2022 gardening scorecard: a pleasant pepper surprise

Gardening remains one of my favorite analog distractions from digital chores–even if it doesn’t necessarily yield as much food to eat as I’d hoped. Which is good, since this was yet another year that saw my kitchen garden underperform in some weird ways.

(For your reference: my 2021, 202020192018201720162015201420132012 and 2011 gardening grades.)

A bell pepper starting to turn red, with a drop of rain on a leaf of the plant partially obscuring it.

Peppers: A

I take no credit for this addition to the list: My wife bought a wheeled planter and some plants for it, resulting in a reasonably steady supply of bell and jalapeno peppers over the summer (plus an egglant or two that I’m not going to try to factor into this report card).

Arugula: A-

Once again, this leafy green’s performance in the spring was not matched in the fall, when some heavy rains in September washed out promising rows of seedlings. And unlike last year, they didn’t mount any late-fall comeback. Should I have waited another few weeks to try that second set of seeds? Maybe.  

Herbs: B+

Parsley was its reliable self, but I didn’t get enough basil to make any pesto sauce, which makes me sad. My attempt to grow rosemary from seed went nowhere; fortunately, the tiny rosemary shrub my wife put in that planter did much better. And mint, despite its reputation for weed-like growth, was only a springtime contender.

Lettuce: C+

This was yet another year in which lettuce did not grow nearly as well as it did in 2017, but it was still nice to be able to step outside in the spring and collect some leaves to add to a sandwich. The important thing to remember: Lettuce is so much cheaper when purchased in seed form.

Spinach: C

See my above comments about lettuce, then add the disappointment of seeing a late-summer crop get washed out when I’ve been able to make that work in previous years.

Tomatoes: C-

I didn’t expect to get so many cherry tomatoes this year–because I didn’t plant them and instead was surprised by how many grew from seeds left from last year’s volunteer plants. I had worse luck with the plants I bought at my farmers’ market, which yielded only a few handfuls of tomatoes for me to enjoy in sandwiches and sauces.  

Beans: D+

This poor grade mainly reflects my own inattentive care, which left too many green beans on the vine for too long. I’m blaming a renewal of work travel that was not a factor for the first half of 2021.

2021 gardening report card: a belated basil assessment

This annual recap of my gardening efforts should have been written last month, but then I got distracted by other topics–much as the return of travel in the second half of last year distracted me from tending to plants during what were, in retrospect, some critical parts of the summer.

In fewer words, I’m still figuring out this gardening thing, more than two decades after my first successful experiments with growing herbs in pots on an apartment balcony.

(For your reference: my 202020192018201720162015201420132012 and 2011 gardening grades.)

Herbs: A

Parsley was not as prolific as in previous years, but basil was 2021’s pleasant surprise, between the two plants I bought at the farmers’ market that kept yielding gorgeously green leaves through fall and the smaller crop I got from seeds in a pot in the dining room. Mint and rosemary grew reasonably well too, and the the same indoor pot yielded enough dill to flavor the occasional plate of scrambled eggs.

Arugula: A-

My most reliable green lived up to past performance in the spring but then took a mighty long time getting in gear after I planted a second crop of seeds in September. That second batch looked to be finally coming into its own after we returned from Christmas travel–and then we had snow while I was out at CES, and I think it may be done for now.

Beans: B

We repeated last year’s apathetic strategy of trying to grow beans in random containers around the back patio, but they were not quite as productive this year. My being around less often to tend to them after July also probably figured into this shortfall.

Lettuce: C-

Someday, I will figure out what I did right to get lettuce to grow as well as it did in 2017. That day did not come at any point in 2021, so I had to content myself with just enough lettuce for some springtime sandwich fixings.

Tomato: D+

This grade would have been a D or lower had it not been for all the plum and cherry tomatoes that either volunteered or grew from seeds that I didn’t expect to do much of anything. They contributed to some delicious pasta sauces–but the slicing tomatoes I value most for their contributions to sandwiches fell victim to my being out of town in mid-July and again in August.

Spinach: D

Here’s another vegetable that did much better before, even though I tried growing it in almost the same spot this year and gave it the same overall amount of care. But there’s nowhere to grow but up in 2022, right?