Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Seed Catalogs: Planning a Central Texas Garden

Oh my the seed catalogues have started to arrive. Just at the time when I am regretting that I didn't plant a fall garden. Just at the time when it is too cold to get out and finish picking up the pecans from the later-dropping trees that I saw all over yesterday when we were getting the Christmas decorations out of the garage. Just at the time when it finally froze hard and killed off every remaining green leaf.

Except for the Swiss Chard. Not only our New Favorite Greens but also a very pretty plant, especially in the Bright Lights form with neon colored stems. The ones in the back yard, hidden from the deer who took turns with us getting the front yard crop, are frozen at the moment but will thaw and survive, ready to be picked when we get hungry for some fresh food in the deep winter. Chard was a happy discovery this year, that will always be a part of my future gardens.

This year was my second year to have a garden. I've learned so much this past couple of years - I always loved reading about gardening and thought I knew a lot. But the most important discovery has been that gardening is something one must do to really learn. Actual experience makes all the difference.

One thing I did this year that proved a big eye opener for me (and really bolstered my confidence), is that I planted *two* gardens, miles away from each other, and got to see the differences and similarities between the two. One I planted at home, like I did last year, but the other I planted in a borrowed plot of a friend who is no longer able to garden. So I had her knowledge to draw on. The two areas have very different soil, micro climates and even water.

Of real significance in success was in which varieties of vegetables I planted. Some varieties did great (Emerald Giant peppers), while others languished (California Wonder peppers). Some types produced to beat the band (snow peas), while others made little more than some green manure (edible pod peas and english peas). I'll post more about the varieties I like over the next few weeks.

So as I look through the seed catalogues this year and begin planning next spring's garden, I'll be mindful of that. My "My Space" blog proved very useful as a gardening journal, and I was fairly responsible about posting planting dates and varieties (and locations because I tend to forget what I put where). I also kept the empty seed packets and labels, so now I can refer to those and MySpace to help me plan this year's purchases. I am learning that the key to being a good gardener is experimenting and learning from experience. Keep trying and each year there will be more successes to repeat from the year before, and more fun new successes to discover. It's always a "Victory Garden" in more ways than one!

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