There’s such a huge benefit to learning from each experience you have, and I find this particularly true with gardening!
And, because we’re in a region where it isn’t possible to garden year round like they can in warmer climates, I always try extra hard to ensure things are as optimal as possible for the few months of the year that the weather is cooperating!
Here are the biggest lessons we learned during this growing season:
We definitely waited too long this year to support both our cucumbers (we grew “Straight Eights” and “Muncher” varieties) and our Beef Steak Tomatoes. We noticed that once we finally got around to providing them with some support, they were much happier and grew way quicker than they had while they were struggling.
We also messed up because the chicken wire fences that we put into our greenhouse for the cucumbers weren’t high enough. They quickly crawled up to the top and then we were scrambling again as they tried to use our pepper plants as support sticks. Definitely need to do better next year.
DON’T UNCOVER CROPS TOO SOON
Last year (and this year) we definitely had trouble with flea beetles munching on our bok choi and mustard greens. We had the brilliant (and cheap!) idea to buy hula hoops from the dollar store, cut them in half and use them as the support for row cover.
Covering the bok choi, mustard greens and even our kale to protect it from cabbage moths worked WONDERS!
However I got too excited too early and decided that I wanted to see my beautiful garden growing more than staring at white row covers and so we took them off and the bugs proceeded to have a lovely time munching all our bok choi! We’d grown a different variety of bok choi in the garden this year (we tried Joi Choi instead of our Toi Choi) and because the leaves were much larger on the Joi Choi, the small amount of damage from the flea beetles didn’t make that much of an impact.
Next year I’ll definitely try to be more patient and keep row covers on for longer as they were good protection against the crazy hail we had multiple times at the beginning of the summer too.
PLANTING PEA SEEDS INSIDE THEN TRANSPLANTING IS MY FAVOURITE
Last year we direct sowed our pea seeds and sadly they rotted, so then of course, with replanting, we were weeks behind. This year, we direct sowed again, and the birds dug out all the pea seeds and ate them, so none of them survived! So we were hustling yet again, to get seeds planted and ready to go after we waited a couple weeks to see if our original planting would come up.
Last year after the rotting failure, we decided to start our pea (and bean!) seeds inside and then transplant them, and it worked so well! Most people will say that you should just direct sow them, but after our issues 2 years in a row, and how well they did when we transplanted them, I think we’ll always sow pea seeds inside then transplant them when the time is right!
PLANT MORE HERBS
My goal this year with herbs was to grow herbs that I could eat fresh during the growing season, AND to dry and store and use for the rest of the year!
I quickly realized when I did my first storage harvest however, how little I actually planted vs how much I needed! When you’re cooking meals from scratch at home and need a tablespoon here and a couple teaspoons there, you realize just how much you may end up using in a year!
We started our herbs inside this spring in hanger pots and hung them in our windows before it was warm enough to go outside and it worked wonders! We’ll definitely be doing that again next year, but I will be planting WAY more herbs!
It’s good to start thinking about what recipes you make a lot at home and how much of a particular herb you may use on a regular basis and that can help you begin to calculate how much you may need to grow to reach that amount.
GREENHOUSES ARE INCREDIBLY HELPFUL
We finally bought a greenhouse this year and it was BEYOND worth it! It was so fantastic to have a place that our seedlings could live outside before it was quite time to do so unsheltered, and the harvest of what we grew in there all summer long was unbelievable!
I planted way too many seeds (like always, surprise, surprise) but we kept the best/biggest of the seedlings in the greenhouse to grow. We grew our tomatoes (Golden Nugget Cherry Tomatoes, Beef Steak Tomatoes and Romas), Cucumbers (Munchers and Straight Eights), Sweet Banana Peppers, Jalapeno Peppers and a few herbs (like our Stevia, Bay Leaf Plant, Thai Basil and regular Basil) in the greenhouse and they were all so happy!
The growth that we saw out of the greenhouse plants compared to the seedlings that grew outside was shocking. If you want to grow incredible things that need more warmth than your region can generally provide, then DEFINITELY work to save up to buy a greenhouse! It was SO worth it!
Want to learn more about gardening, preserving, cooking from scratch at home, foraging or DIY medicine? Consider joining me in my Food as Medicine Membership! Watch for more info as we’ll be opening the membership for new members in January 2020!