It’s been a strange gardening year for me.
We started out with little rain and then experienced more rain than usual during mid-summer. This caused the squash and tomato plants to explode in size. Then the weather changed again, and I had to constantly water, using the spigots attached to soaker hoses my husband set up.
Along the way I learned 3 things.
1. Never Buy Garden Plants While Under Extreme Stress
Three days before my surgery, I bought and then planted vegetable and flower plants. I knew that I would not be able to lift anything afterwards, so I wanted to get the planting done beforehand. And had I waited, it might have been delayed for two weeks—a substantially long time when tomato and squash plants must get into the ground. We visited two nurseries, and the first one, a popular chain of nurseries, had few tomato and squash plants to choose from. We bought a few poor specimens, and I was amazed the greenhouse had no cherry tomatoes.
While in the checkout line, I called another nursery several miles away, and I was assured they had plenty. They did—so many in fact that I was confused as to which ones to buy. Consequently, I overbought. And once I had them home, and I started my planting marathon session, I realized I had a lot of cherry and grape tomato plants and few slicing tomato plants. I had so many plants that even after I planted my new concrete block planter with tomato plants, I had to place extras into large pots I had found in the barn.
2. It’s Okay to Expand My Flower Repertoire
This year I bought the usual suspects: cosmos, zinnias and marigolds. But I also bought snapdragons, celosias, gazanias, cleome and ageratum. I had never been especially interested in these before, but they really took off and look lovely. I placed many of the extra zinnias and cosmos among the tomato plants on the deck garden, and they grew at least 3-4 feet tall this year. I also jammed lots of extra flowers into the front garden, and it still looks beautiful.
So, when it came to planting flowers this year, more was actually better. And I’ve learned that diversity is definitely the way to go.
3. I Will Choose My Tomato Plants Wisely Next Year
Due to my cherry tomato plant debacle, I found myself trying to pick dime-sized fruit, and I berated myself for buying such plants. But it turns out, I actually made two good decisions, and they are called Mountain Magic and Mountain Merit.
Mountain Magic fruit is three times the size of many tiny cherry tomato varieties, yet they have terrific flavor. Yes, they are a larger sized cherry tomato, but they are great for sautéing with onions and zucchini, and their sweetness really comes through when prepared this way.
I can’t say enough good things about Mountain Merit. Almost every single fruit was perfect, they held together beautifully when sliced thinly, and their taste was always fresh and “tomatoey.”
Unfortunately, I only purchased two each of Mountain Merit and Mountain Magic, but the four plants produced so much fruit I was able to freeze several 2-quart sized containers of soup and was able to prepare four batches of wonderful pasta sauce.
Because of my success with Mountain Merit and Mountain Magic, my garden next year will mainly feature these two beauties.
My anxiety also affected my squash purchase. I had every intention of securing yellow crookneck squash, but the first nursery only sold Zucchini Goldy, and I bought four (with two plants in each container). And because I was so concerned about getting cherry tomatoes, I forgot to look for yellow crookneck at the second nursery. Therefore, I ended up with eight Goldy plants and ten zucchini plants. I have frozen 25 bags of two-cup portions of zucchini, five bags of juilienned yellow and zucchini squash, and have made several batches of zucchini brownies and bread.
In the end, we probably picked 5 times the squash you see here.
I’m in the process of cleaning up the gardens now and am already looking forward to next year!
Thanks so much for reading,