I know, we’re halfway through fall, but I’ve been a bit busy so haven’t gotten around to my fall garden update. This year, I made a number of changes to my garden plan and now that we’ve had our first frost and most things have died back, I thought it would be a good time to recap what worked, what didn’t and what I plan to add to the mix for next year.
First, I changed over to mostly raised beds to plant in. I went all out and layered cardboard on the ground to kill all the grass, built beds from 2×6 through 2×10 (depending on what I planned to plant in it), filled them with a combination of compost, peat moss and vermiculite. I put gravel around all the beds to keep the cardboard down (and pretty). They were a tremendous success and I plan to go to all raised beds next year. One enhancement that I plan for next year is a drip irrigation system made from PVC, similar to this one – but with a few changes: namely I hope to be able to create one mini system per bed and connect it to a 5 gallon bucket on a milk crate (to create some height and pressure drop) rather than a single hose for the whole garden. Stay tuned for updates there next year. I may also build a temporary green house that fits on a raised bed and try to sprout my plants directly where they will grow rather than in the cold frame. Still looking for some good plans / materials to use for that one.
In terms of new plants, I tried a few things. First on the newbie list was tomatillos. I planted a few seeds in one of the raised beds and waited. I waited so long that I forgot what I planted where (I guess that brings up another change to the raised bed gardens – labels!) and when what turned out to be tomatillos I swore it was weeds. I almost pulled it, but then I looked more closely and saw that the weeds were coming up in a 2×2 pattern – a perfect square…so I waited. Sure enough, in late July the first lanterns started to form and the onslaught started. I had to get more than 20 lbs of the strange little purple fruit. They make some of best salsa I have ever had and DeAnna used them to make a chili verde that was out of this world. They are a definite plant again.
Another new plant this year was cabbage. The plants I bought and planted turned out OK and we had some good slaw. A few of them I waited too long to pick and they had started to rot. Sauerkraut has that smell for a reason… The plants I started from seed are still struggling along. I understand that cabbage does OK in the cold, so I am leaving it to see if I get a January head of cabbage for some hot slaw. I also started a rhubarb bed with three crowns. So far I am unimpressed – it grew fine (other than a small Japanese beetle problem – need oil to the rescue), but never ripened / turned red.
The old favorites that were back included:
- tomatoes (they did great, but were too crowded with 12 plants in one 4′ x 8′ raised bed – next year 6 plants per bed)
- sweet and hot peppers (hot did great, sweet grew beautifully, but threw very small fruit – mineral deficiency?)
- asparagus (bed planted last year, so I only harvested a few stalks this year, but next year I’m supposed to be able to harvest all I can eat!)
- strawberries (were too cramped in the raised bed – spreading them out next year)
- sweet potatoes (big win this year – grew them from splits taken from last year’s potatoes – sustainability!)
- carrots (didn’t do well – too many weeds – deep raised bed will help next year)
- turnips (I don’t think we ate any so no more planting them)
- red and blue potatoes (beetles ate them up to start, but neem oil saved them a little. Left them in the ground after they died back the first time to preserve them and they came back in the fall and grew some more)
- beets (got a few good ones, but tried a fall crop and it never spouted)
- beans (switched to all bush beans this year – got plenty and no need to build contraptions for them to climb)
- peas (good crop pf peas this year – getting them in really early was the key)
- Lettuce / mixed greens (this is the ‘crop’ that I continue to tell everyone to try. Get a pot, plant some mixed greens in it, water it, move it to make sure it gets the right sun / shade and enjoy salads that taste a million times better than the stuff you get in a bag in the grocery)
Overall a good gardening year. We ate something from the garden almost every day when we were at peak production in July and August and saved a little to put away for the winter. It will be interesting to see what more we can do next year with everything in raised bed with irrigation and with the bees in full effect. Get out a grow something to eat!