If you are the parent of or teach high school age kids, you know that the freshman year is a disaster. That is not to say that students in that year don't stumble upon success, it's just that they are all over the place 90% of the time, and that last 10% is just luck. Because they survive that first year, they believe they've mastered high school when they return for their second year.
This is my sophomore year of gardening.
Last year, I was the poster child of freshman gardening. When looking back over my photos of last summer, I have not a one of the tomato jungle that was my garden. If that garden were a movie, it would be Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! We had so many tomatoes by August that I started feeding them to the dog; that lasted a couple of weeks until even he wouldn't eat one even it if was called beefsteak. It got so bad, I took up canning not only tomatoes but jalapeño jelly because no one told me you really only need one jalapeño plant!
With that experience still fresh in my mind, I started this second year by planting far fewer plants and diversifying because, as a sophomore, I think I know what I'm doing. A number of gardeners in my area told me peas and beans were a great spring crop, so I started those at the end of April along with radishes (which I have no idea what to do with, but that's another blog post).
Kate of the Kitchen Stitching podcast gave me some pointers about trellises, and that section of the garden is going gangbusters!
I also added cucumbers to the mix, both pickling and lemon. The lemon struggled when we had a late frost, but they are now back in action along with this year's pepper plants. I also invested in tomato cages this year, and only planted 4 plants, 2 Rutgers tomato (my alma mater and Sarah's new college come September), and 2 cherry tomato plants.
Finally, my mother sent me a book about raised gardens originally published in 1981 and updated in 2005 entitled All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew that has also been a big help. If you've made it to the graduate school of gardening, you probably don't need this, but I sure do. I'm also certain that modern sophomores use the internet, but I like a nice trade paperback I can flip through quickly and mark up with my notes!
So far, so good but it is early days. Also, those gnomes. We inherited quite a few of those guys from Tom the shepherd (apparently they were part of an elaborate practical joke years ago), and they are all over the yard. Yes, we are those neighbors.
If you're still new to gardening like me, what lessons have you learned and what resources do you use? For master gardeners... is it 4 years until I graduate, or is this what they mean by lifelong learning?!?