I have an excuse, though. It has been absolutely insane around here. And the drought got us. And the heat. Not much was harvested (from what survived the heat), and nothing went to market. The entire market garden thing was a flop - except for the tomatoes. My gosh, we had more tomatoes than we could give away!
But we shall persevere. The planning for 2013 is underway. I'm having fun with my seed catalogs, and my wish list is HUGE. Gotta cut it down or I'll be over budget (and we'll be overextended in caring for the plants!).
Here are some of the things we learned last year:
Weed and grass control is absolutely critical.
Sounds pretty common-sense, doesn't it? Well it is, but figuring out how to manage it in >100F temperatures is proving tricky. We want to grow non-certified Organic, but I think in 2013 we're going to have to use some herbicides to kill that pasture grass and weeds. The area hasn't been a garden in well over a century, so the weeds are very well established.
We laid out the garden last year so we could use the walk-behind rototiller between the rows for weed control. But in the spring we had to send it to the repair shop, and it sat there for over two months. Every single small-engine repair place in a 25 mile radius was backlogged. When they finally got to it, they said we needed a new engine and it would be cheaper to just buy another tiller. (Wish they'd told me that two months ago.) Meanwhile, the weeds just kept growing...and growing...
Speaking of weed control, note to self: DO. NOT. allow weeds to grow over the soaker hoses! I had to crawl on my hands and knees along every single inch of the 750' of hose to free it so we could pull it up and till everything under. Urgh.
Keep myself cool in the heat.
With physical activity I overheated dangerously in the summer temps. This winter I'm going to make myself some "gardening tunics" to wear (short, loose, very lightweight white cotton), and I'm going to buy several of those little personal fans that hang around your neck, and I'm going to freeze water to take out there with me for drinking and for wetting myself down. Fortunately our garden is pretty well screened from prying eyes, so wearing wet white clothing isn't going to get me arrested...
Don't let Dad help without supervision.
I love my Dad, and he loves to help. Unfortunately he likes to sneak in and do it, and with all the tall grass he couldn't see what we had planted where. Our row markers were too short. We had a beautiful crop of banana melons and four different kinds of cukes, until Dad decided to help us by mowing. The pulverized melons and cukes sure smelled good, though! (No, I didn't yell at him.)
Dad mowed over some of the irrigation hose, too (but so did Jeff). We've got some splicing to do before next year...
Pick the corn the minute it's ripe.
One day I looked at the corn, said, "I should pick it, it looks ripe." The next day when I went out to pick the corn, there WAS no corn. Overnight the raccoons had cleaned us out. Completely.
This year we're going to use the old Native American plan: Plant corn in hills with pole beans and pumpkins/squash. Raccoons supposedly don't like the bristly squash leaves and they'll leave the corn alone. Supposedly. And, we'll have to make sure we can get to the corn plants to pick without stepping on squash vines.
Don't plant a dozen heirloom indeterminate tomato plants.
We grew an amazing heirloom tomato: Richardson. They produce huge fruits and you just can't kill 'em. They're delicious, meaty slicing tomatoes. Not a lot of slime inside, and not overly acidic. Unfortunately, we found out you can't plant them closer together than about 8' and the cages have to be at least 3' in diameter and 6' tall. A dozen plants, planted too close together, in too-small cages, just didn't work.
In all honesty, I have to say that we have incredible competition for our slicing tomatoes. There's a local variety called "Ripley" that everyone goes nuts for. I don't know why - I personally find them slimy and acidic, but apparently a lot of people like that. PS: the Richardsons taste more tomato-ey than the Ripleys, so maybe this year I can educate some palates...
Schedule time for harvest management.
What I mean here is, put together a calendar of when things will ripen. Not so much for taking product to market as for scheduling time for me to can/freeze for the family. I didn't get much of anything put up last year because of poor time management.
Don't plant more than you can care for and harvest.
Another common-sense item, but we're still learning where that limit is for us. We have approximately 2 acres of garden; that turns out to be many hours of garden work for 2 people who also have jobs off the farm. It's another reason why the weeds/grass took over; not enough time spent dealing with them.
This year we're going to use wet-newspaper mulch around some of the plants. That should cut down on a good bit of weeding. We also have a "new" walk-behind tiller. We're going to try tilling one row every day to try to keep up.
And the biggest news of all from 2012:
I was deposed as Farm Boss.
Yep, what I thought of as "leadership" was regarded as "despotism". I know the B word was in their thoughts, though none of the guys were rude enough to say it. In hindsight, I have to admit it, it was true.
I retired silently, with hurt feelings and the almost insurmountable urge to defend myself. But my marriage and my relationships with Dad and Doug are my only true priorities in this world.
We'll see how well the work goes this next year without me in charge, and I'll have to learn how to just do what I'm told - never my strong suit! (sigh)