Fall is here and the gardening season has come to an end. Every year, I look forward to the garden. The excitement of planning what we will grow, planting those seeds, and nurturing the plants to the best of our ability. Wondering just what kind of a year it will be. Will it be overly wet, dry, warm, or cool? All of those factors play a role in the garden. However, the thing I look forward to the most is the harvest. Now that all the hard work is over, I thought it would be fun to take a moment and look back on this year’s garden. What grew, what didn’t, and an overall 2018 garden overview. Whether you are a beginner gardener or one with plenty of years of experience under your belt, it’s always nice to take a moment to acknowledge all of the work that went into your garden.
2018 garden overview
Generally speaking, I plant the garden during mid-June. This year was no different for some of the plants. I did get the onions, potatoes, beans, peas, and tomatoes planted on time. The zucchini, herbs, and peppers weren’t far behind that. The radishes went in next, though they are a quick crop so planting late isn’t an issue. Then came the Brussel sprouts. However, the carrots were planted quite late – in the last week of June. I almost skipped planting them, since waiting so long was really pushing the limits on their growing time. We have an average of 100 frost-free days and carrots take 110 to mature, sometimes longer based upon the weather.
The first weeks after planting can be a bit dull in the garden. Few things will have sprouted and thus there is very little that can be done. The major issue is weeds. They grow quickly and can hog the nutrients and sunlight that your seeds and seedlings need. Thus, this is the main responsibility of the gardener. Keeping up with the weeds will make your life easier, but it’s a lot of work – admittedly I didn’t do the best job keeping up with the weeds this year.
As the plants grow and become better established, the list of work grows. Weeding is still a task that should be done regularly. With plants like peas, cucumbers, and other vining crops, taking the time to properly support them is crucial. For the peas, I go simple, using bamboo stakes, I string twine along the rows, leaving about two inches between each line of twine. This allows the plants to reach out and grab hold of the twine, supporting themselves as they grow. This process may need to be repeated if the peas grow quite tall. This year, I only had to do it once, as the plants only grew just above knee height.
Outside of these few tasks, I tend to basically ignore the garden. I don’t mean I completely forget about it, but I just like to let it run its course. Sometimes the best way to be successful in gardening is to just let it do what it wants to. If I saw a plant that looked diseased, then I would pull it to prevent that from spreading. Otherwise, I simply enjoyed seeing the plants grow. Of course, this led to an explosion of weeds that I never really caught up with, but hey it happens.
Each year, I like to try to grow something new. The variety of plants that I grow in my garden each year is small, but those are the plants that I know grow well for us and are ones we enjoy eating. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun. Thus, each year I commit a small section of the garden to trying something new. Initially, I wasn’t sure what to try this year. Then my husband and I spotted some very pathetic-looking brussel sprout seedlings at the grocery store. It was clear that they hadn’t been watered in a while, and there was a very good chance they would die due to the neglect, but at $0.10 for 4 plants, we couldn’t go wrong. Even if it was a complete failure, we knew it wouldn’t break the bank.
After a lot of watering, fresh soil, and large pots to grow in, the plants recovered and did quite well. In fact, they even started to produce small Brussel sprouts by late August. At that point, we had our 10 cents worth. Even if the sprouts didn’t grow too large, we knew this was a plant that could grow up here. Though in the end, they didn’t produce much, just a handful of sprouts that were no bigger than the tip of my finger, my husband was happy – after all, he is the only one who eats Brussel sprouts. Though I did try them and they were pretty good.
As far as experiments go, we are calling this one a huge success. Not only did the plants make a comeback from near death, but they provided us with a single potion of sprouts. It means that they will be added to next year’s garden. Surely, with stronger seedlings and a nice growing season, they will produce more readily for us.
Not everything went well with the garden this year. The tomato got the worst of it. I had picked out a large healthy-looking plant in June, but by mid-July, it was suffering. Though I still don’t know what killed it in the end, my guess was some kind of disease. The leaves went from lush and green to brown within a couple of days. I tried to keep it at bay but snapping off any branches that showed signs of illness, but it was not to be. By the end of July, the plant was on its last legs. I did manage to get a couple of tomatoes, which were still green at the time before I pulled the plant. Unfortunately, most of the tomatoes were also affected by the disease.
I can’t forget about the spaghetti squash, zucchini, and peppers. I planted two zucchini plants and four spaghetti squash, and they all quickly died off. The pepper lived, but over the course of the entire growing season never got any bigger. This will be the final year that I try to grow peppers, as I have never successfully seen them grow at all.
The chives also were a loss this year. This one really surprised me. The chive plant was here when we moved in, and judging by the size then it was several years old. Over the years it has been split several times and has always thrived. This year, however, it proved me wrong. Much like the tomato plant, it went from healthy to barely alive in a short time. I trimmed it back to just above the soil and hoped for the best. For the longest time it just sat there, bordering on death, but finally at the end of the season is started to perk up again. So, while we weren’t able to harvest any chives, I believe it will survive the winter and hopefully, provide us with plenty of chives next year.
This is all part of gardening. Some years things go well, and other years they don’t.
The forgotten crops
There were actually a number of things I never got around to planting this year. Lettuce and spinach were the two main ones. Every year I have grown large containers of lettuce and spinach, yet for some reason, I never planted them this year. I also didn’t plant cucumbers or broccoli. Cucumbers have been hit or miss for us, so that wasn’t a huge loss. However, I’m kicking myself for not planting any broccoli, as it always does quite well in our cooler summer weather.
The true wonder of each gardening season is the harvest. By this point, we gardeners have put many hours of blood, sweat, and tears into tending the plants and now it is time to see how much that work has paid off. Since every plant has a different growing schedule, the harvest can be staggered over a few weeks to a month or more.
The first thing to be harvested was the radishes. I grow these for my husband, as he is the only one who likes them. As usual, they did really well. In fact, some of them were so large that people at work thought they were small apples. Normally when they get that big, they can get woody, but he said they were perfect. A single row of radishes kept him going for most of August.
In the final few days of August, I pulled all of the potatoes. The plants had died back completely and it was time to dig them up. Although I didn’t get an official weight on them, I would guess it was somewhere between 10 and 15 pounds worth.
It wasn’t until mid-September that anything else became harvestable. This is when the beans really took off. I picked beans every few days and once I had a decent amount, I got busy canning them. The beans were certainly the stars of the garden, producing enough to can 21 pints. Not too shabby for an odd growing season. We also snacked on a few handfuls of beans, but honestly, we try to limit snacking, that way we have lots of homegrown beans during the winter.
After another lull in things, the end of the garden season arrived in early October. After a frost on October 1, everything quickly died off. But that wasn’t the end of the harvest. Amid cold temperatures and freezing rain, we harvested the carrots and parsley. We ended up with 17 pounds of carrots, some of which were grated and frozen, others were canned, but the vast majority went into a bin in the fridge for snacking. The parsley was hung in bunches in the basement to dry.
Just when I thought the harvest was over and it was time to pull all of the dead plants, I discovered that the onions, which I thought were a lost cause, were still good. They were all fairly small, and due to the wet conditions we had over the last few weeks, I doubted they would dry and store well. So I put my husband to work cleaning and chopping them. In the end, we got a large Ziploc bag full of diced onions to use in various recipes. We also got a handful of Brussel sprouts as I was pulling the plants. They were very small, but at least they produced something.
Thoughts on the garden
Overall, this was a bit of an odd growing season. The temperatures were pretty average, being mostly cool with a number of warmer days mixed in. The strange thing was the rain. We would often go two weeks without a drop of rain, and then there would be a torrential downpour for one day, and then another week or two of no precipitation. This meant that I had to water the garden more than in previous years. One nice thing about those heavy rainfalls was that our rain barrels were always full. This meant that we didn’t have to rely solely on using town water. We could use the rainwater intermittently to give the garden an extra boost. Let’s face it, rainwater is always better than tap water.
Needless to say, this strange weather affected the garden quite a bit. Things were behind for quite some time – even taking into account a slightly late planting. For a while, I did wonder if we would even have much to harvest. But as luck would have it, in the last month of the season everything seemed to get its second wind and really started to grow and produce.
Though some things failed and others flourished, all in all, this was another successful garden. Now that it is over, I can make some notes in my garden journal and work on improving things for next year.