Surprisingly, we are quickly approaching our average date of last frost. We only have about a week left! Luckily, this year’s weather forecasts seem to show that it will be a little late…we can hope! But as we wait we are ready with our sheets and blankets to try to protect the squash and cucumbers and beans should a light frost arrive before they are ready (which it very likely will).
We are very pleasantly surprised with how well the garden turned out after the soil disaster. I am glad that we didn’t give up back then when we couldn’t get anything to sprout. Once things sprouted they seemed to tolerate the soil much better, although I still had to water incessantly. But overall we are getting WAY more produce out of the garden than I thought we would because of the soil and how late in the season the plants sprouted because of the soil.
I have been taking good notes along the way and I am now starting to write down the things I want to do differently (or the same) next year. I have a very poor memory, so if I don’t write it down now, come February when I start planning next year’s garden I will not remember what happened this year.
The strawberries did surprisingly well for our first year. We harvested a few here and there and expect even better results next year. We lost two plants when we took them all out and amended the soil, but the rest are still going strong. We have three plants that have sent out runners and the runners are taking root.
I think we will mulch the bed heavily before winter to give the plants some added protection.
About 3/4 of the asparagus roots that we planted grew this year. We did not harvest any and just let them all go. Hopefully next year we will get a light harvest, and then a real harvest the year after that. We will probably plant some more roots next year as well to fill in where ours didn’t sprout.
Due to the soil disaster and thus very late sprouting our peas have struggled. They grew well at first and put on flowers quickly, but the heat stopped them since they were too late in the season. We have been able to harvest some here and there, but only enough for us all to have a little snack. We have not had enough to freeze any, nor to save any seeds as planned. We will try again next year!
Lettuce and Spinach
I normally succession plant our lettuce and spinach so we can have fresh salad all summer long. This year I planted them all at once, late, because of the soil. The spinach has taken off and we have had tons of fresh spinach to eat for two weeks now.
The lettuce hasn’t done as well as the spinach, but it has done pretty well and we are enjoying it as well. I was going to save lettuce seeds this year as well, but with the late planting that wont happen either.
Cabbage and Brussel Sprouts
When I transferred the cabbage and brussel sprout plants from the house to the garden they all but died off due to the soil. I really thought they were done for. But they surprised me and came back. The cabbage are currently about the size of a baseball and with their frost tolerance I am very hopeful that we will have three nice heads of cabbage to harvest. The brussel sprout plant is way behind in development, but maybe it will surprise me too.
As I said in my Sunday Homestead Update last week, we have been enjoying our herbs all summer, and now I am trying out drying them for winter. We successfully had rosemary, sage, parsley, basil, and cilantro grow this year.
Turnips, Beets, and Carrots
Most of the turnips were destroyed by root maggots, but we were able to salvage about 8 small ones to eat. The beets did well and we chose to forgo eating them so that I could try to save seeds from them (since I can’t save seeds from anything else I was hoping to). So they are tucked away in our mini-fridge root cellar we set up in the garage. The carrots all ended up clumped together due to the necessary flooding of the soil, but we thinned them and the tops are looking great and growing well. No sign of roots yet, so who knows if they will make it in time to harvest. Time will tell with them, but we are hopeful.
Garlic and Onions
The garlic have done great and we are looking forward to a good harvest from them. But the onions did nothing. Absolutely nothing. Either it is the soil, or I got two very bad batches of onion starts from two different places. Not one even tried to grow. I’m not sure what we will do with them since we need to dig up and amend the soil before next year and there are over 100 onion starts in the ground.
Squash and Pumpkins
Ironically, we are having the best growth of squash and pumpkins that we have ever had in our 8 years of gardening. Maybe they like clay-like soil? Or maybe they like the layer of straw under the soil – this is our first year of doing that. The zucchini did well, giving us about 10 or so zucchini from one plant over the summer.
The winter squash and pumpkin plants are huge. I mean 6 feet tall, 3 feet wide in a box trellis – huge. I have never had one grow that big in our climate before. And all the plants have little green fruit on them. We have about 10 pumpkins, 6 acorn squash, and 3 butternut squash on the plants in the garden. I am so hopeful and excited for the possibility that they will make it to harvest. We usually have a few light frosts at the end of August and early September and then we usually have an Indian Summer and don’t have more frost until early October. IF we can get the squash plants to survive the light frosts they should have enough time to produce something for harvest. We will try!
The Pumpkin Patch, which is what we call the grow heap experiment we did with pumpkins and squash, has had some success and some failure. I do think we will try it again next year though. The early frost that got them despite us bucketing them really put them back, but the plants have ended up quite big, they just haven’t produced anything. If they had time I think they would but I am guessing the time is too short for them.
I have never had success with cucs here. But I keep trying, year after year. My grandmother used to make homemade pickles and I just have this irrational drive to grow my own cucs so I can make pickles like my grandma did. So every year I try.
I am excited to say that this year has been the most successful one for me and my cucs. Again, maybe they like the clay soil? But more likely it has to do with how long I left the wall-of-waters on them. I left them on much longer than ever before, until the plants were totally filling them.
So I have about half a dozen short little cucs growing right now on the two plants that made it. And two have made it to picking. With only two we couldn’t pickle them, but we all enjoyed eating a bit of fresh cucumber from our own garden. I think the rest will make it time – I hope! Probably not enough to pickle, but it is progress. Next year I plan to do many more cuc plants and I will leave the WOWs on them until they fill them up completely again.
The beans have struggled with the soil issues. There are tons of them up and growing well now, and they have a lot of flowers on them, but I am pretty sure nothing will make it in time to beat the frost this year. They just got started way to late because of the soil mess.
Fixing the Soil
We have been discussing the soil disaster and what our plans are for amending it for next year. We are seriously considering removing all of it and spreading it, along with compost, down on an old dirt driveway on the property that we want to help disappear into the landscape. With how rocky and dry that section of our property is the foliage has thus far been unable to overgrow the driveway. We would then start totally new with proper soil in the garden.
There are pros and cons to this, the pros being that we will completely rid ourselves of this clay mess, along with its root maggots. The cons would be, obviously, the work and cost involved in starting all over. We haven’t decided yet.
We also have some more construction to do in the garden. There is still a whole edge that needs a retaining wall and more boxes built on it before next year. Plus, we haven’t finished all the walkways with weed fabric and gravel. We haven’t decided if this construction will take place this fall or next spring.
As we close in on the end of our garden season we are very excited and blessed by our results this year since we thought the soil was going to be the end of it. We have learned a LOT and are excited to take that knowledge and make next year even better in our garden. For now, we are slowly starting to prepare to put it all to bed for the winter, as well as hoping that we can eek out a little bit more before the cold puts an end to it all.