We are continuing our 2014 Garden Season Review. To read part 1 of the review, click here.
The Strawberry Patch
This was the second year for our strawberry patch, so the official first year since berry plants take a year or more to get going. The plants were damaged with an early hail storm in the spring, but came back very well. We were harvesting a handful or so every few days for a few weeks. We were shocked at how sweet and delicious they were – the store-bought strawberries taste like water to us now. It ended up being about 1/2 lb of strawberries harvested. Not much, but we are very happy for our first real year with these plants. Also, we are very excited about how the plants spread at the end of the season. The patch is a lot bigger now than it was before, so the future looks promising for the strawberry patch.
We also expanded the strawberry patch when we were working on our backyard landscaping project. The runners happily filled in the new area, though it isn’t seen in this picture. It is to the right of this photo.
The Herb Garden
The herb garden was also damaged by the hail storm early in the season – and its damage was much more detrimental. I had to buy new seedlings of several types of herbs.
Each type of plant produced enough for us to use the herbs fresh, as well as dry some for winter. The most exciting thing about the herb garden for me this year was that I finally was able to sprout, grow, keep alive, and harvest from a comfrey plant. It is the one in the washtub in the photo above. We have taken the washtub and put it in the mud room for the winter, hoping to help the plant survive to next year, but giving it an overwintering temperature in the 40-50 degree range. Hope it works!
My indoor herb garden survived and is still happily living on my kitchen windowsill. This photo was taken when I first made it…sorry I don’t have a current photo right now. This little herb garden makes me smile each time I look at it.
The Garlic & Onion Garden
Yet again the garlic and onion patch was pretty much a bust. Because the local wildlife does not like to eat them, we plant them in a little area near the driveway that used to be the previous owner’s unsuccessful flower garden (because the local wildlife DO eat flowers). It is built with a little rock retaining wall. We haven’t been able to put much time into amending the soil because the garden is on bedrock and not very deep with soil and the retaining wall isn’t high enough. Plus there are a lot of big tree roots in it. This year we added some soil, but obviously not enough to help the bulbs grow. So our plan is to scrap the whole garden, and rebuild it with a higher retaining wall so it is deeper and full of our compost. We will be doing this next spring and hopefully we can improve our garlic and onion growing situation.
The Potato Experiment
Since potatoes are another thing that the local wildlife leaves alone we decided to plant them outside the fencing of the vegetable garden as well. We decided to try a method we saw on the “Homestead Blessings: Gardening” DVD. We laid down newspaper, then the seed potatoes, then straw over that. As the potatoes sprouted we added more straw. We had two separate locations of this method.
We also tried one big rubber garbage can with holes drilled in the bottom. We put down a layer of compost, then the seed potatoes, then another layer of compost. As they sprouted we continued to add compost.
Neither method was successful. But the question is whether it was the type of potato we planted, or if it was the methods themselves. We harvested only 8 lbs of tiny potatoes from the 6 lbs we planted. Big failure. Back to the drawing board for potatoes.
The Pumpkin Patch
Last year we planted the winter squash and pumpkins on a large mound of not-fully-composted compost. Despite the fact that the plants were exposed to a frost early on, they still produced pretty well. So this year we decided to do the same thing, but protect the seedlings with wall-o-waters (WOWs) until frost danger was past. The problem is that this is another plant that doesn’t need fencing here, so it was out in the open. And while the elk couldn’t care less about the seedlings themselves, they did find it fun to pick up the WOWs and sling them around all over the place. So we had to leave them exposed again to possible frost. But that wasn’t what ended up being the problem. The hail storm early in the season killed all the plants and thus there really wasn’t a pumpkin patch this year.
The Berry Bushes
This spring we planted our first berry bushes. After a lot of research we decided to plant Crandall Clove Currant, Red Lake Currant, Pixwell Gooseberry, Cinderella Honeyberry, Polar Jewel Honeyberry, and Borealis Honeyberry. These are all reported to survive down to -30 to -40F and the honeyberry flowers are supposed to be able to survive frosts down to 20F. We have a short season, cold winters, and late spring frosts. So they all seemed perfect!
Since this was their first year the harvest amounts don’t really matter because they are not expected to produce. But because a couple came with flowers already on them we did get to do some harvesting in small amounts. We all preferred the flavor of the gooseberries fresh over the currants, however the currants could make some yummy jelly in the future when they produce more. The honeyberries did not seem to tolerate either the transplant, or their new location and we are not sure if they will all survive until the spring. The currants and gooseberries all seemed to do very well with transplant and their locations.
We are very excited to see what next year brings as far as the berry bushes go. Hopefully the honeyberries survive and begin to thrive and produce next year.
That covers almost all of the Garden Review for the 2014 season. It was a very enjoyable and productive season for us. We celebrated our successes and learned a lot from our failures. And hopefully next season will be even better than this one. That’s what homesteading is about! The last thing we need to discuss is the tomato experiment, and we will do that in our last Garden Review post.