October is the ideal time to think back over the spring and summer gardening season and capture what went well, what didn't and what you want to do for your garden next year while the garden season is fresh in my mind. I like to capture what varieties did well, what I planted too much or too little of, including the specific names before I forget. I am forever trying to make the garden more productive and enjoyable. I also like to make notes of what I want to learn more about over the winter.
Here are my reflections on this year's garden............
In general, the garden did well in the spring, was very slow to start producing summer veggies, and my fall and winter seed starting was not stellar. We actually had a real spring for the third year in a row. Usually, the season changes from winter to summer like a flick of a switch. This year, we had a couple of months of actual cool temperatures before the 80's kicked in making it another banner greens season.
This year, I was again gardening exclusively in the back ornamental bed because we were still working on the addition to our house. This garden is in mostly shade with a hickory tree next to it so production of sun loving crops are greatly reduced. I found out last winter that hickory trees are like walnut trees and likely the reason that the summer crops didn't do well in the garden bed next to it. I planted the summer lovers in large pots this year and the tomatoes in a new bed by the addition.
There were high points and not so great turn outs for the season. Just your typical edible garden season!
The cultivated dandelions, figs, raspberries, bay laurel, lettuce, sorrel, Egyptian walking onions, basil, eggplant, Ancho pepper, cayenne pepper, sweet pepper, cucumber, celery and Trombetta squash did well. Greens were the standouts in the spring and Red Malabar spinach and Trombetta squash in the summer.
I grew Red Malabar, Chinese Multicolor Spinach amaranth and African Nunum basil last year and they did very well. This year, I didn't need to plant any seeds as volunteers were everywhere, in many pots and the garden bed. The other re-seeding stand out was red romaine lettuce in late summer. I am still transplanting them as they grow into covered pots for winter salads.
There were 2 new heat tolerant, sweet tasting mustards that did well in the garden that I will do again next year, Chinese Giant Leaf mustard and Komatsuma Tendergreen mustard. The giant leaf mustard has gone to seed so I am hoping for spring volunteers. The tendergreen has not gone to seed so I will put it under the portable greenhouse to see how it does through the winter for harvesting.
I only planted 2 eggplants this year in a large pot and that was enough for fresh eating. I would have needed another 1 if I wanted to put away baba ghanoush for the winter, but I still have some left from last year.
I had one Trombetta summer squash planted in the garden bed and that was plenty for fresh eating plus having many winter squash in the cellar. Its vines went both directions 20 feet. It requires a lot of space. The vines were disease free again this season. I'll continue to grow them for their versatility, productivity and disease resistance.
I planted my 2 Bush Slicer cucumber vines in a pot this year. I had plenty of fruits for fresh eating and 8 quarts of pickles. There were a few volunteers that appeared, too. These gave me enough to put up 10 pints of dill relish. For cucumbers, I'll grow them in the ground if there is room or in a pot since they do well in either.
The Ancho pepper plants, the sweet pepper plant from saved seed and the cayenne pepper plant I overwintered inside all did fairly well in pots. The Ancho and sweet peppers were both slow to fruit, but were filled with fruits. I was able to make a pint of chili powder from the Anchos to use for cooking over the winter and many pints of frozen peppers to use in salsa for game days. The chili powder was fairly mild again this year. Likely the effect of being in a shadier, cooler spot than years past.
I grew early Urizun Japanese winged beans in a pot this year and they did pretty well. I started harvesting beans in mid August. They have a beautiful blue flower. They are good eating fresh or cooked. I'll grow them again next year.
My raspberry plant did well. It's an ever bearer and it gave berries through summer and fall. The fig tree is loaded. They started ripening in late August and there are still fruits ripening.
I tried growing Heavy Hitter okra, green beans, and cucumbers in pots this year. I will grow okra and green beans in the garden bed in the future. They just weren't very productive in pots.
The green beans in a pot did okay. I went with Blauhilde purple pole beans that are resistant to fungal disease. I didn't see any disease during the season. I had enough to put up a few quarts of frozen beans.
The Christmas Speckles lima beans have several pods on them. As soon as they turn brown, I'll pick them.
I interplanted snow peas, Oregon Sugar Pod II, Little Purple Snowpea, Avalanche, in the pots with the eggplant and peppers. Avalanche never sprouted. The other two and did decent. I won't try Avalanche next year, but could the other two or the variety I have had grown in the past.
The broccoli, Brussels sprouts and tomatoes did not do well this year. I didn't do a good job of keeping the garden deer and rabbit deterrents refreshed over the summer so they kept getting ate by critters.
I planted all our tomatoes in a new bed, 30' away from the hickory tree. It is on the north side of the house, but gets good sun. My husband tried his hand at growing them. He likes to water every couple of days and uses fertilizer at least weekly. Unfortunately, our tomatoes were not very productive. Over half of the plants died and the rest didn't look bushy. The varieties we planted were Chocolate Pear, Big Boy, Red Pear paste, Cherokee Purple, Brandywine, and yellow storage. We had enough for fresh eating and were able to put away several quarts in the freezer, but not enough to can sauce. That's okay, though, because I have many jars of sauce left from last year.
The sprouting broccoli came back again this year. It grows robustly and the greens taste great in salads. The only drawback to it is the worms that come starting in July. I should cut them off at the first of July and start them again in the fall to miss the worms, but I don't the heart to so I just spray with BT, a natural pesticide for worms and caterpillars. Radish plants are supposed to repel cabbage moths so I'll try those next year with the volunteer sprouting broccoli.
I didn't have the best luck in starting lettuce and spinach in pots this summer and fall. Luckily, I had enough red romaine and oak leaf re-seed themselves that I can fill the pots for winter harvesting.
Next year's garden
We are hoping to finish our landscaping before next summer. We will be putting our mixed edible and ornamental garden bed back on the south and west sides of the house which gets much better sun and is well away from any hickory trees! We saved the garden topsoil so we could put the organic rich soil back so we are not starting from zero. Fingers crossed!
Here is my garden plan for next year:
Blauhilde pole snap beans and Christmas speckles lima beans around one trellis
Urizun Japanese winged bean (either in a pot or the garden bed)
Red Burgundy okra (in the garden bed)
5 tomato plants-large paste (Italian Red Pear), slicers(Cherokee Purple and an orange/yellow), a small fruit (Chocolate Pear) and a storage tomato (Yellow Keeper or other)
2 eggplant-Casper or Rotanda Bianca, Rosa, Shiromaru, or Amadeo (in pot)
1 bush cucumber (in garden bed or pot)
1 summer squash-Trombetta since it is resistant to vine borer, disease and squash bugs
1 winter squash-Spaghetti
Perennial onions-potato onion type
Potatoes in the potato boxes
Snow peas in pots with peppers and eggplants
Dragon Tail radish in pot by sprouting broccoli
Hilton Chinese cabbage (2-1 green and 1 yellow)
New Zealand and Malabar spinach in pot (1 each)
Lettuce (Royal Oakleaf, Grand Rapids, Butter King, Bronze Beauty, Celtic, Forellenschluss, Giant Blue Feather) and spinach in pots
Greens that stay sweet in summer-Orach, Amaranth, Chard-Perpetual Spinach and Fordhook, Chinese Multicolor Spinach, Purple Stardust Iceplant, Komatsuna, Giant Leaf mustard
Herbs-Dill, Basil (Nunum, Genovese, Cardinal), Cilantro, Lion's Ear, Rosemary, Parsley, Sage
Sweet and hot peppers-check at end of winter to see what I need
No cantaloupe, watermelon, beets, heading cabbage or broccoli
Flowers-zinnias, alyssum, marigolds, Cock's Comb, peach hollyhocks, Pride of Madeira, blue morning glory, Love Lies Bleeding
I have to be stern with myself about what I will not plant. In the past 2 years, I planted much less than usual and had plenty for fresh eating and preserving. My eyes are always bigger than my space or need!