Green Thumb Up My Nose: Lessons Learned 2012

So this was my first summer with a keyhole garden. Mistakes were made and lessons learned. Herewith some lessons, and a concept plan for next year:

1. Don’t oversquash. I had half of each of two sections in squash, and then I had two whole sections in squash, and then I had part of my backyard in squash. The only thing that could compete was the tomatoes.
2. Don’t plant anything but tomatoes alongside squash. The greens were overwhelmed, the onions stagnated, the blueberries died, the dill died. The beans barely survived.


3. Plant fewer tomatoes. This year we had four containers on the deck and six beside the house, to go with the eight in the KHG. We had about 100lbs of tomatoes, or just over five pounds per plant. If they’d spaced themselves out better, we’d have been happier. Maybe try some determinates
4. Get the tomatoes started even earlier. We were into September before anything but the cherries started to ripen.
5. Emend the soil with calcium of some sort over the winter. The Cheney Civic Compost seems to have been devoid of it.
6. Think about why this year’s tomatoes were so small. We’re not into beefsteak tomatoes, but we don’t like the really small ones, either. Most of this year’s crop that wasn’t cherries was plum-sized. We prefer nectarine size or baseball sized. Not softball. However, what we planted included a couple that should produce softball-sized. They didn’t.
7. Don’t overwater the tomatoes. We’d had trouble with blossom-end rot before, and so I kept a fairly high level of watering up the whole time. Most of our large tomatoes were bland and watery.
8. Reconsider our varieties, and consider more mottled heirlooms. Recent reports are that tomatoes that have the genes to ripen evenly also lack the genes for good taste. As one commenter said “For the last 70 years, we’ve been working to close the taste gap between tomatoes and water balloons”.
9. Keep better track of the tomato varieties. I know I planted 4 x Beef Maestro hybrids, 4 x Superba hybrids, 1 x Brandywine Pink, 1 Oregon Spring (at least). That leaves eight unaccounted for. Part of my problem was I wrote the IDs on the peat pots, and then buried the pots.

10. Start the corn earlier, and use an early harvest version. Friends recommend “Yukon Chief”, developed at U of AK and ready in 55 days. Available from Irish Eyes. I am thinking I can plant the corn amongst the squash and tomatoes and let them grow up them.
11. Think about some sort of greenhouse cover for each section. Maybe PVC pipe with heavy plastic. Has to be re-usable. Has to be replaceable with chicken wire to keep out birds and squirrels.

12. Miniature cucumbers would do OK on the deck. Miniature watermelon and cantaloupe didn’t produce enough this year to be worth it, but I might try one more time. The miniature pumpkins didn’t make it.

Section 1: Brassicae — bok choy, Brussels sprouts, cabbage. Maybe some iceberg lettuce. The stuff I planted this year didn’t head at all, but it was a nice lettuce nonetheless.

Section 2: Squash and tomatoes. I had lots of squash here in 2012, but I think two years in a row will be OK

Section 3: Beans, maybe corn, maybe peas after the beans

Section 4: This will be the perennials — blueberries, strawberries, asparagus. Hopefully I can transplant this year’s Section 1 asparagus, but if not, I can always start over. Maybe corn again, only this time start earlier

Elsewhere: Try some more dwarf species, and get them out earlier. Don’t plant so many tomatoes on the deck.

early March – Start tomato and squash seed indoors
early May (60 days later) – Transplant
mid July (70 days) – early varieties ripen
early August (90 days) – late varieties ripen


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One Response to “Green Thumb Up My Nose: Lessons Learned 2012”

  1. Kurt Kremer Says:

    I’ve copied this into my gardener’s notebook. We ran into a few of the same problems–small tomatoes, no ripening till late, even though we stopped watering (though for the first time we didn’t have blossom rot or blight). Melons didn’t thrive like they were supposed to. Etc. Our blueberries had a weird year–well established but all decided to gasp at the same time, and they range from early to late. Might have been the dog, might have been “something in the air.” The problem is that I don’t know enough about them to guess. I’m going to add calcium this year everywhere except the blueberries and give them some more bark mulch. We also got whacked by bugs this year–the warm winter encouraged early fecundity.

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