Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Veggie gardening - what worked in 2009

A good number of things worked for me in 2009. Here are a few quick thoughts on what I liked, what I will do again, what I'm happy with...

  • The bucket organizer was extremely helpful. This simple bucket of tools stands at the ready by the back door whenever I head outside. In the bucket: different types of tying items (green Velcro, cable ties, stretchy plastic ties, twine), cutting items (floral snips, regular scissors, pruners), identification items (permanent marker, pencil, wooden popsicle sticks, plastic knives - and in this case, plastic forks b/c I ran out of plastic knives), liquid items (bug spray, castile oil soap, seaweed/fish emulsion), gloves, and my Planter's Buddy 7 in 1 tool.
  • This year, I realized that seed is cheap, and not something to hoard. It is easier for me to thin carrots if need be, than to realize weeks later that I didn't plant enough.
  • I was more creative this year in my use of harvested vegetables. I ended up with a lot of chili peppers that I dried or made sauce out of. I also tried canning this year, which as a first-timer, I found very cool but tedious. Hopefully with the right materials, next year will be easier. There's nothing like the winter season to reset the perseverance switch. Next year, I will hope for abundance and won't be afraid that I won't be able to use everything fresh, because there are many ways to use vegetables both at the time of harvest and by saving to use later.
  • The new stone potager worked out very well for me. The size of my backyard kitchen garden is limited due to the amount of sun I have, but the look of the new potager is great, and the space is as maximized as it's going to be. More on the potager in a later post.
  • Though I am drawn to all the neat seed starting systems in the catalogs I've been getting daily, I must forgo any new system as I have found that my seed starting system works extremely well for me. My system involves 2 1/4" peat pots, seed starting mix, a heating pad, a square tray from IKEA, plastic rectangular carry-out food containers (which hold 6 square pots perfectly), Glad press-and-seal, grow lights, and lots of books to raise the containers to the correct heights. More on this later as well.
  • This year, I noted significant dates on the big family calendar and that has helped me be less neglectful and forgetful. For example, I jotted down a target "planting out" date, and also made notes about hardening off the week prior to that date. I also include dates such as: garlic planting day, fall veggie planting day, and mark the calendar for every 2 weeks to use a foliar spray. These are all dates I would surely forget if they were not on the calendar. More on this later as well (possibly).

What trick has worked well really for you this year?


  1. What great ideas Wendy, I could use all of these (but the seed starting, I am not in one house long enough at a time for consistent watering). I really need my own bucket, I am always far away from the garage when I realize I need something...it is getting further to walk back now, with so many obstacles(plants) that I have to weave my way through.
    I hope you and your family have a Happy New Year.

  2. Wendy, you are just way too organized. Well, I'm jealous really. Organization has never been my thing. The big new thing I tried this year was "Chili Spray" on some plants. As you know I'm quite fond of the insects, but I did want to keep them off some things. Unfortunately it didn't seem to work that well -or maybe I didn't apply it enough. I am thinking of buying an electric kitchen composter for this year. That seems like something you might be interested in too.
    -Great Xmas pics! Happy New Year!

  3. I do agree that you are a well organised person. I think I am only 50% there, depending on my mood of the day. You have even done canning! This year, I grow more veges, herbs and spices from seeds, and I tried to rear some caterpillars to butterflies. Seems ok. I also prevented the death of my kalanchoes and adeniums from overwatering. Happy New Year 2010!

  4. Hi Wendy~~ Thanks to you I just figured out why I hated my bucket/caddy idea. I was using the pockets for my tools, etc. but unlike you, I was throwing weeds into the bucket. When I'd go to dump the bucket, my tools would fall out and into the yard debris can. Now I know. Use two separate buckets. One for tools, one for unwanteds. Duh!

    A calendar is a good idea. Having it handy helps too. Your seed starting apparatus--no wonder you have success! What a great setup.

    I'm looking forward to reading about your potager.

  5. Hi Wendy,
    I tried this bucket organizer but mine never looked as good as yours. What worked for me...hmmm...blogging kept me on my toes and made me want to get the weeding done so the pictures I took didn't look so cruddy. :)
    I am looking forward to an IKEA in our area, soon, soon soon!
    Also another thing that worked was using our our old trampoline netting to keep hail off of the greens.

  6. Ohh I like these notes!

    The calendar thing worked great for me too. I also noted when I planted certain seeds so i knew when to expect to see them sprout - seems I always forget that, and start to get worried that something won't sprout, so I plant more... only to have the originals pop up a couple of days later. LOL

    I bought a small kitchen scale this year to keep track of my harvested produce. It's the best tool I invested in all year long, I used it far more than I'd expected to.

    I have a notebook by the back door where I jot down how much of what things I harvested each afternoon. That will help me this year when I'm determining how much of what to plant. I had just the right number of tomatoes, but I could have used more carrots and beets. I also tally the food that I put by for winter and make note of when it's all used up, again to help determine how much is needed for the next year.

    I love how gardening teaches us something new every year. There's satisfaction in having each growing season be just a little bit better than the one before it. :o)

  7. Deborah - I would enjoy strolls back and forth at your place with all the "walks" :)

    Joel- I'll need to look into an electric kitchen composter - that might help prevent the kitchen scraps back-up (and consequently, fruit flies) that happens all the time.

    Autumnbelle - you just love those plants so much!

    Grace - I do have my special discard bucket (a $1 IKEA bin). NOw that you mention it, I do still need to lug my discard bin, the bucket, and the spade. Maybe I should get a grocery cart and push that around. Then the neigborhood kids can REALLY think I'm crazy!

    Rosey, that's a really good point about weeding/blog photos! Perhaps I'll be spending more time weeding as well!

    Julie, I totally agree. Each year, I've definitely gotten better and better. Not good enough to warrant weighing any harvests, but maybe one day...


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