Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Letter to Myself to be Read Next March

Dear Self,

No doubt you've already gotten tons of gardening catalogs in the mail and you've been drooling over the possible choices for the garden since January. I'm here to remind you of a few things.

1. For God's sake, please reconsider planting more than 30-40 tomato plants next time! We had more than 60 plants in 2010 and we lost the battle of keeping them picked too early in the season. Yes, I know we planted that many just in case a tomato plague came around and wiped out most of the crop, but ya know what? Nary a plague appeared and the plants all did just fine. Pick a couple of varieties and then put out no more than 10 of each variety. Trust me, it'll be okay.

2. Yes, plant Sungold tomatoes again! Yeah, Sungolds are a hybrid but you can't beat that sweet taste. Be sure to get another black tomato, maybe Black Krim. Brandywine was good, but stingy on the yield. Tigerella was good, but they're pretty small. We want some larger tomatoes next year for sandwiches. Subartic Plenty doesn't have the flavor of other varieties, but you were still picking them in late September. Just remember to check the seeds you have leftover before ordering more!

3. Thou shall keep the tomatoes staked and the paths between rows mowed.

4. And put fencing up for the damn beans even if they are considered bush beans. They'll run all the way over to Radford again if you don't.

5. Remember you're gonna have to rotate the garden around this year. No planting the corn right where it was last year and the Jarrahdale pumpkins don't like being so far away from the sprinkler.

6. Yes, plant corn and okra again next year. And the tomatillos need more room.

7. And then we come to the peppers. Fooled You jalapenos are tasty and safe for the non-heat seekers in the family. The anchos are also good, mostly mild with only a little heat. You need to include a hotter variety for the salsa, though. Again, don't plant so many next time. They all did really well and they're prolific as bunnies.

8. Reconsider your fear of the pressure canner. You can't just make jelly out of everything, and you need a pressure canner to make just about anything else.

9. Speaking of which, repeat after me: I will not try to use those rock-hard, unripe little green tomatoes in any recipe from now on. Any recipe calling for green tomatoes is referring to green tomatoes that are soft and have lots of gel in them. The other ones are bitter and have an awful taste to them and you can't disguise that flavor no matter how much sugar and spices you use in that chutney, cake, or what have you. You might as well go ahead and tell your family and friends that you regret having inflicted them with that flavor while you're at it. Blech! I don't know why we didn't realize this sooner, but go forth and sin no more.

10. Unless we've signed up to grow pumpkins again for Ally's school, plant half the pumpkin patch with Jarrahdales and the other half with a pie pumpkin. We got over 100 Small Sugar pumpkins but the flavor wasn't nearly as good as we had hoped. Maybe try those Rouge vif d'Etampes pumpkins that look like Cinderella's pumpkin next time?

Really, that's about it. We had a great garden in 2011 and we'll probably have another great year in 2012. Some years the pumpkins are the star, some years it's the peppers that steal the show, but it's all good. Just remember to till early, apply the compost early, and then till again before planting. Stake the tomatoes, fence the beans, and keep everything picked to keep those yields coming in!

Your Self

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