Retrospective: Reviewing this year’s garden

Now that the growing season is almost over, it’s a good time to review how my experiment went this past year. What worked, what didn’t, and why. What to do differently next year?

I’d sucker the tomatoes for one.

Mass of Tomato Vines

The plants got much too big with too few tomatoes. Of course, to a certain extent, plants getting too big is unavoidable in my situation. If you’re growing full-sun plants in just a half day’s sun, you’re going to get stretching and plants are going to outgrow your space. The less sun you have, the more important to stake them. Hard to get long enough stakes/cages in a front bed.

I’d also like more tomato plants. I had three in the front and two in the back yard – the ones in the back didn’t do much at all. More plants for more tomatoes. Maybe I should try to root the suckers I remove for more plants? Or, conversely, maybe if I had suckered them, they would have produced more. Hmmm… Sounds like an experiment for next year.

Don’t plant so many cucumbers, and plant only the burpless variety next time – for whatever reason, the pickling cukes didn’t do well. Poor yields and a lot of misshapen fruit.  The burpless variety looked much better and my wife says they tasted better as well. Also, I should have staked them, even though they were supposed to be a short ‘bush’ variety. They began sprawling out onto the lawn and tried to grow up into a rosebush (ouch!) and the shrubbery planted nearby.

The tomato cages I bought at the local big-box hardware store were too short and too lightweight. They are fine for beans, but too flimsy for tomatoes – especially the indeterminate variety. The tomatoes just keep growing and producing. (The determinate kind set fruit all at once and are done with it.) The increasing weight of the vines and fruit crushed the cages and it looks very messy. I’ve thought about using wire fencing, but its kind of a bad look for the front of the condo.

The zucchini was a bust. Huge plant, but only 2-3 zucchini for the whole season. So I pruned it with a shovel. I’ve recently seen a seed company advertisement for a smaller plant that you could grow in a pot. Hmm…

The miniature watermelon wasn’t worth the space it took. To make matters worse, it was a mini watermelon – the fruit was smaller than a volleyball – and even as small as it was, it just wasn’t worth it.

Despite planting 4-5 basil plants, just one vigorous plant would have been enough for our needs. The one in the front bed is four feet high and almost three feet wide. The problem is that I never know if the one plant will be a good grower – I may plant four, but only one or two do well, that’s only a 25-50% success rate – so I plant several.

Next time, plant more beans. The wife really enjoyed them. For the fall garden, I’ve planted five pole beans and 3-4 half-runner beans. They’ve pretty much swarmed up the four foot tall tomato cage I put around them and are trying to find something to grow up even taller. It might have been better if I had made a tall tripod of bamboo stakes for them to grow up. The bush beans I planted in the spring did very well, but she wanted pole beans…

Leeks in a Planter

The leeks have done surprisingly well. They are nowhere near as big as the ones you find in the grocery, but I’m surprised they did as well as they have. They are still growing, so we’ll see. However, next year, I’ll put less soil in the planter’s to begin with. That will allow me to mound it up as they grow to produce more of the white part of the leeks.

The garlic started turning yellow in June. I dug them up and they had formed bulbs – tiny, but quite hot-tasting. The bulbs were bigger than marbles – more the size of shooters, if you know what I mean. What I didn’t know when I started was that garlic needs to be planted in the fall. There isn’t enough time for them to form good-sized bulbs if planted in the spring. I’m planning on planting some fresh bulbs next month. We’ll see how they do over the winter.

Square-foot gardening This was a mixed bag. Almost everything I grew got too big for the square it was in. Now, I’ll grant you that the way I’m going about it is more of an adaptation of the techniques than purely by the book. While I do have raised beds, they are not raised very far. I don’t have any kind of edging to hold the soil in, I didn’t have clearly defined squares, and I’m using topsoil rather than the growing media that they recommend. (Though, I have to say, from my experience back when I ran a greenhouse, their light, friable growing medium would have resulted in even bigger plants!) I love the square-foot gardening concept, but the actual practice… not so much.

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