Garden Update 9/6/19

2019 could have been a lot better in the garden. No garlic because I missed out on planting that last year. Yields were low on just about everything this year. It was a wet spring, but we had pretty good hot and sunny weather in July and August. The apple tree had a single apple, and the pear tree has not quite reached maturity still. The corn I attempted in one bed did absolutely terrible, due to both the wet spring, and me planting the rows too tightly. Corn in general around here was very behind this year. I’ll give this a try again next year I think, but it was a waste of a bed for most of the spring this year. We also went light on the tomato plants this year, with only 2 plants in the garden, 1 in 5 gal. bucket, and two “Tumbling Tom” cherry tomatoes on the deck. Next year I’ll plant more, I do like having extras to can. I’ll need to give the tomatoes more space, the Tumbling Toms were in pots too small. Their soil quickly dried out between watering and the plants were very root-bound. They never really got a good “tumble” going. The ones in the garden were spaced a little too close, and never really got very big. I’ve done this same variety in the past, and it’s a favorite (Cherokee Purple), as well as a Beefsteak variety that I hadn’t tried that was also tasty, but I didn’t get as big of a crop this year as with previous years. The one in the bucket also didn’t produce as much as it could have, I think 5 gallons just isn’t enough soil for a tomato.

The biggest problem I had this year was with Cucurbit variety plants like zuchini, summer squash, watermelon, pumpkins, hubbard squash, and cukes. I tried to grow each of these, and wasn’t very successful in any. We did get a lot of pickles, but for the amount planted I expected a higher yield from those as well. Just about every squash disease effected us this year, powdery mildew quickly became visible on all squash varieties, and through multiple treatments with copper fungicide, some of the plants struggled through. That wasn’t the only disease affecting those though, bacterial wilt was a bad problem this year as well, which looks to be spread by cucumber beetles, although I only really saw one or two all season. Squash bugs however were a hug problem that I struggled with all season. I wasn’t finding a good organic method to control these mid-infestation. Next year I’ll do a few things to help prevent this. Planting Dill, Nasturtium, and Chrysanthemum, Parsley, Fennel and in the squash beds, this will attract beneficial insects and repel squash bugs. Dust plants with April-June with pyrethrin to prevent beetles from hatching. (Bonide Garden Dust – I think is fairly safe, with Pyrethrin to prevent squash bugs, and copper to prevent fungus.) I’ve also made sure to select seeds for next year that are all Powdery Mildew resistant at a minimum, as well as many with resistance to other squash diseases, which should help a lot. I’d like to move the squash to a new area, but there is only so much “crop rotation” will do in such a small garden space.

Things that DID do well:

Despite the squash issues, we did manage to get a fair amount of cucumbers pickled. This is in part due just to the large number of plants, but also I tried a bit of a trellis this year with a segment of 2×3″ welded wire fence for them to climb. This worked well at keeping them off the ground, giving the vine room to climb, and increasing yeild. I’ll definitely do that again, maybe using a nicer looking wooden trellis next year.

Lacinato Kale did great, we had a lot of cabbage worms at first, but a couple applications of diatomaceous earth early on eliminated the infestation entirely for the whole season.

Bush beans did good, I stuck with the same variety as usual, Great Provider replanting dried seeds from last years plants. I like this variety because it can be used fresh as green/wax beans, or dried on the plant for shelling and storing. I did mix in some scarlet runner beans in with the bed, which was a mistake because they mature at different rates, and prevented me from turning over that bed faster. Learnings from this was to just stick to one variety of beans in a whole bed for best results. I want SRB to work well, but I’ve never had good results, this is probably the 4th season of me trying them in different spots. Next year I’ll try another variety instead of SRB, maybe an Asparagus Bean in a 10 gallon pot with something to climb on, or Lima.

The garden grew in size quite a bit in the fall this year, with the expansion of one of the older raised beds with rotten sides to 4X it’s original size. It would have been great to have this earlier in the season, but we didn’t get to it until mid August. The new space is planted with fall crops, radishes, Kohlrabi, Giant Winter Spinach, Ruby Red Chard, Napoli carrots, and a small amount of mustard greens. Hopefully not too late to take advantage of these, but everything seems to be progressing well with the exception of carrots. I also put down cedar chips around the beds and through the walkway to make it look better, retain moisture, and provide a weed-free walking area. I also mulched out to the drip edge of the apple tree with wood chips, and pruned the apple tree pretty heavily to for space underneath the tree. Next year I’d like to add a 4×4 bed in front of the apple tree to finish filling out the garden area in the front yard. I’ll have to remember to put down a tarp before this winter to kill the grass in that area. I’m also looking to add some 7/10 gallon grow bags along the driveway to give more space and improve upon the 5 gallon buckets on the deck by providing more root space and more light. I’ll still use the buckets, but some of the larger crops like zucchini just don’t have enough space in 5 gallons.

Ending the season:

As we wind down the outdoor growing season, I’m adding a little to the basement aquaponics system to increase growing space in the winter months. I’m trying to better utilize space, by replacing the supply pipe at the back of the grow beds with a 3″ PVC pipe which will have net pots spaced along the top side every 4″ or so for lettuce heads. This will allow it to still function as a supply pipe with water running along the bottom, but also provide additional growing space on top. This will be my first experiment with the NFT technique for growing, since the rest of the system is ebb and flow.