountains of zucchini that inhabit our freezer. It’s the time to make a hot cup of tea, get cozy, and reflect on the year that was.
When planning next year’s garden, the first crucial step is to review what worked last year. By tracking our successes, we can begin to decide where to place our energies for the upcoming season, and figure out which seed varieties work best for us. And now, when there’s snow on the ground and nothing to plant, is the perfect time to do it.
So what were some of our biggest successes in 2014?
Beets. Beets are one of my favourite veggies. They are beautiful to look at, have a long growing season, and the entire plant (leaves, roots and even the stems) is delicious. This year’s crop — a rainbow blend from West Coast Seeds — was abundant, amazingly fast-growing, and is still looking pretty healthy under our row covers. We did get a bit of a leaf miner problem towards the fall, so I’ll be researching ways to prevent it for next year.
Parsley. Parsley is so much more than a garnish. Just think of tabouleh — great, dish, right? Parsley is my sister Mishi’s favourite vegetable, so I was glad to be able to keep her supplied. We grew both flat-leaf and curly varieties, as well as parsley’s cousin cilantro, and added big handfuls to whatever salad we had going. The parsley seeds we sowed this spring have now grown into big, strong, disease-free perennial plants that took over an entire bed and are still producing. They’ll be one of the first things we’ll harvest in the early spring.
Arugula. Arugula is of the easiest greens to get started with early in the spring. By May, we had so much ‘Runway’ arugula growing that I was really struggling to keep up with harvests — if you leave it in the ground too long, it bolts. Good thing that arugula pesto is so delicious. We have tons of it in the freezer, and now I need to find ways to use it.
Mustard greens. We also had great success with ‘Giant Red Mustard’. It’s gorgeous to look at, super spicy, and Jason’s favourite veggie. Early in the spring, we got overrun with the stuff, and in a fit of desperation I made it into a sort of lactofermented kimchee. It looked DISGUSTING and I left it in the fridge for weeks, afraid to touch it. Luckily, Jason discovered it, ate some and declared it the most delicious thing ever. It was gone within days.
Scallions. I love green onions and was rewarded with a great crop of the ‘Kincho” variety this year. My mid-season revelation? Rather than pulling out the stalks, you can clip them an inch above the ground for multiple harvests. We did get a bit of allium rust towards the fall, so I’ll be sure to rotate these next year. Thankfully, our chives and garlic were completely spared.
Peas. We grew a few varieties this year, and all of them did well. Our ‘Mister Big’ English peas were especially abundant, but shelling them was really time-consuming. ‘Sugar Ann’ was reliably delicious right off the vine. ‘Dwarf Grey Sugar’ snow peas had gorgeous purple flowers, but its crop was small and stringy. All in all, our peas were a success, and I’ll probably focus on ‘Sugar Ann’ next year.
What are you most proud of in your garden this year?
Rebecca Cuttler is a certified Permaculture Designer, boardmember of the Environmental Youth Alliance, and blogger at abundantcity.net. Join her in Vancouver on March 29, April 12 &April 16 in Vancouver for her class on Urban Garden Abundance where you can learn more about creating a planting plan, building planters and observing urban garden challenges.
Just as some people have a yoga or meditation practice, I have a gardening practice.
Like yoga or meditation, gardening is a discipline that one can never truly master. With years of consistent practice, you can become well-versed in gardening methods — sowing times and techniques, plant and disease knowledge, crop planning — but your form will never be perfect, because you’re dealing with living systems that respond in ways your ego can’t control. Your garden is a reflection of you, your physical space, and the global climate, and all of these things are in constant flux. Continue reading Gardening is Lifelong Learning→
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