Now is a good time to start to organise for the new growing season. With hope in my heart, I began taking dreaming about the next season to the next level and started making plans. Last season was a complete washout – literally! I only used my irrigation system a couple of times. Ironically, the only time it should have been used but wasn’t, was when the well-meaning house sitter chose to hand water instead and didn’t water my tomatoes well enough. In what was to become the wettest season ever – my tomatoes died of thirst!
This season the climate has swung into an El Nino phase, and it is being suggested it will be hotter and drier this summer. I can’t let myself begin to believe it as it is still super soggy. It is winter – fair enough and winter is supposed to be soggy. But we have been wet for so long it seems like it is all we know. I guess the upside is the water tanks are full. If I stretch my memory back to hotter, drier summers, it is almost as brutal as a wet summer on the vegetable garden, so I shall proceed with caution. Having said that, I’ll never give up hope for that rare perfect summer when the weather is fine, and the pest and disease pressure is low.
Aside from changes to the weather, there are a few adjustments to be made to the garden. We will be bereft of teenage hollow legs as the nest will be well and truly empty. However, this leaves me with a bit of a challenge. The garden is large, not so I can produce great quantities, but so I can create great variety. I want to grow everything, so I created the space to make it happen.
Now that the population in our household will be reduced by half since I started the garden I have to make hard decisions. Take the zucchini for example – in a good season they are really prolific, and one zucchini plant is more than enough – especially if you never get them harvested at the small stage and every day are picking medium sized ones just to keep up. You can’t really grow half a plant which would be suitable for our new situation. Having said that – last season I discovered the most delish pickled zucchini recipe – I’ll fish it out and share it when I make it again. But I used yellow Solar Flare Zucchini, light green Greyzini Zucchini and a dark green Partenon Zucchini and the three of them looked stunning in the jar. So now I have to ask myself if I want to grow more than I actually need so I can have a pretty display on my pickle shelf. This is a tough decision.
Another upside of a disastrous growing season last year, is it has made it easy to do my planning. Everything last year was chosen with great care, however nothing really got a chance to be at its best, so I decided I will just replicate last year’s varieties, with a possible reduction in quantity so I can give them another chance to shine.
And as a creature of habit, I know what I like, and over the years have discovered what grows well for me here beside the coast, so the list of things to grow doesn’t change much from year to year anyway. Back in the early days I was all for trying new things and embraced caigua, asparagus pea, tromboncino (although that was only last year), kiwano, tomatillo and bitter melons – to name but a few. My theory is to try everything once and the fun things twice. The list above turned out not to be that fun, but at least I tried. The spirit of adventure hasn’t entirely disappeared and if something turns up that is interesting I won’t say no to giving it a go. You never know, something will become a firm favourite – and many things have.
I’ve been through my seed tin and had a look to see what is missing – and gave all the packets a squeeze – which was just as well as I seem to have put a lot of empties back in. I think my rational was so I knew which ones I used up, but it could have been a disaster if I’d forgotten I’d done that. Most of the remaining seeds are only a year or two old and still within their expiry dates and have been stored in a cool, dry, dark place so they should still be good. Although I will sow with a heavy hand… just in case.
I’ve filled in my complex planning chart, so I know what I want to sow where, and what the planting distances are, and any notes copied over from last year. This system works well for me, judging by the notes scrawled after the initial plan as well as the dog-eared mud-stained pages. When you find a system that works for you, it makes things so much easier.
All I need to do now is turn the plan into action and start gathering my supplies.
Come again soon – I guess midwinter is as good as any time to start the new growing season.
Sarah the Gardener : o)