2014 Garden Successes & Failures

One of the really important skills of being a gardener is the ability to look back on the season and reflect on what worked and what didn’t work. And I will freely admit that I am not the most compliant person when it comes to this task. A few years ago I dedicated a notebook to keeping track of things as they would come up – it worked for a season and then I just didn’t really bother picking it up again. Another thing I am guilty of is the “I’ll remember that” statement – and of course I always forget. So I’m saying it right here – I am going to change. I will keep gardening records and I will stick to it. Frankly, it is silly not to. How am I going to remember which green tomato I liked and which one I didn’t? It is best to save myself the effort of growing them both again if I just make a note of which one I liked and which one was a waste of precious growing space.

The season started off a bit slow. We decided to do a home renovation right at the beginning of the gardening season (so smart!) and then instead of spending the long weekend working in my garden, I took off to help my sister plant her garden. Then when I finally got around to the garden, it was the end of May going in to the first week of June. Luckily I didn’t pile on too many big garden projects so I wasn’t feeling too overwhelmed at the beginning. Here are some reflections for the season:


A tiny bit of success with my first cauliflower grown from seed – unfortunately the rest looked nothing like this one.


– Dealing with Sod Mountain. It was one day of really hard work but it paid off. And I’m looking forward to utilizing this area a bit more next year by growing some squash in the raised bed. I will need to remember to build some chicken wire domes to protect young squash seedlings though.

– Growing peppers in the greenhouse. I think this was one of my proudest gardening moments from this year. And I’ve got at least 15 new varieties on my wish list for next year! So basically my entire greenhouse is going to be peppers.

– Mulching the front yard. This had been on my to-do list ever since I started digging out sod in the front yard several years ago. We were able to cover all of the beds in mulch and add a nice rock border with collected rocks (my parents have a gravel pit on their property!), so now it is looking much neater and is a lot more low maintenance. The plan for next year is to do a bit of an overhaul of the front yard, moving things around and adding some raised beds – and also removing the remaining sod, so I will need to add quite a bit more mulch, but for now it is looking nice!

– The galvanized steel planter. I was actually surprised at how well the livestock tank worked as a raised bed because I first saw the idea in a gardening magazine and kind of figured it might just be something they made pretty for the photo shoot and then everything died immediately afterwards. I’m so optimistic! Anyway, I really liked the look so I gave it a try and it worked wonderfully. I grew tomatoes in the planter and while I possibly planted them too close together, they did exceptionally well – and seemed to love the heat and reflection from the metal. I’m curious to see how long the tank will hold up for – it is heavy duty as it needs to stand up to cows and other heavy livestock so I feel pretty good about it lasting for quite awhile.

– Corn. I think everyone was a bit surprised that I grew corn. And it was delicious! The key was to start it in the house about a month early (thanks for the tip, Mom!).


Greens are always very successful in my colder climate garden.


– Growing eggplant in the greenhouse. I think I’m done trying eggplant. I grew 3 very very small eggplants (only 1 was actually big enough to resemble an eggplant – shown in the photo below). This was probably my fourth year attempting to grow eggplant and although it was the most successful year because I actually got something more than nothing, it wasn’t enough success to justify trying it again. I just don’t think it was meant to be. And that’s okay – our local farmer’s market has some great greenhouse grown eggplants.


– Dirty disgusting Cabbage Loopers. I wiped out the population when I first discovered them and things seemed to be fine after that – I was even able to harvest two decent sized cauliflower heads from the plants in October! Then I discovered the caterpillars in the community garden when I went to clean out my bed in October – they’d done quite a bit of damage over there and I ended up tossing a lot of the kale. Next year I’m going to be on the lookout for these creatures early on in the season, but I’m also going to either try an all-natural spray to kill them or consider a row cover. The other thing is, I didn’t find too much of a taste difference between the cauliflower I grew and the cauliflower I purchase at the market. Maybe I’m being crazy here, but it might not be worth it to attempt growing cauliflower, broccoli or brussels sprouts again. I will continue growing kale, but I will keep an eye on it for space bugs.

– Carrots. I don’t know what it is, but the last 3 years I have had completely unremarkable carrot harvests. The roots are stunted or insect damaged. Maybe I am not meant to grow carrots anymore until I have a large in-ground garden. I blame myself for this one.

– Mason bees. I don’t know what happened with my bees. What I want to believe is that I released them and they found a better yard to live in and made tons of babies. I guess I will never know what really happened to them, but I’m going to assume that I released them in a crappy location in my yard and they left – they did all emerge from their cocoons and flew away because I did not find any dead bodies in the release area. I’ve got a better location picked out for next year. And I have had some success with mason bees in the past, so I’m chalking it up to poor planning on my part.

– Squirrels. I lost a lot of seedlings (especially tomatoes and squash) to pesky little squirrels. I mentioned it above but I will be constructing some chicken wire domes to protect my young seedlings next spring.

One of the things I am glad that I took the time to do was take regular pictures of the back yard. The intention was to do this bi-weekly, but it turned into once every two months (which is better than nothing!). This gives you an idea of what my garden looks like throughout the seasons:

Processed with Moldiv

Clockwise from top left: March 2014, June 2014, October 2014, August 2014

Even though it doesn’t always seem like it to me, we did accomplish quite a bit in the garden this year and it really does keep getting better with every growing season. I’m really looking forward to what next year has to bring us – trying lots of new hot peppers, a few new tomatoes, and hopefully expanding our edible growing operation in to the front yard. In addition to that, we’re hoping to remove most, if not all, the sod from our front yard (it’s a huge project)! What are some of the highlights and lowlights from your growing season?



The Garden is Dying

After last week’s summer winter storm, the garden took a bit of a hit. The damage wasn’t totally apparent until this last weekend when the snow had melted away and the sun had come out. There was a leftover patch of snow in front of my greenhouse this morning, reminding me that it’ll be back soon “Don’t get too comfortable!”.

The nights are supposed to be warmer which means I brought the poor potted tomatoes out from the greenhouse again – they’d been shoved on the floor where they were getting no direct sunlight, but at least they weren’t frozen. Maybe they’ll have a chance of ripening outdoors unlike all the other tomatoes that were harvested green a little over a week ago (some are very slowly ripening in the house).

But as for the rest of the garden, it is a mixed bag. We cleaned out three beds completely on the weekend – the raised bed that had corn, squash, beans and a couple of tomato plants, the galvanized steel livestock tank that had the indeterminate tomatoes, and the little in-ground bed that I had planted lettuces and marigolds. A few pots were cleaned out that contained the dead corpses of squash and some annual flowers like dahlia, morning glory, coreopsis, and nasturtium. I could have just left the dead plants in place, but frankly it was depressing.


The good news is that there were a lot of troopers that did survive and will continue on until real winter hits, such as kale, beets, carrots, some herbs and the broccoli and cauliflower I was supposed to pull out but got too lazy. That’s right – the caterpillar damaged crop is still in place and actually doing pretty well. I haven’t seen another caterpillar since I destroyed the population back in August. And wouldn’t you know it, there are actually heads growing! I guess laziness pays off sometimes.


The rest of the damage was a result of the weight of the snow. Quite a few of my perennials are nearly flat on the ground and won’t bounce back this year. My columnar aspen trees were not looking so columnar, so we used Velcro ties to try to get the branches back in place.


Sadly the season is coming to an end and much earlier than I would like. The rest of September will be spent slowly harvesting the remaining crops, tending the greenhouse, and cleaning up the yard as plants expire. Since we are living out of a mini-fridge for now, I will probably spend a day in the near future canning beets.

I’ve already noticed that I’m spending a lot more time indoors and my trips to the garden are a lot more brief – the weeds have slowed down and I haven’t had to do much watering besides a can here and there to the greenhouse. As for outdoor projects, those are pretty much done for the year – I do still have the bottom side of my wheelbarrow to paint, but that is pretty much it. And the indoor projects are beginning again – knitting (time to start holiday gifts), updating my Etsy shop, doing a few minor updates around the house, cleaning the basement (thank you community association for hosting the annual free garbage day!), and pumping myself up to finish the powder room we renovated back in May. Let’s hope I have a few more weeks to enjoy the garden before I really settle myself in for the winter.