It’s time to start recapping the season.  Yes, really.

First (this may take several posts), there was a marked difference in the performance of the vegetables in the east planter and those in the west planter.  For the most part, everything in the east planter—which we built last spring and which has already been through one season—thrived and produced abundant foliage and produce.  At the other end of the garden, the vegetables in the west planter—for which this was the inaugural season—showed restrained growth and not a lot of output.  One exception is the basil which is ending the season strongly (it is still going) after a slow start.

There could be several reasons for this.  Different vegetables were planted in each planter.  If this were truly an experiment, there was no control group.  Also, the exposure to sun is not identical, east to west.  Specifically, the west planter moves into the shade earlier than the one to the east, especially this late into the season.  Further, I was very aggressive with my pruning in the west planter but did not do much pruning until very late in the season in the east planter.

But I think one of the main factors affecting growth is the age of the soil.  The soil in the east planter has already been through a growing season during which its components could combine synergistically as well as physically.  Last fall we had the soil tested and this spring, we added amendments based on the results.  If the soil were a fruit compote, it would be well macerated and its flavor adjusted for optimum sweetness.

The soil in the west planter, conversely, is brand new.  Based on last year’s soil test, we deliberately made it less rich by increasing the ratio of topsoil to compost; I think we also used less peat moss than in the west planter.  Its components are like a newly-formed string quartet:  The individual players are talented at their instruments but they haven’t played together much and are not yet fully in sync.  They need some time to practice and to get to know each other.

As the chef of the east planter, I will be taking another taste (i.e., sending off another soil sample for testing) and will make another adjustment to the seasonings (perhaps adding a pinch of sulfur, a sprinkle of nitrogen or another cup of compost).

As the conductor of the west planter, I will work with the players individually to determine their strengths and weaknesses (soil testing and amendments again) but mostly, I will exhort them to practice, practice, practice (but to prove that I am not too severe a taskmaster, I will let them take the winter off).