Too Big a Bite

Reader Contribution by Loretta Liefveld
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Winter was almost over. Spring was coming. Snow had turned to rain, and the temperatures were starting to rise. My mailbox was filling with seed catalogs. Time to seriously start planning.

This winter, I tried starting my own seedlings inside. I bought 10 starting trays with domes and inserts, heating mats and “smart” automatic timers. I cleared two entire shelves of my metal shelf rack. An existing two-bulb light provided the required lighting. But I had zero luck.

My artichokes finally sprouted, but just sat there and didn’t grow. The asparagus sprouted sparsely. Broccoli and tomatoes didn’t even sprout until I planted seeds a second time. Snapdragons and onions sprouted prolifically and then just died before they even got as tall as the edges of the inserts.

I had big plans. For the first time, I started a journal… that had always seemed too onerous before. Every day was documented in the journal: planted beefsteak tomatoes, four artichokes sprouted, etc. Soon, my entries looked like this: replanted asparagus, replanted artichokes, replanted onions. It was getting very depressing.

My original plans called for four raised beds with rotating crops. But we had managed to only build two before my husband had knee-replacement surgery in December. I really wasn’t up to building these all by myself and didn’t really need them during winter.

Then spring came, and with it came a kidney donation to his niece-in-law and then ankle-replacement surgery. Unlike the knee replacement, ankle replacement calls for eight weeks of non-weight bearing. Building more raised beds was out.

A corner of the garden in the front was looking more inviting.

I had already dug out a section for in-ground compost and it was half filled. By spring, it was complete, and I had started another. My plan was to plant asparagus and artichokes against the fence as permanent plantings.

Since my own seedlings didn’t make it, I broke down and bought some. I was sad that these were just “generic” asparagus plants (just labeled “asparagus”) and Green Globe artichokes (instead of the varieties I thought would do better in my area).

Store-bought broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, and bok choi sat in containers while I dug up places for those, dislodging a huge pile of basalt rocks ranging from baseball size to larger than basketball size. Rain hindered my efforts, making the soil wet and muddy and impossible to work. A couple of days of sun and I could dig for one day.

The rain brought out all the weeds, and soon I had to weed-eat instead of spending time digging. Colder weather came back, which meant more time splitting and stacking wood. New chicks meant building a coop.

I managed to plant a second set of snap peas, and a few leeks and potatoes went into the dormant raised bed. But I ran out of room before planting the onions and the lettuce, spinach and bok choi started bolting after only two days of fairly hot weather. Relatives came to visit and my time was spent with them. No one except me liked kale, so it was ignored and grew taller and taller.

No doubt about it. My plans were bigger than my ability to carry them out. I had taken too big a bite.

I’ll continue on, but the plan has gone by the wayside, and I’m not going to try to revive it for this year. I have a little bit of space left in one of the raised beds, so I might plant one more row of snap beans. I took all of the flower seed packets, combined them, and then just scattered them over the remaining sections of the front corner garden.

Three different types of clover are starting to sprout as a cover crop over the rest of the garden. But I still have tons of seed packets left. It’s time to start planting warm-weather crops, so I guess the squash will get planted, but I have to regroup for everything else.

Next year, I’ll try to be more reasonable in my expectations. At least the areas that I dug this year will only need minimal work next year. The piles of too-small-to-be-firewood have now been chipped, and will provide mulch over the summer and next winter. After a larger coop has been built for the chickens (and now ducks), we can get to building the two planned raised beds (although I’m sure I’ll fill those quickly as well).

My plan for next year will be more like: dig three new 3′ x 6′ areas, stack excavated rocks onto rock wall, build two raised beds, plan paths through garden, THEN plant two tomatoes, 1/3 raised bed with lettuce (one row at a time), etc.

Anyone else have this problem? Any other solutions?

Photo property of Loretta Liefveld.

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