We had a bountiful garden experience this year! It is so satisfying to grow our own food and gardening continues to be one of my favorite parts of the homestead. If you are not interested in the amounts we harvested, scroll down to read some reviews of new gardening products we tried out this year.
Harvest Stats for 2017
I tried to keep good records this year on the garden harvest, and here are the results…
Some items were weighed, others (like herbs) I just give a general amount based on our usage (plenty, very good, good, pretty good, poor).
This year we didn’t need to save many seeds because of previous years’ saving. I don’t have amounts, but we successfully saved seeds from tomatoes and drying beans.
- Basil – plenty
- Drying Beans – 2 lbs
- Garden Beans – 31.5 lbs
- Beets – 6 lbs
- Cabbage – 33.5 lbs
- Cabbage Sprouts – 2.5 lbs
- Carrot – 26.75 lbs
- Celery – 8.5 lbs
- Cilantro – poor
- Dill – ooops, totally forgot to plant!
- Grapes – 2.5 lbs
- Lettuce – plenty for salads several times a week all summer and shared with friends.
- Onions – 32 lbs
- Oregano – plenty
- Parsley – plenty
- Pea (sweet) – 8.75 lbs
- Pea (snap) – plenty for fresh eating.
- Pumpkin – 3.5 lbs
- Rhubarb – Plenty
- Sage – Plenty
- Spinach – Plenty for fresh eating and to freeze for smoothies
- Winter Squash – 7 lbs
- Strawberries – Forgot to weigh 😦 But more than ever, so over 5 lbs. 🙂
- Tomatoes – 100.5 lbs
- Turnip – 33 lbs
- Zuccini – 10.5 lbs
- Berry Bushes – Not good this year, late frost with heavy wet snow squashed them down and they didn’t produce well.
For a grand total of over 314 lbs of produce!!!
New Things We Tried This Year in the Garden
Most of our experiments had to do with extending our season using physical protection for the plants.
We have always used Wall-o-Waters to protect our tomato plants and extend the season for them. This year I got 3 of these Tomato Accelerators to see if they worked better, or if they were used in conjunction with the WOWs would improve our growth. For two of the plants I put the accelerator over the WOW and then when the plant outgrew the WOW I left just the accelerator on until the plant outgrew the accelerator. For one of the plants I used just the accelerator with no WOW.
We were not surprised that the accelerator alone was not enough to protect the tomato in our cold climate. The tomato with just an accelerator frosted and died down to a stem, although it came back from the root and did end up producing some. The WOWs are much better for protecting tomatoes in a very cold climate.
The tomato plants that were in a WOW with an accelerator over it, and then when they were bigger just the accelerator, and then nothing, didn’t do any better than the tomatoes that were just in WOWs and then nothing.
So, we give these Pop-Up Tomato Accelerators a thumbs down for use in our high-altitude, short season, cold climate. We will stick with the Wall-o-Waters, that have always worked very well for us.
We decided to create tunnels to not only extend the season, but also to protect the plants from pests. We built them in our 2-foot wide garden boxes around the edge of the garden. The plants we put in these tunnels this year were cabbages, beets, turnips, spinach, and lettuce. We have previously had a lot of trouble with root maggots, leaf miners, and cabbage worms in those plants. We used the Super Hoops to build the frame of the tunnel and covered them with the All-purpose Garden Fabric, which was left on all season. All these plants were in the ground under these tunnels during our last few frosts of the season, as well as through a heavy wet snow.
We were really happy with our results from these tunnels! The super hoops had good structure that held their position for the most part. During the heavy wet snow we had several fall over (to be expected), and we had a couple that were problematic all season. Those few problematic ones were either because they had a lot of tension on them because of the fabric and their position, or they weren’t able to get very deep in the dirt. But overall I felt the hoops were totally worth it and I plan to get some high-rise ones next year for our 4-foot wide boxes.
The fabric worked great as well. It kept the young seedlings happy and warm through the end of winter, including a heavy snow, then it protected them from the harsh hail storms of June, we had no problems with the pests of summer, and it has kept the turnips, beets, and spinach all warm enough to last into late fall. The downfalls of the fabric are that it does tear, so in the wind here over time it has torn and I will have to buy more. It is also definitely extra work to keep the tunnel fabric in place and held down. At times I was very frustrated with it. But overall, the benefits far outweighed the extra maintenance. We definitely yielded a better harvest from the plants that were under the tunnel.
We give these super hoops and all-purpose fabric a thumbs up for use in our climate. We plan to continue using them year after year.
#3 Drying Beans
We decided to try drying beans (like for soup and chili) this year and see how they would grow. We tried them previously, but a vole cut them all off at the ground level before they could really do anything. We tried Kentucky Blue and Rattlesnake varieties this year and I planted them at the base of our new garden arch.
Despite being torn up by June hail storms, they produced and grew pretty well. We plan to plant a lot more next year and see how it goes. This experiment was a success!
#4 Fence Around the Pumpkin Patch
Our pumpkin and squash patch is exposed to the wild animals because they don’t generally eat the leaves, and we try to guard it and harvest the pumpkins and squash before the animals have interest in them. So as far as the plants go, a fence isn’t a necessity. However, the wild animals, especially the elk, like to play with, knock over, and chew on our Wall-O-Waters. So we have to plant the pumpkin and squash seedlings a month later because we can’t use the WOWs on the pumpkin patch. With our very short growing season of 10-12 weeks frost-to-frost, that 4 weeks really makes a difference for long season veggies. So this year we decided to fence the pumpkin patch so we could use the WOWs.
It did make a difference and we had a pretty good harvest. So we will leave that fence in place to continue to protect it in the future.
#5 Remodeled Onion/Garlic Patch
Last fall and spring we worked to rebuild the retaining wall that held the onion/garlic patch. By doing that we were able to add about 12-18 inches of good compost and soil into that patch, making it much deeper and covering the shallow bad soil it previously had.
It definitely worked, our onion harvest tripled this year!
#6 Mystery Box
We had an interesting occurrence happen this year, which led to some research, which led to a plan for something new we will try next year. We had one section of garden boxes perform EXTREMELY well. Like 10 times better than the box next to it containing the exact same seedlings. Once we realized how much better it was doing, I looked back at my records and found that everything that has been planted in that box the last couple of years way outperformed the ones not in that box. I am not sure how we missed it before, but it is very clear now. So what is different about that section of boxes?
That section was built in 2014, a year after the rest of the garden. It has the same drip system as all the garden. Because of its position on the hill those boxes are much deeper, at about 18-20 inches deep, as opposed to the rest of the boxes that are 8-12 inches deep. They also were filled with compost from our animals, after we had had a couple of years of good compost build-up from the cow, rabbits, sheep and chickens. The other boxes were filled with a store-bought compost and topsoil mix, and they had a 1-2 inch layer of the same compost from our barnyard put on top.
So it seems that the difference is either the compost, or the depth, or both. The garden location can’t really be it because there are boxes right next to them that are the shallower ones filled with different soil that didn’t perform even half as well.
Our plan for next year, to try to figure out this mysterious miracle-growing box is to increase the depth of another section of the garden, and fill it with our barnyard compost. Granted, our compost is much different now, it doesn’t contain cow manure. But it is the best we can do to try to figure out how to make our entire garden grow as well as that section.
Next Year’s Garden Plans
- Plant more drying beans
- Build another section of garden boxes deeper and fill with barnyard compost to try to replicate the miracle-growing box section
- Buy high-rise super hoops to build a tunnel on the 4-foot boxes
- Add more compost to the onion/garlic patch to bring the depth back up
- Plant 2 apple trees behind onion/garlic patch
- Everything else the same, rotating crops around the garden
So we end another garden season, and look forward to next spring when we get to do it all over again!