Last summer, when I wrote The Accidental Gardener, I was in the middle of my second successful growing season. My stepdad helped me, insofar as choosing the plants or seeds and planting/sowing them. I took over from there.
I decided this year would be different. I would choose my own plants and seeds and plant everything myself. I even changed out what I was growing.
The past two seasons, I grew Better Boy tomatoes, which are incredibly productive and delicious. But after two seasons of Better Boy tomatoes up to my ears, I wanted to try something different. This year, I have one Cherokee Purple and one Husky Red Cherry – these I bought at Lowe’s (Bonnie Plants). I love to roast tomatoes and smaller ones are better for that. And I was attracted to the Cherokee Purple for the color.
I already had garlic sprouting. It didn’t grow last year for some reason, but it started shooting up through the soil in February. It wasn’t part of my garden plan for this year, but I worked around it.
The strawberries are starting to come back from previous years. And I dug up a couple of my raspberry bushes – three was two too many – and the one I kept is coming back. But I have to be vigilant. I have vines starting to pop up in the lawn and in various places in the garden where it’s not supposed to be. It’s really hard to control.
I bought the book Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting. I highly recommend it if you’re a gardener. I really helped me map out where to plant everything for the best possible results, including pest control. (In previous years, the raspberries in particular have been prone to pests. I’ve had Japanese beetle infestations, which I’m hoping to better mitigate this year.)
I wanted non-GMO seeds. And I wanted to support a local business. I ordered my seeds from Ohio Heirloom Seeds, which is based here in Columbus. To be honest, I picked out the carrots I’m growing based on the names – Cosmic Purple and Atomic Red. I am also growing Detroit Golden beets, Black-Seeded Simpson and Buttercrunch lettuces, Cherry Belle radishes, and Bloomsdale Savoy spinach. I also picked up some sweet yellow onion bulbs from Walmart (also non-GMO).
I added more garden soil this year and mixed in some fertilizer. Believe me, the soil was plenty fertile the first year because the previous homeowners composted the heck out of it – it was still pretty nutrient-rich last year without having to add anything to it. But I figured it was probably due for fertilizer.
I also bought some straw to use as mulch. With the garden prepped and all my supplies purchased, I got to work.
Two weeks ago, I planted the cooler weather crops: lettuce, spinach, and radishes. They are all coming up, but the radishes in particular are doing well. I need to thin them out today, actually. But the greens are good to eat (though with a bit of bite to them, just like the radish itself), so nothing is going to be wasted.
Earlier this week, I planted everything else. I had to cover the tomatoes last night because the weather has been chilly and blustery (no frost, but wind chills close enough to freezing that it’s better to be safe than sorry).
I’ll have to plant more seeds throughout the season to keep things going, though some things, like the lettuce, don’t do so well in the heat of summer.
One of my co-workers recently said that gardening felt too much like work and he couldn’t understand the enjoyment I get out of it. It gives me great joy to see these plants emerge from the soil, knowing that I dropped a seed into the earth and nurtured it. And it’s even better once that plant is ready to harvest and eat. Yes, it is work. But there is reward. And that reward is being able to pull a jar of homemade tomato soup out of my freezer in the dead of winter to enjoy the taste of summertime.