Coming Back and Looking Back

2 Dec

Wow. That was a lot of radio silence. It’s been busy around here since, oh, August or so. There have been peaches to pick and make into jam, apples to pick and make into sauce and apple butter (hopefully I’ll get a post out on those two so that I can record some lessons learned/ideas for next year’s batches), a hurricane followed by a tropical storm that turned our back yard into a swamp for the better part of August and into September. Oh. Right. And Panda and I got married back in September too, which kept us right busy up until we left for our honeymoon in Canada. After that, I don’t have much of an excuse for not doing my writing here other than the fact that I struggled to get back on the horse a little after I fell off.

So, as I mentioned, there was a lot going on towards the end of summer and early fall. The garden, however, kept growing. It suffered pretty mightily from a little less care than I would have liked to have given it though, and the storms (which dumped a at least 17 inches of rain over the course of August and September, though now that I’m looking up that data it seems like less than we actually had) certainly didn’t help. But now that we’re certainly at the end of the growing season (at least for us; despite 60+ degree temperatures lately, everything has been cleared from the garden patches to the compost heap except for the chard and collards, which are still kicking, onions and garlic bulbs were sown in mid-October), its time to sit back and start planning for next year. But before we start planning in earnest, let’s review what happened this year.

So here, in time lapse, are the photos that we took of the garden. Clearly I’ve got some work to do on my photography skills, it’d be nice to figure out a way to be more consistent on the placement of the camera, and it’d be really nice to take photos more regularly so you can see the progression better. In particular, towards the end of the (short) video, you can see both the drop-off in the frequency of my taking photos and the drop-off in the health of the plants.


So, now that this year is behind us, let’s also take a look at our yield. Again, we got kind of lazy about weighing and recording everything towards the end there, so all of these numbers are lower than actual, but regardless. The actual was lower than we’d have liked anyhow. So here’s a quick summary of the stuff that we harvested from the garden this year. We didn’t bother weighing leafy greens. But in general, we’d like to have more of, well, everything, from leafy greens to tomatoes. Maybe not more cucumbers. That was plenty of cucumbers.







And finally, here’s a roundup of thoughts to guide next year, in no particular order:

  • Theory: our basement is potentially too cold for really effective seed-starting. A lot of things were fine – tomatoes, cucumbers, some of the okra – but peppers and eggplants were a total bust, and I think we’d have had stronger tomatoes and okra with a warmer environment. Try seedling heating mats.
  • Related to seed-starting: try the newspaper-cup trick for easier transplanting.
  • Zucchini is a big effing plant. Give it some space. Like three good feet, at least.
  • Cucumbers are fruitful, and wily. Consider planting less of it (cut back from four to two or three plants?), and give it some space and a tripod to grow on. Consider putting it near the zucchini. In their own little section where they won’t shade or strangle other things. Also, they need taller tripods; the 4-5 foot jobs I put together this year are clearly too short – it grew up and over and wrapped around several times by the end of July.
  • Powdery mildew totally decimated all of our cucurbits by the end of the season. We only ended up getting one single (and relatively tiny) butternut squash out of four plants. You can see how badly the zucchini fared in the video above. The cucumbers were in terrible shape by the time I finally ripped them out. I plan to do more research on combating this problem, as well as any other tips I can find out there for better cucurbit production for next year.
  • Grow more basil and start it sooner or relocate it.
    • I think the anise-scented isn’t doing as well because it’s kinda hidden amongst the tomatoes.
    • The Sweet Genovese was already pretty tall when we put it in the ground (it was a transplant bought from the garden center, so it had less of a struggle. That said, I wish we had more of it, and it too was pretty suffocated by tomato vines by the end of the season.
  • Tomatoes could probably have been pruned for better fruit production. Check out this article for info on how to do it.
  • The five-legged tomato cage totally held up to several giant storms, while the cucumber tripod that blew over was the likely culprit behind taking down 5 staked tomatoes. More effort, but probably worth it to build another “centipod” per three or four tomato plants.
  • A lot of different types of greens – Arugula and salad and such – cannot be harvested continually. I had read this in multiple places elsewhere, and while the spinach bolted and we quit trying, we kept on keeping on with the arugula long past when we should have quit. It still tasted good, but it was getting leggy, unproductive, and starting to fall over by the time we finally killed it off. Next time, plan for a successive planting.
  • While I’m at it on greens: arugula is great. But consider mixing it up with a couple different types of other things too, eh?
  • Something ate more collards than we did. Slugs or caterpillars? I’m not sure, but I saw a lot of skeletal remains of collard plants. I’m thinking of trying to plant a few things around the borders (marigolds, nasturtium and the like) that may help fend off unhelpful insects, and also maybe putting out some beer to take down any slugs. They love that stuff even though it kills ’em.
  • Beans are easy to grow and fruitful little plants, but the 4 square feet of them that we grew only produced enough harvest at one time to really make for one good serving.
    • We should double the amount we’re growing,
    • We should grow them all in a straight line (down the edge or center of a plot),
    • and pole or bush, it doesn’t matter; a little support is a good thing for these guys. Build a string-line.

2 Responses to “Coming Back and Looking Back”

  1. val December 2, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

    Good to see you back, and glad I never deleted you from my iGoogle page. I have a shared goal for next year: trellising, and lots of it! On the collards, look up cabbage moths. They decimate my kale. Another thing to pick and squash, yay. They are hard to see because they are green and line up along the spine.
    Congrats on the nuptials!

  2. Lily Burns December 3, 2011 at 11:47 pm #

    Two things: 1) The sage apple butter is AMAZING, 2) it’s Canadia. Try to get it right next time, hmmm?

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