Garden Hits and Misses: Our End of the Season Review

By Julie Sews - 2:45:00 PM

Our garden October W1 before we took most of it down for winter
I think the most important part of gardening is reflection, so you can learn from your successes and misses. We are so far under our produce tally from last year and even though we still have lots of root vegetables to harvest and a head of broccoli, I doubt we will have produced more than last year.  Last year we ended the season with 190 lbs of produce, so far we have 118 lbs, last year we had 155lbs at this time of year.
So why the lower produce total?  Here's my guesses
  • I think a big part of it is our drought this fall, it is the worst we've had in like 20 years.  
  • Bad placement and overcrowding of some veggies
  • some plants we tested out never produced 
  • small tomato varieties and lots of cherry tomatoes
The Misses This Season

Bad Placement of our Broccoli
We've never had a problem with growing broccoli even our first year when I just scattered some seeds (planted directly) in June.  But I've always given them ample space and light.  This year I put them in between rows of tomatoes interplanted with carrots also.  Well the tomatoes were to overpowering even for the carrots, let alone the broccoli.  The tomato plants ended up being like mini trees.  I joking called it my tomato forest.  I actually did like the set up of having my tomato forest because for the first half of the season I basically ignored half our garden (the tomato forest) and then during the summer it made harvesting and watering easier since they were all by each other.  I'm thinking next year planting lettuce and cilantro would be much better instead.

Overcrowding/ Not Thinning out Plants
I learned this year that I have a problem with killing (thinning) out my plants.  I always think maybe they'll all do OK.  Well I learned the hard way, they will not be OK and I will have no plants that fully grow.  Whopps!     So I plan to buy or grow as many of my transplants as possible next year.   I was worried in spring nothing would grow so I just went crazy and planted a bunch of seeds.  I learned that rutabaga grows great but takes a lot of space (it ended up crowding out fennel and our bell peppers).  I also planted way to much in our concrete raised bed and our large wooden container.  In our large wooden container, I planted way to much lettuce and arugula and they never grew bigger than seedlings.

Planted too Many Cherry Tomatoes
While I love cherry tomatoes for salads and pasta.  I think 13 plants were way to many.  I could have been fine with like 4 or 5 and planted larger tomato varieties instead.

Planted Carrots by Veggies that I Harvested Early
I thought it made sense to just plant root vegetables by themselves, but I found the carrots didn't get enough sun light to grow steady roots (they stayed like seedlings) and many were lost harvesting beets and turnips.

Plants That Didn't Produce at All
  • Leeks- apparently they take forever to grow and need to be hilled up.  Also they look like crab grass as seedlings which is confusing and caused me not to weed the side garden bed as a result.  They still have not grown enough to harvest.  I will not plant these again.  I'd rather just buy mine at the farmer's market.
  • Squash/zucchini/and pumpkins were infested with squash borer and squash bugs.  If I had payed attention to this sooner and planted them in raised beds I think they would have been fine.  I also planted them all late.  Zucchini showed the most promise.  I had two plants start to grow zucchini then die, then start to grow again.  We currently have been covering them with pots  and one died, one is still growing but too small to harvest.
  • Brussel Sprouts, This was our second year trying it and even though we planted early from a transplant it still has not matured.  Last year we planted late from direct seed so I was not surprised when it did not grow.  They also take up way to much space for a small urban plot like ours.  I'm fine with just buying mine at farmer's markets instead.    
  • Lettuce cabbage and Arugula   This was completely my fault due to not thinning out enough.  I planted our wooden box ( about 1.5 ft deep by 3 feey wide) I made with a lot of lettuce, bok choi, cabbage (I know what was I thinking with that!) and arugula, and to make matters worse I didn't thin any out!  Well I obviously set myself up for disaster.  Next year I plan to plant lettuce in the middle of the tomato forest (since they will actually like the shade), and I plan to plant arugula with mustards (which we did well this year) in our concrete raised bed.  Since they're both more hardy greens that are spicey and self seed very well, I think this will be an ideal space for them.  While both is great the downside is they can over take your garden (this happened with us our first year gardening with arugula).  But I've learned arugula doesn't like containers (this is the second year that's failed).  I don't plan to plant cabbage unless it's bok choi and i have enough space for it (meaning it's low priority for me)

Our Successes This Season

Plants That did Well this Season
  • Basil We planted purple basil in the garden and a huge planter of green basil.  This was the perfect amount and I loved that I still had basil (since I could bring it inside).  We gave it a spot in the garden with plenty of space and sun and it did great, unlike last year which I believed was due to lack of sun and space.
  • Rutabaga and turnips While they both did well, rutabaga took up a lot of space so I will plan accordingly next year (it was our first year growing rutabaga
  • Pole Beans We planed green and purple pole beans, overall they did great.  The only thing I would change is I would only plant 1/2 of the purple I did and replace it with green.  While I love the color  of the purple beans (it's so pretty) and that it changes color when you cook it (it turns green), I didn't think they produced as much or tasted as good as the green beans we usually plant.
  • Tomatoes  While I think we could have produced more lbs of produce if we had planted less cherry tomatoes and replaced it with a larger variety, we still owed a large portion of our produce this season to tomatoes.
  • Peas  We planted twice what we did last year and I was very glad that we did, the only thing I would have done differently is to plant the fall planting earlier.  With the drought this year our peas are just starting to get to about a foot high now.  I doubt they will do anything. 
  • Cucumbers We finally had a good cucumber crop.  The first year we gardened (4 years ago), we had a great crop (in fact it was about the only thing that grew that first year) every year since then we've had horrible fails at growing cucumbers.  I think we they didn't have enough space and sun the prior years.
  • Strawberries  This was our first year growing strawberries and I loved it!  It was a real help to our produce tally and we now have jam and frozen strawberries for smoothies for the summer and for making crisps in the fall.  Since it's perennial and is ready to harvest in spring before or garden comes alive and we're busy tending to it.  The only problem is the runners.  I'm constantly fighting like it's a weed.  I'm hoping to figure out a cheap low maintenance solution for this next year.  Cause I'm all about no maintenance!
  • Kale I can never rave enough about kale.  It's a dream to grow here in zone 4.  It's biannual so you can arrange to have it grow by itself in the early spring, just when your starting to think about gardening it's already there for you.  It's also one of the last plants to survive in our garden.  You can even harvest it frozen if you want.  It's also great to crumble up and throw into everything from eggs to crockpot meals to soups and is loaded full of nutrition.  The only problem is I often forget to harvest it.  So hopefully next year I'll be more on the ball.
  • Fennel  it almost didin't grow because I over planted but I cut back the rutabaga leaves all summer but they grew to full size and last threw a few frosts and a freeze, so it's harder than I would have expected
  • Radishes even though they did great this season (big no infestations) I don't know if I want to grow them again.  Even though they take up little space since they harvest fast, I really would honestly never buy them in the grocery store cause I don't use them often.  If I happen to have extra seeds and space otherwise this will be off the list next year.
  • Catnip we have plenty for Mr cat and his friends for the year!  our catnip grew to dwarf our house and it started early in spring and lasts until late fall.  I was going to try to sell them online because we we're producing more than we can even give to our cat and friends with cats but we had a neighborhood cat pee on some we we're drying outside (on our clothes line pole) that feel to the ground (our cat saw him do it and almost attacked the cat through the screen window).  So we'll see about that I guess....
 As you can see we had more successes than fails this season and hopefully by reflecting on this we'll do even better next year.  As I like to say we learn every year no longer how long we've been gardening.  I'm always excited for the next season when I've realized what I did wrong in the current season.  That's what makes it fun for me.  What were your hits and misses this season.  I'd love to hear it!

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