This summer was my first real attempt at a vegetable garden. For several years, I'd grown lots of basil and tomatoes in big pots, plus a sweet little herb garden each summer. I'd been held back from a "real" garden by our lead-containing urban soil. This spring, though, I got my dad to help build three giant raised beds, and off I went, enthusiastic but pretty darn unprepared.
Though I grew up with a green-thumbed mom, I only helped at the micro level (Here, help me pick these peas.) I still don't have a good sense of the big yearly rhythm of when to plant what, how to plan a vegetable garden, what to expect, and what to do when.
So, with the gardening season (in our yard, at least) officially over, my assessment is this: I've learned a lot. Some things this year I planted far too late (turns out beets don't like the heat much). Some things I killed altogether without really knowing how (so much for home grown butternut squash). And some things I grew in bizarre, wasteful abundance (next year one row of radishes will do, I think.)
And I've got a lot in mind for next year: I'll grow fewer red peppers (we can't keep up with eating them and don't have a good way of preserving them), fewer radishes, and (as much as we love pesto all year long) less basil. And I'll add some new things: peas, tomatillos, rainbow chard, and another attempt at winter squash.
One goal of this whole thing was to have lots of home grown food to use all winter. Listing what I've got in the freezer and on the shelves, I feel pretty successful in that regard, for year one. Here's what I've put up. Everything but the apples (from a local orchard) grew right in our back yard:
Two big freezer containers of rhubarb sauce.
A quart of dried currants for snacks and baking.
A half-gallon bag of frozen currants for pancakes.
Two frozen bricks of Thai basil pesto.
Lots and lots—like probably fifteen meals' worth—of sweet basil pesto, frozen.
Five half-pint jars of radish relish. (No, we don't eat that much radish relish. Most will go as Christmas gifts.)
A couple of roasted red peppers, frozen, of uncertain quality.
Bunches of dried lavender, sage, oregano, basil, thyme, and rosemary.
Two gallons (broken up into little containers) of frozen tomato sauce.
Two quart jars of sun-dried tomatoes.
Eight pints of applesauce.
And—from all the unused stems, peels, rotten spots, etc. etc.—lots and lots of compost to go into next year's garden.