This year's winner: the lemon cucumber.
Here it is, nearly the end of 2010, my first year as a container vegetable gardener. Looking back, I’d say I had far more success than I deserved. I knew nothing about veggie gardening at the outset of this effort beyond what I’d read in The Bountiful Container. Although the two authors, Rose Marie Nichols McGee and Maggie Stuckey packed a lot of knowledge into that lovely book, I still found myself sometimes scrambling to keep up with reality vs book learning — if I may say so. My fault, not theirs. There’s a lot to learn, I think, when undertaking any meaningful gardening, and although my patch of pots was small, I grew a lot of crops.
I think my greatest producer was the lemon cucumber. Once those vines took off, they refused to acknowledge the word quit. I liked their flavor so well that I can’t bring myself to buy a boring, normal, super-market cucumber now that my garden’s “six-feet under” for the winter. Lemon cucumbers will be back next year, no question.
My tomatoes, as determinate plants, were all here today and gone tomorrow. They began giving me ripe tomatoes in early July and finished by the end of that same month, except for a second flush from the celebrity plant, but those tomatoes weren’t as good as was the early fruit. Next year, I’d like to have staggered plantings of tomatoes so that they last me later into the summer, and better yet, right up through fall. The other problem I think I had is that I picked all the tomatoes too soon. I should have let them turn a bit riper before I brought them in. However, I WAS worried about my local groundhog, who apparently loves eating tomatoes as much as I do. And I was determined to beat him to them. (I have since read that you can put moth balls in the garden to ward off pests. Just put the balls in a container, not upon the ground. I’ve not tried this yet. It is perhaps an old wives tale, but seems worth testing out next year.)
The biggest surprise of the year came from the green beans. I hadn’t planted any early, and I drooled when I saw photos of other people’s green bean harvests. After a kind gentleman told me it wasn’t too late to grow some, I threw seeds into a bucket and got three wonderful bean plants which kept me in green beans for several weeks. I was in heaven.
My biggest failure was zucchini, which I’d always thought anyone still capable of standing upright could grow. But I hadn’t heard back then of the borers who settle in and make mush of vines. I had counted on the plant to produce a “super abundant” crop from my tiny garden. I was seriously bummed.
But overall, I had many more successes than failures: chard, with which I fell in love; beets, even if they only gave me greens; radishes, which I adore cooked, greens and all; onions; green garlic; and a very few, fragile looking, and delicious peas. In total, I was ecstatic with what I dragged forth from those few tubs. And I miss those crops now that their buckets are at buried under a blanket of snow.
But the sun is heading north again. It’s winter-sowing season, and I’ll soon be caught up in that activity. And before I know it, the empty tubs and their waiting dirt will warm, and I’ll be out there every day, planting, watering, nurturing the most satisfying plants I’ve ever grown — vegetables. And all these years I thought I liked growing flowers. Not that I don’t still do that. Only now, I mix flower plants in with my veggies. Thank you McGree and Stuckey for the idea!
And 2011? Bring it on!
Happy New Year, everyone!