Every year, I like to take time to write down my “Garden Reflection”: a list of things that worked well, and not so well, in my garden. The best time to do this is at the end of the year while the gardening season is still fresh in your mind, rather than waiting until spring when your garden memories have faded.
In the spring, your list will make it easier to build a plan, making you a more successful gardener. Then, next year you can look back at this list to create the next Garden Reflection. You can even use it as a tool to track your progress from year to year, learning how to improve each season. Plus, it’s fun to read through your lists from previous years! Here is my 2014 Garden Reflection.
2013 Garden Reflection Follow-up
I like to start by following up on my “what didn’t work so well” items from the previous year. My biggest challenges from 2013 were:
- Greenhouse Plastic – One of the biggest failures we had in 2013 was buying the wrong type of plastic for the greenhouse. We were really sad that the first sheet of plastic we bought only lasted one year. But, we did our homework this time, and bought a sheet of greenhouse plastic. So far, it’s been holding up really well, and it’s actually much easier to put up and take down since it’s one large sheet rather than two pieces we had to splice together.
- Trees! -Well, as much as I would love to chop down the neighbor’s weed trees (don’t hate me)… that’s not an option. So, I have been working on ways to live with them. Two things I did in 2014..
- I pushed the boundaries of what vegetables will grow well in part shade, and I grew more than ever before in my part shade garden. It worked out great, and I will definitely continue to do this!
- Left the greenhouse up later than usual in the spring to shield the vegetable garden from the thousands of seeds the maple trees drop every spring. I still had millions of weed tree seeds in my other garden areas, but the greenhouse helped spare me of several hours of weeding maple seedlings out of the vegetable garden beds. I still need to figure out a way to manage the seeds that drop in the other gardens, so that I’m not overwhelmed with weeding them out every summer. Any thoughts or suggestions are welcome!
2014 Garden Reflection
What worked well…
- Growing more food in part shade – As I mentioned above, I had great success with growing more shade loving vegetables, and pushed the boundary of foods that are normally grown in full sun (it’s amazing how much food you can grow in a part shade vegetable garden) and will definitely be doing this again in 2015.
- Letting go – This year, I decided to take some time off to enjoy the gardens more, rather than constantly being busy with new projects. Sure, I have tons of ideas for new beds and projects I want to do in my yard… but I put that list away in 2014, and it was fantastic. There were times where I felt guilty about not working in the garden, and times where I really had the urge to start something new. But I stuck to my goal of taking a season off from anything new. I need to do this more often, we’ll see how it goes in 2015.
- Community garden – This was our second year growing food at the community garden, and it was another successful year. Since the vegetable garden at home is now officially part shade, we grew all of the sun loving vegetables at the community garden in 2014. I had some of the largest harvests I’ve had since my home garden became shady – with bumper crops of kale (the kale I grew in part shade was amazing too), broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and zucchini this year. The tomatoes were a bust though… go figure.
- Starting fall crops earlier – This goes along with taking time off from new projects in 2014. Usually I am so busy working on garden projects, that I forget to start my second crops until it’s too late in the season. In 2014, we were able to enjoy salads through most of the growing season, and well into November because we started the fall crops much earlier this year. I was harvesting radishes, cilantro and dill through most of November too, thanks to our early sowing on the second round of crops. Definitely doing this again in 2015.
- Adding color to the vegetable garden – I love growing food, but vegetable gardens aren’t always very pretty. So in 2014, I tried something new – I focused on not only growing food we love to eat, but growing more food we love that also adds color to the vegetable garden, and make it look amazing. I did a little of this in 2013 too, but I took it to a whole new level in 2014 – and the results were stunning. My vegetable garden was gorgeous!
What didn’t work so well…
- Weird weather – Well, as always, the weather is completely out of our control… but can have a huge impact on the success of our gardens – good or bad. This year was an especially weird year for weather, and it had both a positive and a negative impact on my gardens. We had a very cold and wet spring, with record flooding in July (July!?! Yep). All of that rain ended up rotting a few of my tomato plants, and drastically stunting the growth of the others. The end result? All of my dreams of canning quart after quart of beautiful homegrown tomatoes were shattered; the tomatoes were a total bust. The peppers, tomatillos, okra and other warm weather loving crops also suffered, but we still had fairly decent harvests of most of those. BUT on the flip side, I had one of the best years ever for all of my cold weather crops. All in all, this was the most food I’ve grown since I started keeping track of my harvests, so I have no complaints (although I really did miss my garden fresh tomatoes!).
- Mice – EWE!!! I remember seeing some mice damage the garden in 2013 (they were sweet pepper thieves), but their population exploded this year. Ugh! They ate through the bean vines at the bottom, killing entire vines of green beans. They snacked on a few other things during the summer too, but it didn’t get really bad until the fall when we put the greenhouse up. The mice moved right in and got busy eating away at the crops that I had growing in there. They destroyed the Swiss chard, decapitated the rest of the green beans, and devoured the beets. I was super sad (and disgusted)! When I discovered that they were living large up in my greenhouse, we immediately took it down and ripped out the remaining crops. How you like me now mice?
- High maintenance squash – Dang, squash can be very high maintenance! I think there are more squash loving pests than there are for any other vegetable. It was a bit of a battle for my squash this summer, but I came out the victor! It wasn’t easy, but I held my ground against the squash bugs, squash borers (using only organic pest control methods of course!) and worked to harvest my squash before some unknown creature that was snacking on it – and I had bumper crops of squash this year. In the end, the mildew got the upper hand, but frost wasn’t far behind so I ripped the squash out rather than try to fight the mildew too. Was it worth the battle? Oh yes, yes it was. My freezer is bursting at the seams, and I get to enjoy my homegrown squash all winter long. Take that bugs!
What about you? Share your list of hits and misses from your 2014 garden in the comments section below.