The 2012 garden is underway at Chez Sweetcakes. At least, the planning for this year’s garden has begun.

Our first-ever garden was a success last year, with multiple types of tomatoes, a cucumber plant that worked overtime, and a pepper or two. The rhubarb we planted last year is already growing crazy with long stalks aching to turn red, flowering plants on top of that, and leaves that can stretch well beyond their allotted space.

Last year, we started with two very manageable 4’X4’ square raised beds, which we divided into one foot square sections. Small plants occupied space in one square, medium-sized plants received their own square, and large plants took more than a square each.

There was a large learning curve on placement – the peppers didn’t like being near the tomatoes, the tomatillos and their filament-thin coverings were sprawly, the rhubarb didn’t get enough space and had to be cut back repeatedly so it didn’t overrun the garden. Also, the peppers, in general, didn’t do so well last year, not sure why. The beets, also, didn’t thrive. And what we thought were leeks were really chives. I really wanted those last two vegetables to make it into my kitchen, so I hope to figure our what it takes to make them happy in the garden bed this year.

The tomatoes were plentiful. Their smells and colors made me happy every time I walked by the garden. 

We had an automated watering system. This was very important to our success. We also had a late rainy season, which helped our virgin effort, and a late freeze, so the apricot tree above the garden didn’t overwhelm us with fruit we couldn’t deal with. Much worked in our favor in 2011.

For some reason, this makes the adults at Chez Sweetcakes believe we are ready to double the size of the garden.

This year’s list picks up much from last year’s inventory: heirloom tomatoes, grape tomatoes, multiple types of peppers, tomatillos, cucumbers, leeks and beets, too. We’re adding in: spinach, quinoa, cantaloupe, and a better herb garden, with plenty of basil so we can make our own pesto.

The apricot tree needs trimming back toute de suite, or we will have a run in between falling fruit and tender vegetable plants. Weeks ago, the tree was humming with bees, and just today I noticed a swell of fruit buds taking hold.

Also this year, we have a new table, built be the ever-handy Mr. Sweetcakes – our Viking table, and we also call it the Table of Strong Opinions. It’s strong enough to dance on.

Can’t wait to place the season’s harvest on it, to have dear friends seated around it enjoying barbecue and sangria, mimosas and cinnamon bread. Can't wait to sit out in the morning sun with a cup of coffee and some writing and reading to do.

And now, some not-about-gardenings:

"A Nature Lover's Almanac" by Diane Olson is almost here. I read Diane's column in Catalyst for years before I met her and came to know her as friend and coworker. She's as bad-ass as it gets, in every direction.

Dancing Girl Press is looking for poetry from women for their annual chapbook series. Our own Poppycakes has a chapbook, "EMUseum," coauthored with a poet-friend of hers, so you'll want to check that out, too

"Girls on Fire" is taking submissions to build a new anthology - they're looking for work that tackles the tough issues facing teenage girls. Check them out.