Wednesday, October 22, 2008

In the Garden: Looking toward next year....

Hmmm...maybe it's time to try this blogging thing again.............

We've had several hard frosts and my garden is finished producing but my time in the garden isn't done yet. It's time to get ready for next year. I took advantage of a gorgeous weekend not too long ago and cleaned it out, but now it's time to build the beds up again. I've got access to plenty of grass as usual, but I've been not-so-patiently waiting for the leaves to fall as my leaf supply has run out.

All in all I consider this to have been a successful season. There were problems to be sure, but we did end up with quite a bit of produce out of our two small beds. Along the way, we learned quite a bit. Here's how I'd sum things up:

Lasagna gardening: Very successful. I love it and can't imagine that I'll ever garden any other way. When we started out last fall, we had thick beds of leaves, grass, and straw with a bit of manure and peat moss thrown in.

As I cleaned out the garden on Saturday, I noticed that most of the matter in the garden was no longer recognizable as straw, leaves or grass - it was just beautiful, dark, rich and crumbly. Just lovely. I was very skeptical that this type of gardening truly would cut down on the number of weeks, but the weeds truly did stay down to a very manageable minimum. If only that were true in the rest of my mulched areas!

Beans: Very successful. I planted Seeds of Change Haricot Vert "Maxibel" and they were quite prolific. Even after I thought they were done for, they still produced enough beans for about one meal per week. It wasn't until sometime this month when we finally got a light frost that they finally gave up. Next year, however, I need to stagger the plantings to keep a more steady supply and avoid an overabundance at one time. I was also very pleased with the flavor and texture of these beans - as long as they were not allowed to get too big, they were tender and delicious.

The cantaloupe was juicy and it looked great, but
it just didn't have any flavor.

Cantaloupe: Meh. We did actually get a few small cantaloupe and while they were nice and juicy, they were not sweet at all. The vines didn't produce much but I have heard from others that this was just not a good year for cantaloupe. We'll probably try again next year.

Cucumbers: Quite successful. I planted several from Bonnie and one from a nursery here in town. The Bonnie's did quite well while I did not like the looks of the other variety and we did not end up eating any of them - they grew very large and were yellowed - just not appealing. The only "problem" was that they while we were inundated for a short while, they did not produce for a very long period of time. I'm thinking maybe I could stagger these as well. I also think I needed to be more attentive to watering them during our dry spells.

Basil: This did okay, but I've had better years. It was certainly at least in part my fault - I let them bolt too fast too soon.

Tomatoes: Overall, pretty successful. There were problems to be sure - first a fungus, then blossom drop and then the fruit ripening very late (and many not at all) but the plants ended up being quite vigorous and healthy and produced a lot of fruit - it just didn't ripen early enough. They were still growing and producing fruit right up until the very end. Normally my vines would be withered and browned by the end of the summer! I believe the late ripening was simply due to our weather - late frost and lots of cool, foggy mornings. I learned that they can indeed survive a fungal infection very nicely so next year I will be diligent about removing any infected leaves right away. And I won't give up hope.

Zucchini: I only planted one plant, but we were still overrun a bit. Just a few days of inattention and we were saddled with squash more suitable for playing baseball than for cutting up and cooking. I'll probably plant it again next year and just be more diligent. Right.

Sage: This did quite well. I noticed that it survives a light frost very nicely and I was picking it up until this past week. I plucked some of the leaves and froze them whole (the leaves are sturdy and survive freezing quite nicely) and have been using them in pasta dishes. It really is just like using fresh sage. I'm already wishing I had saved some more. Next year.

Peppers: These did not do terribly well. We got a few, but not many. Next year I'll plant more and not place them near bigger plants like tomatoes as they got completely overshadowed by my runaway tomato plants.

I should also add that overall I was very pleased with the Bonnie starter plants I purchased from Lowe's. I love that most of them come in biodegradable pots that you can put right in the ground.

So, some plans for next year...........

Lots of staking and caging! I will probably cage just about everything since most everything ended up falling over at one point or other - beans, basil, tomatoes, and peppers all ended up on their sides. The tomatoes will get staked AND caged. They ended up falling over and growing way out of their beds (see photo below). I do have a homemade cage in mind.....hopefully it was execute as nicely as I'm picturing in my head!

The tomato plants fell over and grew a good 3 feet out from the bed.

Watering system. I need some sort of drip irrigation system. I'll do some research on that this winter and hopefully put something into place in the spring. I lucked out this year in that there were very few times I actually needed to water, but who knows what next year will bring.

Starting from seed? I plan to look over different catalogs and may try starting from seed. Starting small - maybe just tomatoes and see how things go. Good thing about that is I know I can always schlepp down to Lowe's and pick up plants if things don't work out!

Add one more bed, extend existing beds. We've already started on that - the newspaper is down and I've added a few thin layers. Now that the leaves are falling, I should be able to get the rest done over the next week or two. I will also add grass and leaves to the existing beds to build them up again. The straw that got used as mulch this summer will stay in place and become one of the layers for next year.

The third bed goes in and the other two have since
been extended.

Oh yeah, and next year I will actually try to MAKE compost instead of just throwing stuff in a pile. As you might remember, I was intrigued by the vines growing out of my compost pile so I let them grow and here is the result:

Volunteer pumpkins

While it was fun to get a few volunteer plants, next year I want to have a real compost pile.

It's been quite odd to have to buy produce from the grocery store again. Fortunately our farmers market is still going strong and they plan to be open until the weekend before Thanksgiving. Looking at the grocery store green beans, I was REALLY missing my beans. Even the ones from the farmers market that I picked up instead just weren't the same..........

That pretty much ends it for this year though I'm sure I'll post once or twice about gardening over the winter as I look through catalogs and plan things out. Until next year.......


  1. Wow--when you return to blogging you do it with a vengeance. :) I am intrigued by your green beans--were they a pain to pick? It seems like the best eating ones can be a pain to pick(small and green--blend in with the stems). Anyway I meant to mention that my sage lived through the winter in PA. Especially during the milder winters, I was out picking sage all winter long. If yours is dying you might try planting some closer to the heat/shelter of your house.

  2. That's why I never blog, because I take up too much of my own time! ;-)

    The beans were a bit of a pain to pick. They did blend in and required me to get close to the ground and examine the plants from all angles. But they were SO worth it! Some things - like cucumbers - I don't see a huge difference between grocery store and garden - but with these green beans - huge difference. And I think they were also better than what the local growers were selling.

    I just picked more sage yesterday - I'm definitely leave it in but trying to figure out how to build up my lasagna beds around it!

  3. Have just discovered your blog and very much enjoyed reading it. Hope you'll blog again soon.