My five gardening regrets of 2015

Gardening is a long-term learning process. I’m never perfect at it. It’s got a great force-feedback. The work you put in is directly what you get out of it. This is a list of the things I wish I had done this past summer, and what I’ll do in the future.

No leeks.

My gardening ethos is to grow vegetables that are either expensive or impossible to buy in a store. I can never afford the amount of leeks that I want to eat, though. I was simply too far behind in my gardening to put in leeks this year. They must be started indoors and planted out as early as possible. They have a really long, 120-day growing season. They demand a whole plot of the garden to themselves for the entire year. But this Welsh guy really likes these alliums. I’ll find space for them next year.

The other screwy thing about leeks is that most recipes call for 3-4, so that means that growing a dozen results in a meager supply. Leeks must be planted by the armload.

Starting late on the beans.

I planted both fava beans and sugar snap peas this year. What I should have done was plant them last fall! You can certainly sow them in the spring, but fall sowing means that they will come up at the earliest time their internal clocks tell them to. I waited three or four weeks after the first safe time to plant them and they didn’t do as well as I had hoped. Peas and favas are cool-season crops and simply don’t like heat.

This fall, they’ll get planted on the same day I plant my garlic – All Saints’ Day.

I failed to protect my tomatoes from deer.

We have deer. We have groundhogs. Nothing will keep them out. Part of this process is learning to live with what you cannot control.

I had great San Marzano tomatoes growing. It was my first season planting them. Then one morning, I found all of the tops stripped off. The tomatoes rebounded, only to be munched again and again. Even the green tomatoes hidden in the mature plants were eventually sussed out and consumed.

I bought deer netting and posts to fence off my tomatoes, but it was too late. I haven’t gotten a thing from them this year. Next year, they’ll be all going up in fencing and I’m not taking chances.

I did not plan my meals around my vegetables.

Another experiment this year involved growing shishito peppers. They’re these small green Japanese peppers and they’re not spicy. They are meant to be briefly sauteed and then eaten as a bar snack with beer. Sounded good to me. Unfortunately, I never got around to making a bunch of them. Now they are red on the vine, which is a clue that they’ve become spicy. What does one do with peppers that have become mildly hot? I suppose we’ll still try to eat them.

I never plant enough herbs.

It’s folly in the spring to think that one pot of chives will sustain me. Same with thyme. I planted enough basil by sheer force, devoting half a bed to it.

The thing with herb planting is that you must plant enough that you never feel guilty about snipping it for a dish. I only had chervil two or three times this year, which is a shame because I like it and you simply cannot buy it in stores. Next year, more chervil and more of everything else so that I have enough to actually cook with!