Sigh. There are always some things that just don’t do well at all, aren’t there? I think my annoyance this year is that none of my misses so far have to do with the weather or other factors beyond my control. My big lesson this year is–again–that starting seeds outside of the garden makes a huge difference. So here are the crops that have, shall we say, not gone according to plan!
I can’t seem to grow a cucumber to save my life. Every year I dream of rows of pickles in pretty jars lining my pantry. Last year I eagerly planted seeds next to my tomatoes, some sprouted and then most died. I went to the nursery and bought seedlings. The plants grew anemically and eventually produced about 5 cucumbers total. My suspicion last year was lack of water; we didn’t have our irrigation set up at quite the right time. I was ready to try again.
This year, with great optimism, I planted 3 varieties in 9 holes, 3 seeds in each hole. One clump came up! Weeks later, I dug around in the holes, wondering if the seeds might have rotted. Guess what? There was not a seed to be found! Birds had gotten all of them. 😦 I went to the nursery, but by this time all the cucumber plants looked terribly root bound and sickly. I decided to cross my fingers that it wasn’t too late–I planted 6 more seeds in blocks in the greenhouse to transplant out. They are starting to sprout, and I have my fingers crossed for pickles this year–or at least a few cukes for salad!
I had the same problem with all the sunflower seeds I planted–lots of empty shells scattered about…and one of my clumps of zucchini seeds disappeared as well.
The other squash were being severely chewed as they struggled to put out their true leaves, but I’m hoping their vigorous nature will take over and they will outgrow the slugs soon. 🙂
Last year carrots were one of my no-brainer crops. Seeds went in, a little thinning, and then carrots came out. I was sold. This year, not so much. I planted the first couple of rows in April, and a few seedlings struggled to emerge. Most of the row stayed blank. I thought it was probably a soil crust issue–and fearing so, at one point I tried to rough up the surface of the soil a little to “help”, but I suspect that probably disturbed any seeds that were trying to push through and doomed them with the rest. We’re just eating the few that made it now as mid-sized baby carrots.
Then, in early June, determined to do a better job, I planted 3 varieties and about 12 row feet. I covered them with lightweight row cover to help the crusting issue and to prevent any pests, just in case. I’ve been watering carefully these last weeks, and the result is looking reasonable. But there are still big gaps, and I’m still not happy with the results. Early July is apparently the time to plant the fall/winter crop, so I’m tweaking my system. A friend has tried the Zero-Mile Diet trick of planting 12-15 seeds across a pot, thin a bit, and then plant out the whole pot as a clump, at a spacing that allows the carrot roots to grow away from each other. So far her results with this system look good, and I may try this next year, particularly in the spring. But I think for my next planting I’ll try another option: make a furrow in the soil, then mix my seeds with a few tablespoons of compost (or in my case this year, worm castings), and spread the mixture out in the furrow. I think this will solve the crusting issue, help with more even seed distribution, and hopefully encourage slightly faster growth.
It’s too bad I’m not trying to grow slugs as a food crop, because I seem to be doing a good job this year! The new raised beds have hardly been touched, but my back bean and corn patch has a lot of holes. This is a bed that’s right at ground level and that I had spread unfinished compost on earlier in the year to finish breaking down. I think the compost is the culprit–lots of wet straw with slug eggs sat waiting for the warmer weather. I have been out in the evenings hand-picking the critters, and they are mostly babies that I’m then feeding to the chickens (!). I think I’ve managed to stem the tide, and although I’ve lost a few seedlings I suspect, I don’t think it will make too big a dent in the overall crop.
So my big lesson: take a page from those with more experience, and start those seeds outside of the garden beds as much as possible! The idea of direct-sowing as much as possible is great, and worthwhile with some key crops, but if the pests prevent the seeds from ever starting, you haven’t gained any of the advantages of never transplanting. And, although I’ll do another post on them, working with soil blocks this year has sold me completely on this technique as mitigating most, if not all, of the disadvantages of starting seeds indoors. Here’s to improvements for next year!