It’s time to shut down the garden and reflect on six lessons learned in 2013.

1. Only buy locally grown tomato plants. The fancy twice-the-price superman plants we imported from Oregon actually underperformed the local yokels. I think they just couldn’t cope with a Washington summer that saw a long drought followed by monsoon rains, interspersed with the usual hot and humid weather. CRR ordered some of the grafted tomatoes for his parents, and their plants thrived in the cooler South Dakota climate. We rather enviously helped his mother harvest the last of her tomatoes in mid-October.

2. Studiously ignore the parsnip section of the seed catalogs. I thought I loved parsnips, but it turns out I like parsnips in small doses. Like buying half a dozen at a time at the farmers market. We had two full rows of parsnips, and simply grew tired of the few preparations we concocted. There is still a bag full of them in the back of the spare refrigerator. I hope they don’t multiply in there.

3. In fact, studiously ignore the seed catalogs altogether until spring is just around the corner. Otherwise, we cave to winter cravings rather than stick to the tried-and-true.

4. Thin the ridiculous mint and horseradish. Let me repeat in harsher terms: Ruthlessly hack back the mint and horseradish, which both grow like the invasive species they are. A flame-thrower might be in order. (Hint: Christmas gift?)

5. Call my brother in Minneapolis for instructions on when to plant the fall crop. He had a huge late October harvest, including a massive haul of green beans, by planting in mid-August. We put our fall seeds into the ground too late. #EpicFail.fall-leaves-autumn-graphy-views_356851

6. Show no mercy to volunteer plants that sprout amid our carefully plotted rows. We wound up with a stupid curved squash whose vines menaced a terrified Brandywine tomato. And a pumpkin vine that crept around two sides of the garden and produced exactly 1.5 pumpkins.

Enough venting. Just remind me to re-read this list when spring rolls around.

Sandy Johnson is a journalist and a gardener, equally passionate about both. She lives in Alexandria, VA.  Visit her on her blog, Grassroots & Gardening

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