Sunday, October 18, 2015

What I Learned In My 2nd Year of Gardening

Well, I think it's time.

I officially put the garden to bed yesterday. Actually, I did most of the work on Friday before our first heavy frost. I was at the gym, walking on the treadmill, minding my own business when the local garden guy came on the news. He advised getting any vegetables you might have in the garden, out of the garden before the cold weather. I still had a few tomatoes and peppers on the vines, so I got to work. 

I pulled the last few green tomatoes, and put them in closed paper bags in the basement. They'll be ripe in a couple of weeks, and that will be a nice treat. I pulled up the tomato and pepper plants, and added them to the compost. 

I grew these mini sweet peppers this year, and we loved them! The dogs especially loved them, and I learned these mini peppers are a perfect Chihuahua treat. The lesson for next year? More plants! These grew really well here. Actually, I've never had a problem with growing peppers here. It's everything else that I can't grow!

Let's talk tomatoes. Tomatoes were the bane of my existence this year. First of all, I don't think I chose the right varieties to grow for where I live. My heirloom and Italian paste tomatoes were prone to disease and lost most of their foliage after just a couple of fruit. The good news is I now follow a local garden blogger (one that lives about 60 minutes from me!) and I'll probably order the same varieties that she grows. Her blog is super-cool, and I'm inspired to hopefully learn some things from her. 

My second issue with the tomatoes is that I started all my seeds this year in peat pots

If you see peat pots at the store, RUN AWAY!!!

These are the worst medium to start seeds in. They are supposed to be biodegradable. In fact, they are supposed to break down when the roots start to push their way out of the pot. Ho ho, that does NOT happen. I pulled several fully intact peat pots from my garden while I cleaning up the last couple of days. Talk about false advertising. 

So, if you remember back to May when I gave a garden update, you'll see I was having trouble sprouting in the peat pots. Those were my 2nd round of seeds in May. I was already behind. I planted the most healthy looking seedlings I had right before the hubby and I left in June. Unfortunately, when I came back from Oregon, the tomatoes I planted had all died. Panicked, I ripped them all up and planted all the tomatoes plants that didn't look healthy enough to plant the first time, minus the peat pots which I did not plant this time.  

That's right, all the tomatoes I got this year were from stunted tomatoes. I didn't do great, but I got some homegrown tomatoes. Actually, my stunted cherry tomato plants (both yellow and red) did extremely well. I can't wait to see what healthy plants produce next year. 

So, moral of the story, stay as far away as possible from those stupid peat pots. 

Ah, more peat pot problems. Much like the tomatoes, I planted my zucchini, cucumber, and pumpkin in the ground in those pots before I left for Oregon. Like the tomatoes, they died while I was away from home. I was so upset, especially when I saw the hubby's uncle's garden was in bloom and hugely flowering. 

What did I do? I planted zucchini, cucumber, and pumpkin seeds in the ground. Right then and there. On July 15th.

Here's what happens when you plant on July 15th:

The cucumber plant started making fruit before the foliage. Needless to say, all my little cucumbers burned up with no cover on them. 

The zucchini plant actually gave me 3-4 zucchini's before disease set in. I think this problem was more related to the variety I planted. A different variety for next year.

The pumpkin grew leafy and branched out. However, by the time the plant was big enough (which was late September), the sun pattern had already changed and my garden wasn't getting the full 8 hours anymore. I think this hindered the production of fruit. 

To sum up, planting in mid July is not going to give you much to harvest. 

What do I have to say to this? Damn those stupid peat pots!

On to the carrots! Two problems here:

1. The hubby planted waaaaaaaaay too many too close to each other, so they never developed. I yanked them too, and started over in mid-July. Same problem as the squash, not enough time to develop.

2. Second problem? Hungry caterpillars. They weren't too bad, I usually just moved them to the parsley and they stayed. I had more then enough parsley to share. 

My second year of growing herbs? Completely successful. I'm a pro with herbs! And that's a little frog in the basil :-)

I had sooooo many little frogs this summer. I loved every single one of them, and made sure to say hello every morning. 

Mariota proved to be a great garden helper. The problem with Haloti and Gizmo in the garden is they never stay put. They always try to test the limits, leave the yard, go in the woods, wander over to the neighbors... But Mariota stays with me. He sniffs around the garden (he loved the lettuce for some reason), and then eventually, he would lay down on the patio in the sun and wait for me. 

Love that face :-)

My last piece of advise? Companion planting is the I'm serious, that's where it's at! You don't need pesticides or harmful chemicals to keep bugs out of the garden, you just don't. The best companion plants that I used this year were planting radish around the lettuce, kale, spinach, and any green really. It was amazing to watch the radish leaves get ravaged while the lettuce remained pristine. Marigold and dill were the other two bests. I just needed MORE! Way more marigolds and way more dill. I actually had a conversation with my dad around the end of the season and he mentioned that him and my mom had no bugs in their garden this year, and he thought that was because dill had randomly sprouted absolutely everywhere in their garden. So, more dill next year!

August in the garden. Full bloom. Twas awesome :-)

My hummingbirds have been gone for about 2 weeks. Maybe 3. I'm loathe to take down the feeders, but since we had our first frost, I know they are now in sunny Mexico. Sigh. Pictures will have to suffice.

Oh, I miss them. 

And finally, a couple pictures of my hawk friend. He dined on chicken livers here for a couple of days, and then I never saw him again. I hope everything turned out ok, but that's nature right?

So, my take-aways for the second year of gardening:

1. Peat pots are the devil.

2. Plan on growing varieties that grow well in your region. 

3. You really can't plant some things in July.

4. Lots of dill! Lots of marigolds! More, more, more!

Hope everyone is having an awesome autumn weekend! :)


  1. Oh great, I have some peat pellets out in my shed waiting for me to use them. Is that the same thing?

    I think your garden looked pretty dang good for your second year and so many things not making it.

    Next year will be better. :-)

    Happy Fall ~ FlowerLady

    1. I looked up peat pellets online. They seem to be more favorable than the pots, but I still found a considerable amount of people who hate them as much as the peat pots. I'm either going to do paper cups or newspaper pots next year.

      I'm not nearly as disappointed in the garden as I was in June when I first got back from Oregon. I'm proud of all I learned and I am looking forward to next year! Onward and upward!

      I hope you had a great weekend FlowerLady! :-)


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