Things To Do Differently In The Garden Next Year


Hey guys!! I’m so glad you could join me, Jill, Amy, and Megan for another fun-filled Homestead Barn Hop! It has been so inspiring visiting everyone’s homesteads and seeing what you’ve all been up to! Keep the great ideas coming!

So, the garden is pretty much done for the summer. I still have a box of pimento peppers I’m waiting to ripen (if the bugs don’t eat them all first), but other than that everything is finished producing. I might plant a few things for a fall crop once I get the boxes cleaned out, and the garden is weeded.

The harvest this year was pretty slim, compared to what I was hoping for. I got a few gallons of tomatoes, but not nearly as much as I should have gotten from two dozen plants! The green beans did much better than last year, but still only enough to can a handful of quart jars. The lettuce, chard, broccoli, cabbage, onions, corn, melons, squash, strawberries, and most of the herbs did very poorly. Heat was a problem, along with a LOT of bugs destroying everything.

Raising an organic garden using heirloom seeds has been somewhat frustrating  and discouraging, though you know me,  I’ll just keep trying ’til I get it right! I’ve learned a lot of stuff this year, and have made some notes on what I need to do differently next time around.

Tomatoes

The biggest problem I had this year with tomatoes was that I procrastinated with staking and caging my growing plants. I’ve learned that you cannot stake them up once they’ve grown fairly large. The limbs are delicate, and will easily snap if bent.

Plus, you must know if your tomato plant is a vine or a bush variety. I had no idea what mine were. Turns out, the amish paste tomatoes were vines, which should have been staked up. Instead, they sprawled on the ground and bugs ate the tomatoes before I could. The slicing tomatoes I planted were very large bush varieties. They should have been caged before they got over a foot tall. The many branches which grew quickly weighed the plant down, and because I’d waited too long I could not get a cage over and around them. Thus, the fruits rotted on the ground or were eaten up before I could harvest them.

That’s what I get for having a baby in Spring. Though a good trade!

The good news is that I didn’t get blossom end rot on any tomatoes, which has been a problem for me in the past. I added a lot of crushed egg shells, coffee grounds and rabbit manure to the raised bed, so maybe that helped.

Next year I think I’ll just plant a ton of paste tomatoes. I found that I didn’t eat as many slicing tomatoes as I thought I would, and the paste tomatoes are good for canning and eating straight, so it’s more of an all-purpose variety.

Onions

The onions were pitiful. I planted Valencias, thinking they’d be big, like what you buy at the grocery store.

Wrong.

The biggest onion I harvested was about the size of a golf ball. I don’t know what went wrong! I waited until the tops were brown and dying back before I pulled them up, so I’m pretty sure they were done growing. Is there a way to make them grow larger, or was it just the variety? I think I’ll try a different kind next time.

I did notice that the onions I planted from seed were no bigger or smaller than the ones I planted from bulbs. The seeds were MUCH cheaper to plant, so I’ll definitely be growing onions from seed from now on.

Lettuce

This was my first year growing lettuce, as it was many other things. I put the lettuce in the box with my carrots ’cause they’re supposed to be good companion plants. The problem I found, however, was that the lettuce did not do good in full sun. The plants quickly bolted (grew tall and went to seed) and were very bitter. Not good.

I experimented, and planted more lettuce and swiss chard in a pot by my back steps, which only gets sun in the afternoon. It did MUCH better, and did not get bitter at all. I’m going to continue planting my lettuce in partial shade.

Carrots

My carrots did very well! I was very excited about that. I did cover the rows with a board for a week after planting to help the seeds germinate. I’ll do this again next year, as I feel it helped. I also diligently (though it was hard to do) thinned the carrot sprigs. You have got to thin them out to about an inch apart, or your carrots will grow no bigger around than a pencil.

I did notice that my carrots were all very hairy, a sign of too much nitrogen in the soil. The taste wasn’t effected though, and they grew very nicely (especially compared to last year’s attempt!), so I’m very pleased with the harvest.

Broccoli

We were able to harvest a little broccoli before the worms took over. Which was cool, as it was a first for our garden. Next time around, I will definitely use a floating row cover to protect my plants from those dreaded white moths which lay eggs on your plants and hatch out those nasty green cabbage worms.

I also discovered that direct sowing the broccoli seed turned out to be much easier than starting the seeds indoors to transplant, and worked just as well. Adding chicken manure liberally around the plants, and mulching them with straw really helped them grow.

I wasn’t too pleased with the variety of broccoli I chose (not sure what it was). The heads were very small, with small side-shoots. Next time I’ll try a larger headed variety. It just isn’t very rewarding to have such tiny little heads to harvest every so often. I’d rather have one big bunch at a time, you know?  At least enough to add to a meal!

Cabbage

The cabbage, along with the broccoli, was infested with worms. And by the time the good ones got big enough to harvest, they were very bitter. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck.

Next year I’ll try planting them in partial shade. And maybe I’ll try the pest control formula of picking off the worms, liquefying them in a blender, and spraying them back on the plant. Supposedly it works. Nasty, I know, but shoot, I’d like to have a taste of my own cabbage too!

But would they still be considered Kosher?? Hmmm…

Peppers

I’ve encountered the same problem with my first peppers that I had with my first tomatoes… blossom end rot. Not enough calcium in the soil. I’ll remember to add egg shells to my pepper bed next time around. And the bugs have been terrible!! I’ve had some beautiful pimentos growing, but the grasshoppers, or locusts, or whatever they are, are chewing them all up before they can turn red! UGH. It has been hard for me to stay on top of pest control this year.

Green Beans

My green beans did SO much better this year. I actually harvested enough to can!! Not as much as I would have liked, but still, it’s progress people.

I didn’t use heirloom seeds this time. My mother-in-law gave us some of her favorite Blue Lake greenbean seeds, so I planted them. I also did my best to stay on top of the Mexican Bean Beetles as much as possible. I sprinkled the plants with a garden dust (natural ingredients), and that really helped. But it took a lot of the dust, which meant spending more and more money. If it ever comes to survival gardening, I need to have pest control methods which do not require purchasing anything.

One day, I was talking with a lady who sold me some canning jars at her yard sale. I shared with her the trouble I’ve had with my beans. She  told me that she sprinkles wood ashes over her plants, and the bugs leave them alone. She also suggested planting lots of Marigolds around them. I loved that advice, and plan on trying it next year!

I also learned the importance of staying on top of harvesting the beans once they start coming in. I couldn’t believe how quickly they grew!!! If you let them go for more than two days without picking, the beans will be too big to be good for eating. The center turns into large dry beans- good for saving for next year if not hybrids, but not good to eat. Don’t let them go!

Strawberries

I have got to thin out my strawberries. Raised beds aren’t such a great idea for a strawberry bed. They need room to spread their runners, or they will quickly get overcrowded. Most of my strawberries either rotted among the chaos, or got fungus from being too shaded by all of the foliage. I’m going to try to find a place to transplant them, somewhere permanant where they can be in rows instead of a bed.

Watermelons

Maybe we didn’t water them enough? We got a handful of melons, but they just didn’t do as good as I thought they would. Also, my husband planted a very small variety. Each watermelon was about the size of a volleyball- round and pale green, just right for maybe two people… not good for a family of 6! We need bigger melons next time around!!

Pumpkins

Maybe I planted too late? I don’t know what happened, but I haven’t had a single pumpkin grow. Weeding and mulching would have been a big help.

Corn

Ugh. Let’s not even go here. My poor husband worked SO hard tilling, hoeing, and planting. The corn was looking so good! And then the deer demolished the entire crop. Overnight.

Our mistake? Not planting within the fenced-in garden. Bummer.

Potatoes

If you remember, I planted a bunch of potatoes that a local market was going to throw away. I figured, wouldn’t hurt to try, right? I used the no-dig method, and simply piled straw over them.

I learned a few things.

One- you have to put cardboard or several sheets of newspaper down before you put the potatoes down. Don’t skip this step, like me. I quickly found out why this is suggested… the weeds will grow like CRAZY, and your nice potato patch will quickly be overrun.

Two- make sure you have a large supply of dead grass, leaves, straw, hay… something, BEFORE you start your bed. Like, have it piled right next to your planting spot, ready to go. If you don’t have it easily available, you’ll be likely to procrastinate adding more mulch over the growing plants, which will result in tall potatoes with nothing growing on them. The tubers (potatoes) will only grow underneath the mulch, so the higher you pile it, the more of a harvest you should get.

I think I added hay to my potato patch twice.

I’m expecting to find maybe one potato per plant… if I’m lucky.

At least I didn’t have anything but a little effort in it. No loss. Just a lesson learned!

Squash

I have no idea what went wrong with my squash. I got about three squash from each plant, and then it died.Vine bores, maybe? I think I’ll try partial shade next year.

Cucumbers

I think cucumbers are my favorite thing to grow- they’re so easy! Mine did well again this year. My only regret was not planting a pickling variety. You can pickle slicing cucumbers, but there are a lot of seeds and tend to be mushier or more watery after canning.

Herbs

In general, my herbs didn’t do well. The lemon balm and basil did amazingly, but the many other things I tried planting pretty much withered away. Maybe they’ll come back up next year? I think planting in pots, and paying special attention to them until they are fairly large and can be transplanted, would be a good idea. Keep in mind I was starting everything from seed, which isn’t easy to do.

If at first you don’t succeed…

I’ll also be more aggressive with my basil next year. I didn’t realize how much and how often you can harvest from these plants! I’d love to make a bunch of pesto to freeze, and infuse some leaves in olive oil to preserve them next time around.

The Mystery Garden

Remember my mystery garden? Well, the only thing that ever came of it was a lone acorn squash. What the animals didn’t destroy, I think just didn’t get enough water. Or perhaps it was because the volunteer seeds came from hybrids, which generally don’t grow true. Who knows. It was fun to see what would happen though!

General Maintenance

Mulching made a huge difference this year! Mulch. mulch. mulch. Especially between raised beds. The weeds between my beds eventually got so big, it was hard to walk through there. Which reminds me of another important tip- make sure you space your raised beds far enough apart to get a lawnmower through there. Guess who didn’t.

I need to do better about pest control before it gets out of hand next time.

In Spring I plan on planting 2 weeks earlier than I did this year.

I need to be better about fertilizing. I never got around to making compost or manure tea. Maybe if I have a written schedule for this I will be better about remembering.

What I Wish I’d Planted…

I also realized that there are a lot of things that I wish we’d planted, which I’d like to put on my list of things to grow in Spring. After going through my recipes and taking note of what we’ve had to buy often at the grocery store, I’ve jotted down several plants that would greatly benefit us to have on hand here…

  • Green chilies
  • bell peppers
  • garlic
  • a canning variety of cucumbers (I have slicing cucumbers)
  • more varieties of lettuce
  • celery (also to collect seeds for canning/cooking with)
  • mustard (for collecting seeds for canning/cooking with as well)
  • parsnips
  • rhubarb
  • sugar beets
  • peanuts
  • banana peppers

So, there you have it. Lots of stuff to consider next year! Although what we harvested wasn’t nearly what we would need to eat off of for a year, we still got more than last year, and that is so encouraging! I am incredibly thankful for all that we have been given, and the knowledge that we are gaining from this experience.

And next year, it’ll be even better!

How has your garden grown? Any lessons you’ve learned that you can share with us as well?

Link up below and share your own homesteading adventures!


Kendra
About Kendra 1104 Articles
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.

27 Comments

  1. My garden did well with Neem oil diluted and sprayed to drive the bugs aways (all Natural) I use as much organic as possible. Also, discovered Tomatone – the best for organic fertilizer.

    Also, we have a couple of large (30 and 40) gallon fish tanks for ready nitrogen fertilizer.

    I plant tomatoes, peppers, chile peppers, habineros, fingerlin and kennebec potatoes, squash summer and butternut, zucchini, carrots, garlic, basil, oregano, peppermint, sage and last but not least lavender…

    had a great year.

  2. Your post sounds like it could have been written by me, just in a different garden. I will be trying some fall crops, especially because my MIL bought me a mini-greenhouse for my birthday awhile back. At least I’ll have some salads to go along with meals.

  3. Just skimmed thru some of you writings. Wanted to say you do a wonderful job staying w/ the journaling of your gardening. Keep it up. Sounds like others enjoyed it as well. You mentioned fertilizing more. How about composting? It really isn’t hard and does really make a difference. Maybe you do by now, hope so.
    Happy Gardening!

  4. Hey there! I just LOVE your blog. I stumbled upon it looking for gardening tips on Pintrest. Thank you for the effort of putting this together. My husband & I just bought 10 acres in high elevation mountains and I’m eager to learn what grows up here & how I can keep all the animals from eating it before me! Great tips!
    I noticed that celery was on your list of what to grow next year and I just learned that if you put the stalk in a glass of water, it will grow the hearts back & you can keep harvesting it. So in case celery doesn’t have a good crop, save your grocery store ends!
    Loved your greenhouse by the way! Inspiring!

  5. Just like everyone else, I love your list. SO helpful!

    I did just read that brussel sprouts won’t be bitter if you leave them on the plant for a frost or two in the fall…getting sweeter.

    Would that not apply to cabbage as well?

  6. I always plant cabbage and broccoli in the fall because there’s no worms either.

    BUT you can plant in the spring and have no worms. The whole grind the worms thing up is bogus IMO anyways LOL. The very best way is to row cover them. The moths have a life cycle and if you can keep those cabbage moths away during their life cycle they can’t lay eggs and you won’t get worms. Even the lightest cheapest row cover will work as long as you seal the edges along the ground well.

  7. The best brocoli I ever raised was from my fall garden, NO WORMS! I also tried to grow potatoes like you are doing. It was a disaster, we nurtured them all summer, adding straw, the plants were beautiful and got to almost 5 ft tall. We were excited when harvest time came, only to find that voles and mice had eaten almost all of them. What a dissapointment! Thsi year was disaster for us. Good luck with yours.

  8. Thank you so much for your post. I tried growing vegetables for the first time in my life this past year (I have never been around vegetable gardens as my mum wasn’t a gardener) and I didn’t have a lot of success. But it’s nice to know that it may not be me, sometimes things just don’t work out but the important thing is to not give up. So I’ll be trying again this spring.

  9. Oooh…also, when we clear out a space that is spent, we throw turnip seed out. We don’t cover it or anything. We’ll be able to pull up turnips through the fall and winter since they can just stay in the ground. (Got stew? lol)

  10. I’m wondering when you planted your broccoli. The broccoli we planted in spring was like what you are mentioning here. The heads were small, though we’re still getting shoots off the original plants. The broccoli we planted in July is producing heads 3-4 times the size of the spring plants and I’m sure we’ll be harvesting shoots off of the plants well into fall after the first few light frosts. Broccoli likes to grow in the cooler temps, so spring broccoli is really just to get you through to your fall harvest.

  11. Remember to plant your garlic this fall. It needs to get in the ground in late fall and then will pop up and grow like crazy in the spring. Barbara

  12. I had the same thing happen to my zucchini, one day it was fine and over the next few days it wilted and died. I thought at first it was wilting from the heat (90-100 degrees here in Ohio) but water didn’t bring it back. I’m pretty sure it was vine bores, although I never saw any bugs or even signs of them.

    My tomatoes and peppers have done well. My cucumbers did well too.
    Our strawberries produced approximately 2 berries but have done great at sending runners out. Maybe next year we’ll get a few more!

    We planted a few varieties of lettuce and spinach for fall. We’re also going to plant garlic later in October. Hopefully it all turns out!

  13. Why don’t you plant a fall garden? Any type of greens, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, garlic and onions for next spring. If you can just get the lettuce up(heat), it will keep going till frost. Greens will go on till frost, and if you like them, collards are even good after a frost. My grand dad used to dig a trench in his beds to plant greens. When the weather got really cold, he would cover them with a layer of leaves or mulch to protect them. All winter he would go out, uncover, and pick some. He also only used fall cabbage to make kraut, he said it tasted better.

    My garden did nothing this year. We have a severe drought going on, and are under water restrictions. I have kept two sweet potato plants going, one in a bed and the other in a trash can( cheap can, cut the bottom out, set potatoes on the soil cover with compost as they grow) The plant is now spilling over the top, and looks great.

  14. Kendra, as I read about your garden through the season, I think you really had a lot of success. Your carrots were beautiful.

    On the other hand, with September bearing down on me where I live, I still have green tomatoes!!!
    AHH…………..I have stacks of empty canning jars waiting…. and peppers that are also golf ball size…mere blossoms on my eggplant.
    I did learn a lot about horn worms! Also, I found out I don’t like green beans. I gave them all away.
    I started composting, so my dirt is gonna be awesome!
    But on good good note, I learned to can jam and have around 45 pints!
    I can’t wait for next year! Imagine how smart we will all be then.

  15. Did you plant your onions last fall? They are another fall crop like garlic. Seed is planted in October and sets (not bulbils!) are planted in early January. We order from browns of omaha or dixondale if we buy sets and have 1# onions. We get the vidalia, but the texas 1015 has won our hearts for the second year in a row.

  16. What a great list! I’ve been going over and over what I should have done differently next year. I even drew up next year’s garden plan!

    BTW, I never knew that peppers needed calcium so that is great to know and everyone where I live – in California – has had a weak pumpkin harvest. I’m guessing it is a temperature thing this year.

    Thanks for sharing your successes and changes for the following year.

  17. I thought vine borers was killing my squash and zucchini but it was squash bugs. Just take the hose to the plants and you will see them if you have them. I found it easier just to blast them and then watch for the bugs. They are awful this year in my garden.

  18. I’m a pretty new gardener myself, but one really helpful thing I have found for all kinds of pests has been just a spray bottle full of water with just about 1-2 T of liquid Castile soap added. Very cheap, easy, all natural, and kills all kinds of pests. I’ve used it successfully against aphids, little yellow caterpillars covering my beans, and several other times over a few years when plants were being eaten but I didn’t know by what. You just want to make sure you use very little soap, or you will burn your plants. Normally spraying the plants well one day takes care of most of the pests. Then going back 2-3 days later for another spray, and then just checking periodically for a return of the pests. It’s saved quite a few crops for me. I always try it first before I try anything else, and so far I haven’t had to use any other pesticide of any kind.

  19. My big problem this year was staying on top of the stuff too. I didn’t trellis my tomatoes, cucumbers, or melons and they basically took over everything! It came time that things needed to be planted outside and I figured that I could plant now and then have my hubby build the trellises but I should have known better. (As I type this they still aren’t built!) Fertilizing was hard too and weeding! I have such a large garden that it quickly became a pain to fill my little 2 gallon watering jug to fertilize everything every twice a week. I do also plan on making my own compost tea. I have steer manure, chicken manure, worm castings, kelp supplement, black strap molasses and fish emulsion that I plan on brewing for my winter crops.

  20. Rhubarb is amazing! It is so hardy and you will most likely get a bumper crop every year! You should try asparagus also if your climate is good for it. Rhubarb and asparagus is a good sign that spring is in the air!

    I put in my heirloom watermelons in too late. I have one about the size of my fist, the rest are as big as a small egg.

    Sorry about your tom’s. A lot of people up here are having issues with their tom’s too. It’s just the ebb and flow of things.

    Ours and others blueberry patches were taking a rest this year, so the blueberry harvest wasn’t as plentiful as it is normal years when we have berries coming out of our ears!

    If we lived near each other we would share our beans with you, as well are our corn! We have a lots of them! Especially corn. My in-law’s say that this is the best year for corn they have had in a long time. It’s selling like crazy at market and at the roadside stand.

    Keep a log and plan your next garden. Fall and winter should be a time of enjoying the harvest, building and planning! 🙂

  21. Love reading your garden updates Kendra! I think you just didn’t give your onions time. Here in New Hampshire when the tops die back we remove the dirt and expose the onions to the sun. I was told that’s what makes the onions grow in size. Last year mine looked amazing, then when I pulled them in August after the tops died they were the same size as the sets I’d planted in April! So this year we pulled back the soil. We’ll see how they do.

  22. You mentioned on a couple of plants that you think it didn’t get enough water, how do you water the garden? We were having the same problem and a friend told us about DripWorks, its the plastic waterline that you can do rows of and it drip waters. I love it and really recommend looking it up.

    We are doing a bunch different next year, starting with the black plastic to block weeds and on rows with no plastic I am burying the drip line. We had little cotton tails getting in and chewing the waterline causingflooding and a lot of melons or cucumber plants to suffer.

    I love this post and think I am going to try and do one this week. It really is helpful to look at and see what you can do differently.

  23. Kendra – It’s not too late to plant garlic. It does best when planted in the fall (late Oct-Nov here in Indiana). With a good layer of mulch over the winter ours does really well and is ready to harvest the next summer.

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