Garden Season Review – Part 1

As we brave the bitter cold this week, working hard to keep all the animals safe and warm in temperatures in negative single digits, it is time to take a look back at this year’s garden season.

We have cleaned out all the beds, blown out the drip system (did that awhile ago, when we first started having some overnight freezes), and mulched the plants that are going to overwinter in the garden.  Those include the strawberries, asparagus, grapes, mint, and carrots.  We mulched with straw again this year.  Because we get such high winds here we cover the mulch with bird netting, and hold it down with various things.  As you can see, this year we used some edging bricks we bought for a project next spring.

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Mulched Grape Vine

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It has been a great garden season for us, and it is nice to have everything tucked in for the winter.

We had several garden spaces and projects this year: the vegetable garden, the screened garden box, the strawberry patch, the herb garden, the garlic/onion garden, the potato areas, the pumpkin patch, and the berry bushes.  We had three main experiments going on this year: the tomato experiment, the potato experiment, and the screened garden box experiment.

Considering our 10-12 week growing season, and the fact that we regularly drop down to 40 degrees F in the evenings through-out even the hottest months of summer, we are extremely happy with what the garden produced.  We are definitely getting the hang of this high-altitude gardening.

The Vegetable Garden

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We added the drip irrigation system to the vegetable garden this year and absolutely loved it.  We used much less water and it lasted much longer in between waterings.  We also were able to ammend the soil with plenty of compost from the barnyard for the first time this year.  It seems both the soil and the irrigation system, along with some favorable weather, led to a great harvest of several types of vegetables.  We did battle aphids early on, and then flea beetles, leaf miners, cabbage worms, and root maggots later.  The pests led to some large losses of some of our types of vegetables.  We want to take more steps next year to prevent the pests.  We also saved seeds for the first time this year.

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The spinach and lettuce grew amazingly well this year.  The spinach did battle leaf miners, and especially later in the season these pests caused a loss of harvest.  But despite the leaf miners we harvested enough for salads for the whole family several times a week for most of the summer and fall.  We even had enough to share with other families.  We tried to save seeds from the lettuce, but the plants didn’t produce the seeds fast enough for us to get them before killing frost.  Next year we will try planting a bit earlier to help facilitate seed saving.  Our short season worked against us on that one.

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The peas produced about 2 1/3 lbs of peas for eating this year.  I think their location in the garden and the heat caused the problems.  We are contemplating options for next year.  We also saved about 400 pea seeds to plant next year.

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The cucumber plants produced about 1 1/2 lbs of cucs for us this year.  This is actually quite good, considering our cold climate and very short season.  I don’t know why I continue to try to grow cucs without a greenhouse, probably because I just love the taste of them fresh from the garden!

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The carrots were very happy with their new soil and watering system.  We harvested 30 lbs of carrots which meant quite a lot of fresh eating as well as 72 cups of frozen, sliced carrots for the winter. We also left some of the best carrots to overwinter in the garden in hopes of collecting seeds from them next year.

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The cabbage worms caused a lot of damage for the cabbage and Brussels sprouts.  But we were able to collect a couple small heads of cabbage and 13 oz of sprouts, which made for one side dish for our family for one meal.

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The green and purple bush beans also produced well this year.  We harvested 30 lbs of beans, which gave us plenty of fresh eating plus 77 cups of frozen beans for the winter.  We also saved  about 200 bean seeds for next year.

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Last winter, a mouse built a nest in the straw we covered the asparagus with for the winter.  He then collected a bazillion sunflower seeds spilled under the bird feeders and stored them by his nest.  We found the nest this spring when we uncovered the asparagus and cleaned it all out.  Apparently, one sunflower seed survived it all and volunteered to sprout in the asparagus box.  We let it do its thing and were happy to harvest seeds from it this fall.  We ate most of them, but kept a few to plant next year.  It was a fun surprise!

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The turnips and beets in the vegetable garden were plagued with leaf miners and root maggots, leaving us only one good turnip (that grew in the walkway instead of the garden box).  So we built a screened garden box halfway through the season and planted turnips, beets, and spinach in it to see if we could prevent the pests with the screen.

Screened Garden Box Experiment

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The screened garden box did exceptionally well for how late in the season it was planted.  Because of the lateness we can’t be sure that the screen completely prevented the pests (versus the pests just being out of season) but we do think it helped and plan to use it again next year.  There were no leaf miners nor root maggots in any of the turnips, beets, and spinach we planted in this garden.  It also provided a place for some nice fall growth and harvesting after the vegetable garden was dead because we draped frost fabric over it and kept it going until hard frosts set in.  We were able to harvest spinach for several meals of salad for our family.  We harvested 2 lbs of beets with greens, and 2 lbs of turnips.  The turnip greens went to the sheep.  We also left a few turnips and beets in the garden box to overwinter in hopes of collecting seeds from them next year.

We will continue the garden season review in upcoming posts.  It was such a full season!  What a blessing!

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