Sunday, August 14, 2011

Gardening Novice

Volunteer cherry tomatoes, today.  Am I the only one who feels honored when a plant chooses to volunteer in their garden?
 This is my third year gardening.  My first year, I decided to dive right in and see what happened, and I started everything from seed!  I figured that way all that was lost was a small amount of money on seeds and dirt (we even got the seed starting pots free from the farmers market's recycling bins!) and some hard labor digging out the garden.  And I wasn't doing the really hard labor.

I tried to keep it low pressure; my goal was to eat a single item from my own garden.

And that's just what I did.  We ate one, single, unimpressive green bell pepper.

To my credit, it was a surprisingly cool summer that year.  Everyone's tomatoes were failing.

Bean wore BabyLegs in July of 2009 for a morning run.  The fact that he was wearing BabyLegs in July was the entire reason for this picture.

I was thiiiiiis close to having some nice tomatoes that year, though.  I would watch them start to turn red and excitedly head out every morning to water and find out if this was the day I would harvest a tomato.

I never got to harvest a tomato because they disappeared.  I still don't know what happened.  We have deer, but they always graze off the tops of plants and it's pretty obvious (they seem to love the tops of my jalapeño plants best, the weirdos).  This was just the fruit gone missing.  I hunted around at the bases of the plants, and I looked in the grass outside the garden.  Zilch.  Nada.  Zero.  Niente.  No tomatoes.

Bean, Fall 2010.  Three days after Squeak was born.  Standing next to the beyond gone-to-seed basil.
Last year we did better.  It seems to matter that holy moly it was a hot summer.  We bought tomato plants and had excellent yield with cherry tomatoes (not much on the slicers).  If I remember correctly (I only started keeping half decent records this year), everything else - basil, jalapeños, and bell peppers - was grown from seed.  The basil flourished, the jalapeños produced well.  The bell peppers were crap.

The garden today.  Tomatoes on the left, kale down the middle (and a clear area I'm about to ask you for help on!), and basil and jalapeños on the right.  There's also a single romaine lettuce plant, and some volunteer cherry tomatoes.
This year has been The Year of the Kale.  I seeded some red Russian kale and romaine lettuce a few weeks before we left town for three weeks (more on that in a separate post).  We came back to very happy kale.  And a single lettuce plant.  Hmmm.

We've also had some cherry tomatoes from some volunteer plants, one huge slicer, and some plum tomatoes got this.freaking.close to ripe and then disappeared.   Again with the disappearing tomatoes!  Grrrrr...

And the basil is, once again, excellent.  And we have LOTS of jalapeñoes, which is awesome.

This afternoon was perfect for working out in the garden. I went and cleared out weeds and decimated the tomato plants removing the blighted parts (whatever, tomatoes.  I didn't want to eat you anyway!  Yes I did.  I really really did.). 

In which I ask for your help
See that clear area in the near, middle of the garden?  I cleared kale out of there that today with plans to plant a fall crop of...something.  I was thinking lettuce, but now I'm confused.

The Lone Lettuce
I did a little looking around, and found something that said that kale plants release a chemical that hinders the growth of lettuce.  It seems from that information that I have to wait until next season to grow lettuce in the same area.  That would be one explanation for why only one lettuce plant grew (and it's slightly separate from the mass of kale).  The other explanation is that the lettuce seeds were 3 years old and the kale seeds were brand new.

But then I found this information that calls kale and lettuce companion plants.  So which is it, fabulous master gardener readers?  HELP!
Alternatively, is there some other fall crop you'd recommend I grow in Southern Indiana?  The little spot I cleared is about 2'x2'. 

I will probably clear the basil in another month, but then it's too late to plant a fall crop and I should be moving on to planning my spring garden, right?

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