Saturday, July 11, 2009

Garden Journal 7/11/09:
Clearing Out & Giving Up (In a Good Way)

It's into the Compost Bin for these Tomato Plants (minus the containers of course)

Realization of the Day:
I've been on a cleaning and decluttering rampage lately, and my latest target is the garden.

The depths of the chest freezers (buried homemade basil pesto from 2002, vacuum sealed green beans from 2003), the refrigerator crisper drawers (what is that in there?), the musty tubs of forgotten clothes (shirts that have always been uncomfortable, sailing shorts Joe hasn't worn since he left Florida 20 years ago), the dusty piles of three-year-old yet still unread magazines, the dozens of saved jam jars I'm never going to use—nothing is safe from my much needed wrath. I'm even working on organizing my cramped and collectible-filled little studio office.

As for the garden—in all of its unplanted, heat stroked, and insect-ravaged weediness—I have a new rule I've started implementing with a gloved iron fist:

If looking at it only depresses/frustrates/irritates you, then it's time to rip it up or toss it out.

The pathetic tomato plants in the photo above are in the compost pile, along with some other seedlings that I know will never grow well even if I do get them into the ground soon. The decision was made easier once something (I think an elusive tomato hornworm) ate them down to practically nothing.

In this 4'x8' raised bed are my second (very late) broccoli planting (seeds started in containers), four rows of Maxibel and Masai haricots verts bush beans, a few dozen kohlrabi plants, a volunteer dill plant, and weeds. The first harvest of beans is over (I picked about 2 pounds), and I've finally come to realize that whatever matures after that initial crop is usually disappointing, especially in July and August. So out they go. It feels so liberating!

The Di Cicco broccoli plants—a new to me Italian variety that's supposed to produce an abundance of small to medium heads—offered up a few florets but already seem to have petered out. Joe suggested I leave them in the ground in case they took off and started producing again once it cooled down. Sorry, new rule in effect. I am leaving the first planting—which did slightly better—in the ground for now (except for the scrawniest plants I already gave to the chickens), but I have a feeling they won't be there long.

I couldn't get myself to yank out the kohlrabi just yet, even though only three of the plants have put on bulbs (which might be enough for a small batch of my beloved kohlrabi purée), and the others aren't likely to in this heat. Same story, different season, though this time I started my seeds in containers and transplanted them into the garden rather than direct seeding, making sure to plant them a little deeper in the ground than they were in the pot, as per instructions from my gardening guru girlfriend (and kick-ass kohlrabi grower) Cynthia at Love Apple Farm.

Unfortunately I think it may have simply been too hot for the bulbs to form. I still haven't given up on kohlrabi completely (I love that purée too much). I'm thinking I might try starting seeds for a fall crop, but not until it cools down for good.

I'm not sure why I decided to tackle this bed clearing project in the middle of a 90 something degree day, especially since I'd already spent a good half hour out there weeding other beds (and cleaning out the fridge is a much cooler job), but it really only took about 20 minutes, provided me with a huge green lunch for our foodie chickens (you can read more about what else they eat in the comments section of this post), and looks so much better.

For a lifelong packrat who lives on a farm that's miles away from everything, doesn't have garbage pickup, and always seems to need something two days after finally tossing it out, this is definite progress—and it feels great.

Are you good at giving up and weeding out all the useless and/or depressing stuff from your garden?

© Copyright 2009, the still pretty cluttered foodie farm blog where it would be a lot easier to keep all the flat surfaces clear and everything neat and orderly if we didn't have so many interests and hobbies (not to mention a passion for books)—but where would be the joy in that?


  1. Susan, I have over 150 heirloom tomato plants sitting in my back yard that I've been putting off getting rid of. Since we're dealing with a decent amount of blight this year, we're building a fire tomorrow and burning the plants instead of putting them on the compost. It still bugs me to throw them out though!

  2. No, I'm terrible at it! That would be why there are now mature oregano plants and foxglove plants everywhere -- because I just couldn't bring myself to pull out the seedlings. Oh, and parsley plants even in t he gravel walkways, because I didn't deadhead them in time :)

  3. I've just pulled up all my garlic early, because it was badly affected by rust and a depressing eye sore. There are plenty more plants that aren't performing, so I really should get out there and do something about them....

  4. I'm bad at it too, particularly at the seedling stage. Thinking that they haven't had a chance to really live and produce is sad, especially as I've worked hard to get them through the germination and initial growth stages.
    But I think I'll have to do some yanking-out this weekend. The rain has destroyed the strawberries (I have everbearing) and it just makes me sad and frustrated to see the vines. Its a good point you make about the frustration they cause by seeing them

  5. My hero! We still haven't gotten around to yanking up and tilling in our pea plants that stopped producing in June.

    But on the personal/belongings level, there are still unpacked boxes from our move last fall--oh, and I swear now that the chickens are out in their coop we'll clean up the garage....just as soon as the ducks move out..

    Sounds like I may need to undertake a spring cleaning this fall. :-)

  6. Actually the kids and I made it a morning project last week. We pulled the peas, cut back the swiss chard, and emptied 3 large leaf bags of leaf mold & manure as mulch over the remaining tomatoes, parsley, basil, and beets.

    I even got motivated to clean out the linen closet and the foyer closet, and have taken the gleanings to the thrift shop.

  7. Great topic since most of us are too tender hearted to pull up or throw out event the pooped out plants.

    I give away hundreds of plants when I have a successful seed starting spring. I can't put them on the compost.

  8. I cut down two peach trees that have had lots of problems. After spraying them to resolve the problems (one of which was peach leaf curl), they still ended up having them. So, rather than fuss and get upset another year, down they went! I'm a lot happier now that they're gone.

    A question on peas... This is the first year we've done them. Does anyone know if they put out more flowers/peas in the fall once the weather gets cooler? If not, I'll yank them up too probably.

  9. I just did some of that myself over the weekend. The spinach that bolted almost as soon as it was planted and the broccoli that didnt do much both came up. In their place went some herbs instead: basil, dill, parsley, and cilantro.

  10. Not on your life! I can't pull one volunteer or throw away a left over seedling or pull the chamomile growing in my pea gravel isles. I leave them all and then wish I'd thinned them out. I leave everything until they are completely dead and then I don't feel so bad pulling them up. My peas are still in the garden begging to go to the chickens.

    I'm sorry you haven't had enough rain. We had way too much in the spring, but lately it's been dry as a bone here in Maryland. Nothing is suffering YET.

  11. Well, I am okay at tearing things out and it does feel terrific. The heat messes everything up here.

    I am, however, much better in the house. Jam jars don't get gotten rid of, and I assume it will be a few years before making jam isn't something I enjoy. So they stay. I wish things were more beautifully organized. . .

  12. Windchimes - it depends on your climate.

    Last year our snap peas DID, in fact, give out a second crop in late summer, just as i was thinking of yanking them out, and this year's already seem to be sending out new flowers. Yum!

    Tossing things out - not so good. I try, periodically, but am usually defeated by the army of stuff my son and husband bring home.

    Re: garden clearing, I just yanked a bunch of non-everbearing strawberries out b/c they weren't making fruit and were threatening to take over the walkways, as well as an entire bed, only to find out that it's probably too late to plant anything else there for harvest this year.

    I'd been hoping to get some acorn squash or pumpkins, but they're all gone... oh well. I guess it's another good dirt spot for my son to drive his little trucks in. :)

  13. I am the worst at pulling up and cleaning out my gardens. I guess I come by it honestly, my father use to transplant violets!

  14. Tossing things out is a personal strength of mine, although in some areas it takes me longer to let go, like the books I've collected for years (it's not a big collection). I now have a pile, about 40% of my collection, on the floor waiting to go to a used book store. Garden plants I'm pretty ruthless with. I have a list started of the ones I will be ripping out this fall once it cools down...rose campion, say goodbye!

  15. I've gotten better at flinging and purging the house. As for the garden? Wisconsin winters usually do in just about everything. I pull out the few things that are in the way for now.

  16. I never pull a volunteer that lands in an unusual place.For some reason, I'm drawn to watching its progress.As for my regular garden space--when something is done producing it goes and something new comes in. I like fresh food too much to waste any space in my urban garden.

  17. I know I am late in reading this, but I delved in at the right time. This is the first year my garden flopped. Due to economy, I've taken another job. So I didn't get half my garden planted in the first place. What I did get planted did great for the first half of the season and then croaked mid way through July. I enjoyed two weeks of tomatoes, canned 9 quarts of green beans and froze 20 packages of zuchini/squash stir fry...and that's it. I had just made the decision to clean out my garden and start fresh for a fall garden but was feeling guilty about it for giving up! Thank you for continuously providing inspiration and wisdom. I love your blog!


March 2013 update: My apologies for the inconvenience - I know word verification is a pain - but I've had to turn it on to help stop the ridiculous number of anonymous spam comments I've been getting every day. Thanks for your understanding.

Welcome to! Thanks so much for taking the time to write. While I'm not always able to reply to every comment, I receive and enjoy reading them all.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated, and I especially love to hear about what's going on in your own garden. I know, too, that other readers also delight in reading about your garden successes, failures, helpful tips, and lessons learned. Feel free to leave comments on older posts!

I try my best to answer all questions, but sometimes it takes me a few days to get to them. And sometimes, I'm sorry to say, they fall through the cracks, and for that I sincerely apologize.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope you enjoy your visits to my kitchen garden!