After 20 years of obsessing about my vegetable garden, I've come to one conclusion: it's all about the timing.
Yes, yes, good soil is essential, but we're all adults here. That goes without saying.
And my failures in the vegetable garden are almost uniformly failures of timing. Last year, for example, we had a frost June 1! That meant everything heat-loving went in too early.
On the other hand, I've been observing my volunteers and seeing that Mother Nature is often ahead of my schedule. Self-seeded mache germinates in fall and is there waiting under the snow for spring. This mache tastes much better than any mache I've ever seeded in early spring.
Pole bean seeds that fell off my arch last year are now up and big, substantial plants getting ready to climb…whereas I would never push a pole bean seed into the ground until Memorial Day.
And an Italian leaf broccoli that I seeded late last summer did nothing worth considering last fall…but was up and gorgeous in late May…and eaten with gusto.
Mother Nature clearly has an advantage over me in that she knows the exact temperature and light conditions under which seeds are ready to germinate and plants to grow. But she has another advantage in that she doesn't have to stomp around a wet spring garden compacting the soil in order to get things in at the right moment.
She just casually flings around a bunch of seed in late summer and fall and lets it sit there waiting. I'm sure much of it rots, especially given the harsh winters we have in Zone 4.
But some of it doesn't. I think Mother Nature deserves a little mimicry. So this year, as a science experiment, I am going to try seeding spinach, radishes, and peas in November, right before the ground freezes.