Monday, October 16, 2006

Gardening Roundup

We've pretty much winterized the garden, beyond adding some mulch and raking up the leaves, which means it's time for a gardening roundup!

The big learning experience this year was the new vegetable garden. Next year: Way more lettuce, way less tomatoes. You can only eat so many tomatoes. Your entire block can only eat so many tomatoes. I, on the other hand, could single-handedly keep an entire lettuce farm in business.

One of the first things we learned is that rabbits love broccoli, necessitating a fence to keep out critters. Squash worked well, and was fasinating to watch grow; the beans were not so good. (I think they got some kind of parasite, though.) I was meh even on the beans that did grow. I had a bad year for spices, probably because I was busy with the vegetables. Eggplants are fun, even though I don't like them that much, and Mr. McGee had a GREAT year for peppers. He's actually overwintering them in my basement, which now looks like a jungle. He got a year-end harvest of more than 20 fatalli peppers, and is now giving them to everyone we know. We may have no friends after this week!

I think the biggest surprise for me was the sunflowers, which I ADORED watching grow. One of them grew to easily 15 feet. I'm not such a big fan of sunflower seeds, but I plan to cut the heads off later this week and store them to be put out for birds and squirrels in the winter months. I've briefly considered planting my entire back fence with sunflowers, but that might be excessive.

Carrots and radishes -- my underground veggies -- were a TOTAL failure. I think my soil needs a few more years of amending and loosening. We got a few stubby, thumb-looking carrots, and they tasted pretty good, but it wasn't a good crop.

Elsewhere in the garden, we learned that no matter what you do, squirrels have an evil power to dig up your crocus bulbs. We'll see how many come up next spring; last spring, we only got a handful out of the probably 150 we planted.

The clover was a mighty success. So mighty we're overseeding everywhere and, in a couple of places, trying to grow a clover-only patch. It stayed brilliant green in the drought without us watering, when everyone else's lawns went brown. It attracted bees and butterflies. It required very little mowing. It kept the rabbits out of everything else because they liked the clover better (as did my cats).

I forgot to prune my roses way back around Easter or whenever I was supposed to do that, so I thought, "Hey, why don't I just let them grow crazy all summer and see what happens?" (This is also my hairstyle strategy.) Well, what happens when you let fancy roses grow crazy is that they don't put out very many flowers because they're busy growing buttloads of leaves on single branches that get up to 9 feet long but not any thicker. Also, they'll use your garden furniture as a trellis if they can reach it, which can make for an awful thorny sitting experience. But what was kinda exciting was that if you leave them alone long enough, ROSES FRUIT. Real fruit! Bigger than crabapples!

I knew that roses were in the same family as apples, but when I saw the rose fruit I was like, "Holy crap, those look like apples!" I guess these are what they call "hips," which is not what I thought people were talking about when they said "rose hips" in books, but makes a lot of things make a lot more sense, even though it's a stupid name for a rose fruit. They're awfully pretty, just blushed pink. I haven't done anything with them -- there's only five or six of them -- but they're allegedly edible.

On the insect front, we introduced store-boughten ladybugs and lacewings (as in "don't you dare kill my store-boughten bugs!), which cleared up our aphid infestation lickety-split. We also managed to attract a praying mantis, and we had butterflies galore, including dozens and dozens of monarchs. (Plant milkweed!) Ants continue to defeat my efforts to keep them out from under my new patio, which is a bummer, but I did see this crazy-beautiful bug in my corn. Still no bats, though. I am never going to get bats.

What's on for next year? We're in the planning stages with all those brightly-colored gardening catalogs they send you as soon as there's a bit of chill in the air, trying to entice you to buy 8 zillion flowers because it's cold and dark and snowy and the flowers are so pretty and springy and colorful and unlikely to grow in your region. Mr. McGee has suggested a permanent herb garden, and we have a couple areas marked out by the finished patio that need planting with something before the weeds take them over. We'll also have to have a go at some of the grass that's gotten weedy. Mr. McGee wants to try some berry bushes; I have an idea in my head for a "black-and-white" garden, although I don't know if that's next year. And we're going to get a couple of heirloom apple trees put in in the spring, which will be super-cool. Plus lots, lots, lots more lettuce!


Mahkno said...

Where did you buy ladybugs?

It has been years since I have seen a domestic ladybug.

Eyebrows McGee said...

Argh, I'm trying to remember. oh! Gardens Alive! was the name of the store.

The price was reasonable and competitive and the service/shipping was good on the bugs, though I've not bought live plants or anything from them. They had both the lady bugs and the lacewings. I think they also have mantids & parasitic wasps and stuff.

anon e. mouse said...

I destroyed the graden a couple of weeka go. Only my 5' tall pepper plants (no peppers, though!) survived, and I highly doubt they are of much use now after the frost.

I am switching over to more of a box-garden setup next year - 8'x2' beds for the Maters & peppers. 4'x 4' for other stuff. A 4'x4' box for herbs. An 8'x 8' (not a box) for Taters.

I am also planting about 150 bulbs this year - but with a neighborhood full of silver maples and hardly an oak or walnut to be found, we see squirrels only occassionally (and the heard of Basset Hounds chase them off).

Jonathan Ahl said...

You MUST grow eggplant again next year, and deliver some to certain fellow bloggers who are also broadcast journalists.

Ya know, just as a thought.

Eyebrows McGee said...

How'd that eggplant work out for you?

Jonathan Ahl said...

Very well. Thank you again.

The Ratatouille was great. I hadn't made that in years. It also worked well cubed, and cooked on the grill in a tin foil pouch drizzeled with olive oil, basil, and garlic.

Garden well, Ms. McGee.

knight in dragonland said...

Fatal peppers??? REALLY?! I've gotta get me some of those! Capsaicin is a beautiful thing.