It’s a bit hard for me to believe, but 2023 will be the 40th year I have been gardening. That’s not counting early attempts at growing things when I was a teenager and still living with my parents. Not too long ago I ran across an old computer printout of my garden layout from the early 1980s. I pretty much tilled up my whole back yard for that garden, and it is interesting to see what I planted.
It looks like kohlrabi, peas, potatoes, squash and spinach were in that early garden, plus a few things I can’t really identify! I still use the computer for garden planning, though these days I use Excel and Word software and a PC instead of a mainframe computer. I have found that labels and markers often get lost in the garden, and having a ‘hard copy’ map is useful to identify both edible and ornamental plants. It’s also quite useful in the planning stages, which is where I am at now.
In the past I have talked about the varieties I’m going to grow in the garden, but this year I’m going to share some of my thoughts about gardening in general as well. The last few years I have been scaling back the size of the garden, and I have stopped growing a few things entirely. I’ve struggled to grow good onions or potatoes, so I quit growing them and buy them now as needed. And while I was able to grow decent garlic here, I’ve decided it was more work than it was worth and we buy that now as well. I do miss the garlic scapes though, and that is one thing I can’t really buy. Many fruits and vegetables are also available seasonally at farmer’s markets, and I try and support the local growers as much as possible.
I’m also dealing with the fact I am getting older and have less energy than I used to have. I will turn 70 in March, and I find I have to pace myself more than ever when working in the garden. That said, I can still work outside for a few hours most days during gardening season, even if heavy digging and lifting sometimes has me nursing a sore back! I do enjoy being outdoors, and I certainly enjoy growing things. I guess for me gardening has always been a way to grow fresh fruits and vegetables that have good flavor and quality, and a way to grow unique things that can’t necessarily be bought. I’m happy these days growing specialty vegetables like the Korean avocado squash or the heirloom pole beans, and skipping ‘commodity’ crops that are readily available and also things that are difficult to grow.
And that brings spinach to mind. When I first started gardening, you couldn’t buy really good salad grade spinach – at least not where I lived. If you wanted tender baby spinach, you had to grow it yourself. And that’s what I did for years. Today though, I can buy organic baby spinach every day of the year at the grocery. Spinach can take a lot of cold conditions, but it does not like warm weather at all. That makes it a crop for spring or fall here, but our weather is quite variable and spring often turns to summer quickly and cool weather crops suffer. I have had good luck growing it in the winter greenhouse, but it doesn’t yield much given the amount of space it takes to grow. So I’ll let the pros grow it for me now.
I will continue to try and find ways to make my gardening chores easier. Last year I experimented with a couple of no-dig no-till beds, and I plan to continue that in 2023. I had good results in 2022, and the less time I have to spend dealing with a heavy tiller is a good thing! And I will likely continue to scale back more on my gardening as I get older, though I don’t see me quitting anytime soon. I truly enjoy my time spent outdoors, and I get a lot of joy out of growing our food.
I do want to mention a few of the things I plan to grow in 2023. I really enjoy growing and using peppers, and that is certainly a ‘value added’ crop where unique varieties abound. I’m actually paring back the number of varieties I’m growing, but there are a couple I haven’t grown before that I want to try here this year. Pizza pepper promises thick-walled fruits that just have a “hint of zing”. And I want to try two AAS Winners, Hot Sunset and Sweet Sunset. Both are banana pepper types that I think will be good for fresh use and for pickling.
I always like to experiment with new tomato varieties, and every year breeders are coming out with new ones that entice me to try them. Andiamo is an indeterminate San Marzano type paste tomato that I want to try. And Sunset Torch is a small plum type that was a 2022 AAS Winner I didn’t grow last year. It was bred by Frogsleap Farm, breeders of the AAS Winner Purple Zebra tomato that was a standout in last year’s garden. I am looking forward to growing both of these Winners, plus Raspberry Drop which is a dark pink grape type and also from Frogsleap Farm.
I’m sure there will be a few other new varieties to try as I finish ordering seeds. I hope you have enjoyed hearing some of my gardening plans for 2023, and here’s hoping 2023 is a healthy and happy year for us all!
Photos of Sunset Torch tomato and Hot Sunset pepper are courtesy of All-America Selections.