I have to admit that this summer came with many, many gardening disasters. “Gardening lessons” maybe is a better way to think of it. There were, for instance, some hard lessons in soil fertility.
Last summer we got some trees cut down and we were left with a staggering amount of mulch, mulch that I slowly and laboriously transferred to our many garden beds. At the time I thought that since I was adding organic matter to the beds I was improving the soil. I planted chard, onion, kale, spinach, and potatoes in those beds, but only the potatoes became proper plants, and even then they produced small, scant tubers.
It turns out by adding all that mulch I built unhealthy beds that are too rich in carbon. I now understand that that huge dose of carbon needs to be balanced by nitrogen, and I am currently adding as much nitrogen-rich compost as I can to amend the beds and get them ready for next year.
That was the biggest lesson of this summer, for sure.
Some other odd things happened in the yard, though. We seeded radishes in a planter by the house, and in a few weeks they had shot up almost two feet and formed beautiful, four-petaled flowers blushing pink and violet. I was familiar with the short, friendly bunches of leaves that radishes usually form, so I knew something was amiss. I started wondering if the seeds we had planted were even truly radish seeds. I tasted the flowers and found that they did have a mild radish flavour. Still not convinced I periodically pulled up one of the plants to find a stunted radish the size of a dime beneath the soil. Once the delicate flowers withered things got really crazy. Pods shaped like rifle shells appeared up and down the length of the shoots. They stood upright, which made them look particularly menacing.
Anyone who has gardened before knows that I am describing a “bolting” radish. We planted the radishes too late in the season, and the long, hot days made the plant go to seed instead of developing a root. Live and learn.
The fortunate part of this mistake is that the pods formed by a bolting radish are actually delicious. They taste just like radish root – possibly even hotter on the tongue than the roots would have been – but have the texture of a snap pea. Most welcome in salads and pickle jars.