I reminisced about last year’s garden yesterday.
My memories prompted this post about the things that worked well, and the things that did not work well last year.
Lesson One: Tomatoes. Fail.
I found a new garden trellis (free, can’t beat that!) and hubby and I staked it into the ground during the spring. I was excited to try it as a vine method for the tomato plants, so we positioned it where it would receive full sun, east to west.
I planted the lovingly grown tomato plants at the base of the fencing, and interspersed cilantro and carrots and radishes as shade crops for the stalks.
The plants were set into the ground up to their first branches, and as they grew, I wove the vines and branches into the fencing to create a firm support for the plants.
I then ran soaker hoses along both sides of the trellis to provide direct moisture to the roots.
Doesn’t that sound like a winning plan? I thought so!
My poor baked tomato plants!
Here’s what happened.
The season was extremely dry, and extremely hot.
The tomato vines BAKED on that old iron fencing panel!
Lesson learned: I may try the tomato vine trellis again (once I recover from the pain), but ONLY with appropriate shade cover in this location.
Lesson Two: Companion Planting. Needs improvement.
Companion planting was mostly a win for me.
I love that there was space efficiency with this method, along with the great benefit of preserving the soil moisture by using quick growing crops to surround slow growers in order to create shade to the base of the plants. Win!
The problem I found with this was poor planning of space and seasonal expectations, and sun/shade requirements.
For instance, using radishes and cilantro among carrots is handy because the radishes grow quickly and get harvested before the carrots need the space.
The cilantro was a good shading plant for the slow growing carrots, but care had to be taken when harvesting radishes so the cilantro roots were not disturbed.
Spinach and lettuce among the strawberries was a part win. I’ll certainly grow the spinach in the strawberries again, this was a Win!
The lettuce was pushy and crowded out the strawberries, so I will give them a different space.
Strawberries thrived once the lettuce was purged
Dill worked out well in the strawberries also. I was hoping to attract monarch caterpillars, but saw none last year. Overall: Win!
Sweet potatoes were pushy tubers, and crowded out the strawberry sets, so they’ll have their own space this year.
Lettuce grown at the base of the pepper plants was a total win!
The peppers did wonderfully this year and the lettuce was handy to fill in for succession crops and then allowed to bolt for seed harvest and continue to provide the shade.
Lettuce and peppers in the mid season garden
The only possible downside to this combo was that it was not “pretty”.
I also tried interspersing several herbs under the bean trellis and among the canteloupe trellises. They were direct seeded and slow to grow, getting trampled and ignored when they most needed attention. Fail!
Lesson learned: Better planning will be done for good companions and their growing needs. Also, I’ll start herbs in containers and transplant those that are hardy enough to survive transplanting.
Lesson Three: Homemade Trellis. Win!
I scavenged old broomsticks and varying lengths of limbs, then created several trellises from them, using nylon cord to bind them.
The ends were buried in the ground for semi-permanant use and to sustain the wind during the season.
The homemade "limb trellises" used for runner beans
Aren’t those trellises beautiful? The natural materials got a lot of attention from neighbors and passers-by.
Necessary shade over homemade trellis
An added benefit was that once the dry hot season settled in, I could add a shade cloth tent and clamp it to the top of the trellis with binder clips.
Cucumbers were a sad crop this year, but the trellis had nothing to do with that.
Lesson learned: Homemade limb trellises are awesome! Let’s do that again. :)
Lesson Four: Succession Planting. Needs improvement.
I haven’t quite managed my garden time. Succession planting requires more diligence and time investment than I put into it last year.
Part of that problem was that a lot of time was spent maintaining the gardens.
Weeds and native grasses thrive in hot, dry conditions, so they were kicked into full growth during the primary garden care season last year, taking up a lot of my time.
I’m trying new gardening beds and containers this year, so we’ll see if that improves my time management.
Lesson learned: Time management is necessary for this to be successful. My hope is that cordoning my vegetables and herbs will keep the weeds from becoming invasive.
Lesson Five: Organics and heirlooms and beneficials. Big Wins!
This is the fifth year of having a pesticide and chemical free yard (partial strike is the pool filter purge, more on that later). Bad insects are hand purged when possible and infested plants pulled, bagged and trashed.
For the past two years, only heirloom plants are grown in my gardens, so the seed savings is beginning to pay off. I have a good start of seed saved from last year’s garden for use this year. Win!
I allowed some of the native edibles and beneficial weeds to grow in the garden and yard last year to provide forage and pollen for the beneficial insects.
Pokeweed as chemical absorber and bird food
Lambs quarters as both edible and insect forage
Amaranth native plant for edible and bird forage
I saw many varieties of bees and predatory flies, along with lacewings and increased butterflies last year. Win!
Lesson learned: If you build it, they will come. Give the insects and birds a good area to thrive.
Overall, I was fairly pleased with the new garden methods employed last year.
The natural methods worked well, which seems to speak volumes about returning to old ways and using old things.
What are you doing differently in your garden this year?