Okay, I realize it’s late in the year to be posting an update about my garden. It’s snowing outside, and the ground has frozen too hard to dig up the earth. The season is over. It’s too late to even plant bulbs. I’ve been procrastinating the whole uploading photos and posting an update thing because I feel disappointed with the results of my gardening efforts this year. I didn’t want to come to you guys with a bunch of sad and pathetic photos of shriveled up plants and ridiculously small tomatoes. My plants yielded very little this year.
However, I’m happy with the lessons that I’ve learned and I’m proud of myself for putting so much work into this personal project. In addition to the usual balcony garden, I maintained a garden plot all summer. It was my first year of planting things into the actual ground, so that was an interesting experience in which I did not know what I was doing. I took risks by attempting crop rotation in containers, trying to grow plants I haven’t grown before, and dealing with the different challenges that come with both container and traditional gardening. The journey matters as much as the destination, so if you don’t mind shaking your fist with me at various frustrations, then keep reading and I’ll show you what I’ve been up to!
Some of you already know that I’ve been apartment gardening for a couple of years. This summer, things changed. I was on a wait list for a garden plot. For my fellow Ottawaians who are wondering, I found a community garden by going to The Community Gardening Network of Ottawa website, which has a list of contact names. If you’re interested in doing so, now is a good time to ask about garden plots so you can grab a spot or at least be put on the wait list.
Anyway, I was offered a garden plot in June, but of course in April and May I didn’t know that yet, so I tried to grow everything in containers on my balcony as usual. This was my first summer in this particular apartment, and I get tons of sunlight on the balcony. I felt ambitious and excited, and I planted a whole bunch of stuff (probably too many things) which I have summarized for you as photo captions.
Most of my gardening budget went into the balcony plants. When I was offered a plot in June I wasn’t sure of what I’d be able to do with it. It was late in the season and I couldn’t afford to buy much more gardening stuff, but I took it anyway. I mean, this community garden is awesome. Just riding there on my bike and being surrounded by plants, seeing the creative ways in which people utilized their plots, made me feel peaceful.
I wish that I would have taken more photos. There were some really cool structures built out of wood so that zucchinis were growing across a latticed roof, for example, and the plants looked beautiful when the moon came out at night.
My plot was overgrown with weeds when I got it. I don’t have any before photos, but here is what it looked like after I spent hours weeding it and planting a few things.
Yeah so in case you’re wondering, there’s a reason for why the eggplant is stubby. I transplanted it from the container on my balcony. It was doing just fine before I planted it into the ground, but then it shriveled up and nearly died. I’m guessing that was due to that neverending drought that made headlines in the paper, combined with my lack of watering every day (hey I was in terrible shape and had to bike up a huge hill just to get there, so I didn`t visit often to water my plants okay! Yes I know that`s not a good excuse.). I’m rather proud to say that I brought it back from the edge of death. The earth was so dry that water ran across its surface and stayed there. To deal with it, I created a hole, poured in water, and watched the soil reluctantly absorb it. Then, I packed the muddy soil around the roots of the plant, and poured more water on it, making sure it was sinking properly into the ground. I didn`t think it would survive, but it did. It didn’t grow any fruit, but it regrew its leaves a little, so I guess that`s something. At least my gardening thumbs aren’t black!
The strawberry plant was also a transplant. It lasted longer than I expected it to, but it still died. The raspberry plant became uprooted repeatedly. I don`t know if that`s a drought related thing, or if an animal kept digging at it, or what. Being continuously uprooted finally took its toll and it died too. Sigh. I was really hoping to have fresh raspberries.
The tomatoes did a bit better, although I planted them later in the season than I should have. Most of the tomatoes fell off in late September before reaching maturation, which disappointed me because I had planted yellow ones and I wanted to see how they turned out.
The rows of transplanted broccoli seedlings died. The kale survived but did not grow large enough to eat.
Thankfully I had better success with the balcony plants. The herbs grew really well, I got a couple of orange pixe tomatoes, and the strawberries grew much better than in previous years (though still not well enough to give me anything). I planted far too many things all at once, so only certain things grew.
That last shot is of the pineapple sage in bloom. It lasted well into October. I bought it on a whim at the Byward Market, not knowing what to do with it, and ended up admiring it instead of harvesting it.
I love herb flowers and vegetable flowers for some reason. I think it’s because they’re unconventional and, for the most part, unnoticed. In addition to the sage flowers, I got to see eggplant flowers bloom. They are sturdy and regal with thick purple petals, yet delicate and beautiful when the sun shines through them.
Unfortunately, the flowers never turned into fruit. I haven’t figured out what happened with that, but I DO have a general idea of my mistakes. I’ll be making reference to this list in the spring.
1) Overcrowded containers. For some reason I thought that I could grow tomatoes, artichokes, kale, and basil all in one container. Granted, it is a large container, but I like to grow basil as huge as possible, and tomato plants drink a lot of water. As a result, the other plants were stunted. I didn’t even get enough basil to make pesto, which is the main reason for why I started gardening in the first place. Big disappointment! Lesson learned.
2) Not watering often enough. Yeah I don’t think I need to explain this one.
3) Not planting seeds early enough. Strawberries take forever to grow from seed, no matter how much you tell yourself that they won’t really take that long.
4) Crappy soil. If it looks like sawdust, that’s probably how useful it is.
5) Probably something else I can’t think of right now.
Anyway. I found out that I get to keep the garden plot for next year. I’m really excited! I’ll be able to start plants from seeds. I’m planning to grow strawberries, watermelons, and tomatoes in those little jiffy soil pellets. Everything else will probably be directly sown. I’m kicking myself for not planting tulip bulbs so I’d have something to look forward to in the spring, but oh well.
Stay tuned for another update: I visited the plot two weeks ago in the snow to plant garlic and dig up carrots.
Is anyone else part of a community garden?