We had great luck with our garden beds last year and had tomatoes, banana peppers, and basil coming out of our ears by the end of summer. I specifically remember telling Beau that we just had to cut back this year, as we started having cherry tomato throwing contests by the end of last season. That said, a couple of Weck jars, dreams of sweet pickles, and a discovery of kohlrabi later and we not only have as much produce, but a third garden bed to put it in!
We did cut back our tomatoes from last year, planting two beefy, two roma, and two sugar sweet (yellow cherry tomatoes), and dropped our banana peppers and jalapenos to 1 instead of 2 each. In addition to our bell peppers and herb garden (basil, mint, lavendar, cilantro, and rosemary), we added some new veggies I'm anxious to try: onions, lettuce, kohlrabi, three varieties of cukes, snap peas, and some climbing green beans. Who knew you could 'climb' cucumbers, peas, and beans by sticking some stakes in the ground and creating a wall-like structure with a trellis? It's the same reason we decided to plant our mint in a pot this year --- some greens will get a tad territorial and take over your garden if you let them. So, to save room, we are going to try climbing our cukes and beans and hope for the best.
Until I spent a night or two on Burpee's website, I had no idea that gardeners had their very own language. I discovered that my cilantro 'bolted' as soon as it got hot outside and that in order to cultivate a crop through the summer, I would need to plant new seeds every week or so. I also discovered that when cilantro bolts, it turns to coriander, and that human hair sprinkled in your garden is not only a good fertilizer, but helps keep the bunnies away. Amazing stuff, huh?!
I have goals to use every last bit of our produce this year, to try my hand at canning tomatoes and spaghetti sauce and pickles and salsa, and find creative ways to make the most of our backyard grocery store. I'm most definitely a work in progress when it comes to this gardening thing, and would welcome any tips, recipes, canning advice from my fellow green thumbs out there.
Finally, just a few tips I've learned along the way...
-Peat moss is a must for your raised beds. I have no idea why, but we are convinced it led to our abundance last year!
-Have I mentioned yellow banana peppers grow out of control?
-Pick your basil and snip the ends before they begin to flower. Do the same with your cilantro.
-Mint leaves are a wonderful addition to just about any drink. Water, lemonade, iced tea, mohitos...
-Cute bunnies turn into beastly savages as soon as your garden is in the ground. Keep them away by spraying a mixture of vinegar and tabasco sauce around your garden, or sprinkling human hair in the dirt. Both are much better alternatives to the wolf urine you can buy at your local gardening store ;)