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.
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.
The onions were pitiful. I planted Valencias, thinking they’d be big, like what you buy at the grocery store.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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…
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.
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!
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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
- 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)
- sugar beets
- 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!