The time has come to give a final account of this year's garden experience to wrap it up and put to rest. Was I ever lucky last year to have had such a bountiful garden on my very first year of gardening. I knew nothing upon my first planting, and still most of the vegetables grew. That first experience planted the seed of hope and anticipation within me, even in times of very little yield. There is always next year to look forward to, right? RIGHT???
Early spring I grew many seedlings indoors. I learned which do well and which are better left to be planted straight into the ground. Most were a success and next year I plan to get into grow lights so the seedlings will be larger by the time they are ready to be planted. I learned about cold frames quite by accident by throwing a bunch of seedling plants into an empty raised planter and threw over heavy sheet plastic that was laying around from an old repair job. That early spring evening there were so many seedlings to bring indoors for the night that I chose to throw the ones that looked the weakest
into the planter assuming they would die anyway. When the wind blew off the plastic sheeting days later ( I had forgotten about my lost causes by then), I discovered those weak little plants were thriving and strong looking. This idea is still in the making but have confidence by the time next April rolls around I will have thought of some novel way to make a cold frame.
Then came the animals. Or rodents, depending how you look at them. The bunnies came and chewed off a large percent of my small plants. They are tricky little guys. They will leave some varieties of your young plants alone until you become comfortable with thinking they do not care for it. Then a month or so later as if struck by a sudden whim they will come and chew off the final plants that they had previously left alone. I tried many ways to deter them but have come to the final conclusion that only sure way to save your garden is to fence off the whole thing. By the time I learned this lesson it was too late for my backyard garden.
Then came the deer to polish off the front yard. It nibbled off a branch of my young apple tree and ate most of the apples, leaving me with a measly 8 apples. Bound to save the fate of my tree I promptly went out and bought chicken wire and fenced off the entire tree. It has worked but it is a bit ugly to look at. The deer continued to come at night and ate a lot of my flowers and when they were desperate they ate the leaves off my bean pole plants. Evidently they do not care for over grown seeds as they spit those ones out and left them scattered across the lawn. I was saving them for seeds but they are probably not much use once they have seen the inside a deer's mouth.
There is the matter of having too many seeds and not enough garden space to plant them all. I decided to plant my extras anywhere I could, in an old sand box with plastic sheeting underground, in shaded areas and behind a boat in between a fence with a big Ash tree looming over. To my surprise they grew...at first. Then I made the mistake of being hopeful. When it came time to produce they did not because they were stunted. By that time I had forgotten that it was just an experiment to begin with and I was terribly dissapointed.. My conclusion is not to bother planting them where they should not be planted. Find good soil to plant in or give your extra seedling to friends with garden space.
Never take the weather for granted. We started out with warmer than average temps and I could not resist the urge to plant before I knew I should have. That in itself did away with some of my plants even before the bunnies came along. Once the Fall came I was determined to plant garlic so that I would get to reap the benefits of early growth next Spring. But then we had a very warm fall and they pretty much all sprouted. You can try and cover them with mulch but unless you can figure out a way to pile it 2 feet high the garlic will still poke through.
Then there was the blight. I had blight last year but didn't know what it was and it hadn't affected the tomatoes. This year was another story. The spores had already settled into the air and soil and so they did not have a hope. I chose not to resort to chemicals and tried to save the plants by cutting off the diseased leaves. A few of the worse ones I actually pulled out of the ground in an attempt to save the others. I still got tomatoes but not as many as I would have liked. I have concluded that the best way to get rid of blight is to not plant tomatoes for a few years.
I still had some pleasure even considering the huge loss. The first is the abundance of birds and butterflies that have come to our yard. They like some of the flowers from our vegetable plants and our yard was always full of life. One of the biggest surprises was when I glanced out the kitchen window one day to see a humming bird! More came and they stayed for the rest of the sumer. They love the bean pole flowers. Another joy was in seeing my raspberry bush produce fruit twice. The herbs did very well. soup celery and mint are my favourite.
Having not much produce gave me time to consider the soil in which we grow things. When the topsoil blows away or becomes destroyed by chemicals it takes more than a few lifetimes to recover. I once read it takes 1,000 years or more to recover but the estimates vary. I came to value my compost even more this summer and plan to research more about how I can keep the soil healthy and fertile as composting seems to be part of the equation and not the whole. [insert scary music] I think this is going to involve the application of manure in the future.
In conclusion, this planting season was a year for learning. I hope to not have to do so much of it next year.