Last Year’s Garden Results & 2021 Garden Plans

Last Year’s Garden Results & 2021 Garden Plans

As the rain pours down on a dreary afternoon, I find myself longing for those warm, dry days when going into my garden didn’t feel so muddy and gross. Remembering the extremely tumultuous–and hot–summer and fall of 2020, I can reflect on what worked and what didn’t. And, I can plan for a better year ahead.

2020’s Garden Results

Some successes and failures from last year’s garden, planned back in February of 2020:

Bushel Gourds

A Bushel Gourd in a hammock to protect the vine.
A Bushel Gourd in a hammock to protect the vine.

Slow growing, and nowhere near the size promised on the seed packet, but definitely cool looking in the end. I did have one neat-shaped develop a soft spot before I pulled them out of the garden, which was sad. I think if I had limited the vines with more than one fruit to only one, I could have achieved larger sizes. I was a bit disappointed that the vines didn’t want to climb, so my bamboo archway was mostly empty. Alas.


I tried two early varieties of watermelon, and after nursing the pathetic little vines, I ended up with my very first experience with spider mites and a whopping ONE ripe watermelon the size of a softball. This is actually the second time I’ve tried growing watermelon in the Bay Area and I think it’s time to give up. On my neighbors’ advice, I’m going to move over to cantaloupes instead (see below).


As always, grow more than you think you need, because pesto can be frozen and basil itself can be dried. We do a lot of Italian meals here and you can never have too much of that beautiful, fragrant herb. We probably had Caprese salad 4 times in the fall, when the tomatoes were going crazy.

A tale of two Peppers

I got a bit of a surprise when I was weeding last spring–a jalapeno plant had overwintered and was sprouting new leaves. I figured it would be a pathetic attempt at a second season but left it alone. Low and behold, by December, we have jars of pickled jalapenos taking up half the fridge. If the winter weather is mild, it seams that hot peppers can be a perennial here, and I am all for less effort and maximum reward!

On the flip side, my latest attempt to get any sweet peppers bigger than cherry-sized to actually ripen in our weather produced several stunted fruits that never got past the “green and still growing” phase. I think I’m just about done with these guys as well.

2021’s Garden Plans

Now the fun part: the plans for this year.

Seeds, glorious and full of hope!
Seeds: colorful, glorious, and full of hope!


Garlic leaves emerging shortly after planting.
Garlic leaves emerging shortly after planting.

I’ve grown garlic off and on over the years, and it’s always so easy. The only downside is that it takes up a part of your garden from November to the next September or so. Mine has been in the ground since before Thanksgiving and looks pretty happy under a layer of the seemingly unkillable oxalis weeds. I got California Late White from Peaceful Valley.


Yeah, I know I’m usually all about them vegetables, but my daughter is into everything beautiful/shiny/sparkly/endorsed by a unicorn, so I’ve been convinced to give some flowers a try.

I’m going with two varieties of sunflower, since I know how to grow them and they can be really striking: Mammoth and a mix called Heirloom Beauties.

I’m also going with two kooky flowers I’ve actually grown before that I know my daughter and her friends will freak out for: Bunny Tails and Drumstick Flowers. I am fully aware they will behead these and make them into “potions” and other items for faeries to consume, but that’s kind of the point.

Another fun one that a friend passed on to me is Money Plant. Its iridescent “coins” should be fun for the kids as well, and they (as well as the Bunny Tails and Drumsticks) dry well for display if they survive the faerie play.


Yeah, I have a gourd problem. My house is lousy with unfinished gourd projects, and that’s not gonna end anytime soon. The next experimental varieties are part of a (backordered) mix from Harris seeds called “Big Boy Mix.” It includes “Swan, Caveman’s Club, Bushel, Dipper, Birdhouse, Apple and Snake gourds,” so no matter what, it should be fun to try and figure out which gourds are growing on any given plant!


Having enjoyed lots of volunteer broccoli this year, I’m going to give it another try with the fractally-stunning Romanesco variety. More vegetables should looks like they were grown on another planet–and I’ve definitely seen Romanesco in sci-fi banquet spreads before.


I will be growing more Lacinato Kale again this year, because it’s always a big winner, but since we’ve been going through more and more spinach while working from home, I decided to try both baby (“Anna“) and mature (“Bloomsdale“) varieties. I look forward to making my famous from-a-soup-packet spinach dip with fresh spinach…and then eating it all in one sitting with my husband since we can’t share with anyone yet. Social Distancing isn’t all bad, I guess!


As instructed in Golden Gate Gardening, I found a short-season variety called Minnesota Midget which should be a success in my sunny Brisbane yard. I will be giving it a good head start in my greenhouse, a careful transplanting, and protect it with a slug force field to give it the best possible start in life.

The Rest

Bean: Tendergreen
Edamame: Tankuro
Squash: Baby Blue Hubbard
Tomato: San Marzano & Brandywine Blend
Basil: Italian Genovese
Carrot: Little Finger (shakes fist while angrily remembering the last season of Game of Thrones…)
Oregano: Vulgare (true Greek)
Kale: Nero Toscano/Lacinato/Dinosaur

Planning Tools

Of course I ordered my seed using my library of Seed Catalogs, listed out my varieties on This Year’s Garden Planner and will be mapping out my plants’ locations on the map I made using Google Maps. If you are trying to figure out when to start seeds and plant outdoors, my Bay Area Planting Calendar is a great resource.I also have detailed guides for the Bay Area on growing tomatoes (plus the printable Growing Guide), cucumbers, and gourds.

Are you trying anything new, weird, or exciting this year? Let me know in the comments!

2 thoughts on “Last Year’s Garden Results & 2021 Garden Plans”

  • Enjoying the blog! I’m in San Mateo so similar climate. This year’s big successes were rainbow chard- which is still in the ground and producing, having never flowered. And bush beans, which are okay for eating but hardy and prolific. I also learned I need to broadcast coriander and grow cilantro almost like a grass. Leaving one or two plants to go to seed gives you plenty to restart the cycle.

    I’ve given up on melons, but have had moderate success with peppers, jalapenos and serranos seem to do best for me. I tried spinach planted in November, but unknown pests keep it mowed down.

    This year I’m trying baby bok choy and Napa cabbage, both in a window sill away from the slugs until they get big enough. I may need to pot them up first, given how bad the slugs can be. In spring, I’m going to try kombucha squash.

    • Great to hear from you, Rama! Thanks for the tip on coriander/cilantro. And I am having the same issue so far with my spinach. I’m hoping to get a few past the seedling phase, but we shall see.

      Please update us on the bok choy and Napa cabbage–between the wet & slugs, it’s definitely rough to get those going, but protecting them until it dries up a bit outside is a great strategy.

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