Northern Wilds Magazine
Our gardens have been abundant this year. | JOAN FARNAM

Planning next year’s plot

Plan next year’s garden while this year’s crop is still fresh (in your mind)

Believe it or not, October is probably the best time to plan next year’s garden.

The harvest is in (mostly), you can see what grew really well this year and what didn’t, what varieties you liked and those that were pretty much failures and didn’t taste very good, either. 

And all the details about the struggles and triumphs you had in your garden are clear in your head now, too. 

Take advantage of it.  

Get out that gardening journal, or pull up a new file on your computer, and make notes and plans for next year.

I’ve already started.

First off, I’ve taken a hard look at my garden to see what’s growing where and if it did well. 

I did a little experiment this year, for example, just to see if the experts were right. I planted some winter squash in the same space this year as last. But I also put a few other hills of the same squash in a new spot to see if there would be a difference.

Whoa. The squash in the new spot is a lot more vigorous and about twice the size of the squash in the old plot.

Lesson learned.

I made some mistakes.

Last spring, for example, I was so overwhelmed by all the choices in the seed catalogs that I totally gave up and just ordered stuff.  I didn’t make a list — I just ordered. I know what I like to grow, I said to myself.

Come planting time, I realized I forgot to order Detroit Red beet seeds and Blue Lake bush beans, two favorites. It was scramble time when I couldn’t find them locally.

I found some seeds for an heirloom variety, Dragon Tongue bush beans, at our local co-op, so I bought a package and stuck them in the ground.

That turned out to be a lucky choice. They’re really beautiful and are fantastic raw, which is a plus if you’re not into canning beans.

The beets are a sorrier story. Someone gave me a bunch of Detroit Red seeds in mid-season and I planted them as a second crop next to those yummy Dragon Tongues, figuring the beans would be out of the ground in plenty of time.

Oops. Didn’t happen. I’m still picking the Dragon Tongues and the beets are languishing in the shade.

The most incredible thing about our gardens in the Northern Wilds this year is the bumper crop of tomatoes we’re getting. It’s totally amazing for those of us who, in the past, have had to wait until late August until our tomatoes started ripening.

We’ve been eating cherry tomatoes since early July this year.

So I’m doing some seed saving on the heirlooms, and making notes on which hybrids I like best. And I’m also getting a huge, tasty heirloom from Del Rosenquist so I can save the seeds from it and try them next year.

Let me give you a little background on Mr. Rosenquist.

He always wins purple ribbons at the Cook County Fair for everything from the biggest vegetable to the most beautiful basket of vegetables, and everything in-between.

I don’t think he’d mind if I said he was fiercely competitive, because he is. He loves to garden and is proud of it.

So when he offered me one of his favorite tomatoes so I could save the seeds and plant them next year, I was honored.

And I already know where they will go.

By Joan Farnam

Note: This story was originally published in the Oct.-Nov. 2012 issue of Northern Wilds Magazine.

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