I wrote last fall about my epic garden fail and promised myself and the world I would not plant tomatoes in 2013. We are nearly a month past the last frost date in Virginia and I can claim victory. I have not planted a single tomato. Nor have I planted cucumbers, broccoli or peppers. We have one volunteer tomato plant and I did plant some parsley – it was a gift from the kids – but otherwise I’ve remained edible free in my planting efforts this year.
I commend myself on this achievement. I would not have been able to reach this milestone without the assistance of my husband. He is being transferred to Minneapolis, Minnesota. We may not be here long enough to enjoy a harvest and I need to keep most of my containers empty so they will be easier to move. I have a good excuse to forgo the annual bursting of a dream I call backyard gardening.
Here’s the thing. I’m already thinking how a shortened growing season will work. Perhaps I will be able to grow cilantro once again. Perhaps the squirrels will not dig up and destroy everything I plant. Perhaps my tomatoes and peppers will not take a hiatus because of the high heat. Perhaps I’ll try broccoli. Maybe I’ll get a green house. The possibilities are endless. There is always a chance the garden will work. I’m already dreaming of next year.
I hereby declare my summer gardening over. The vegetable harvest is done. The only thing on a plant is an inch and a half long red pepper that never grew big enough to harvest.
This year was more successful than last. Our four cucumber plants produced over a dozen tasty treats. The kids loved eating sliced cucumber still warm from the sun. I wish the other plants had been half as productive. From four green pepper plants, we harvested a single green pepper in addition to the non-grower. Of the eight tomato plants, only the patio tomato provided produce in the form of nine two to three-inch round tomatoes. The herbs grew and we had fresh basil most of the summer. Still, as I assess this past season, it goes in the failure category.
Now is the time to repeat the same pledge I made this time last year. “This is the last year I try a backyard garden.”
The second week of April here in Hampton Roads brought an early treat – red, ripe strawberries fresh from the field. YUM.
I’ve been to the fields twice already, each time returning home with buckets heaped with red ripe strawberries. They now sit on my kitchen counter, filling the air with an irresistable scent. I may have eaten one or two teeny tiny ones before breakfast. Who am I kidding, they were the size of a baby’s fist.
For a scant four to eight weeks, I’m prone to stuffing myself with fresh local strawberries at every opportunity. I eat them warm from the sun or cool from the fridge. I slice them and put them on top of cream cheese and toast or layer them in a homemade strawberry shortcake with fresh whipped cream. If the family and I can keep our mitts off them long enough to make a recipe, we make smoothies – but only with the ugly ones. The pretty ones with long stems get a bath in chocolate to prepare them for consumption.
I’m fortunate enough to live close to Lilley Farms and proud to be a frequent customer there. The fields are well maintained – no need to worry about knee-high weeds here! My children always have to pose with the giant strawberry. The strawberries are so good, I can’t even look at grocery store strawberries for most of the year. If you don’t live close to Lilley Farms, look for a you-pick closer to home. If you don’t live near a you-pick strawberry field, perhaps you should consider moving.