I was out watering in the front garden this week, which afforded me time to review my kitchen garden. As a side note, we're well into a drought here. I am a super tough-love gardener; my plants get no coddling, no fertilizer except compost, and precious little additional water. If I'm watering the shrubs and fruit trees, you know things must be extra crispy.
So I was watering the tomatoes, and I started thinking about what to do differently next year. This is a common mental state for me in the garden; for an activity that is so sensual and grounded in the moment, gardening requires a whole lot of time roaming through the fourth dimension and trying to extrapolate what the garden might be doing in two months or two years. And of course, next year is always shiny and clean, with no crazy weeds or drought or squash bugs in it–yet, anyway.
Things that I learned this year:
Keep the cherry tomatoes, lose the pear tomatoes. I love being able to pick the cherry tomatoes off the vine and eat them on the way into the house.
Don't bother with any other tomatoes except the cherries and the paste tomatoes. I know that's heresy in Indiana, but we eat a ton of the cherries and use the paste tomatoes for cooking. I often forget the slicing tomatoes. So I'll use that extra space for something else.
Don't use the tomato spirals with the cherry tomatoes. The tomato spirals are a support structure that require you prune the tomatoes. The cherry tomatoes swamped them early in the season. I'll use the spirals for the paste tomatoes and figure something else out for the cherries. Plant them a bit farther back from the walk.
Fewer green beans, more edamame.
Keep the zinnias; I like the color and they draw in insects.
Keep the leeks, but maybe buy transplants next year instead of starting my own.
Move the vining stuff to the back where I have trellises. I just allowed pumpkin volunteers to do their own thing in the back this year, so I had pumpkins in July and none now that we're moving into fall.
Love the Mini Red Pony watermelon. Move it to the back trellises next year.
Plant salad crops next year. I held off for a few years because we got good salad greens from Farm Fresh Delivery, but lettuce and spinach are so easy it's a shame not to grow them.
More peas, plant them earlier, and then get the cucumbers in earlier.
Keep trying on the carrots. Good carrots require loose, sweet soil, and I'm just not there yet. But I'll dump more (chicken poop) compost into the bed this winter and use the broadfork, so that should help.
Keep clearing out the spaces around the fruit trees. The nasturtiums I planted under them this year did not do well, so try something else next spring. Plant daffodils around them this fall.
And finally, acknowledge that the lovely, immaculate French-style potager I envision in the front yard is simply not going to happen. Maintaining that beautiful picture requires a lot more time than I have to devote. My veg garden is still beautiful in its exuberance, so I'll just go with that more country, less formal style.