Sunday, November 9, 2014

At the end of the rainbow

Happy November!  It's been a while since I've updated about my garden.  I think I even had a draft saved in here somewhere, but as the season has been winding down, and at the urging of my plant mentor, Steve, I've decided to contemplate the years' successes and findings.

Warning: this is prolly gonna be a little long and boring.  I'll try to make it brief and interesting, lol.

In the beginning of the season, I felt like I was at the beginning of a rainbow, and that all summer long, I'd ride the colored arch until I reached the cornucopia of plenty residing at the end.  Well, I've fallen into that woven symbol of bounty, and though it's not quite full of Thanksgiving vegetables, it's full of experience and lessons learned (and one cute pumpkin).

Plants start with soil.  The first beds I made with municipal compost, bagged garden soil, and sand.
The problem: 
I didn't realize that municipal compost is mostly wood products, and thus needs an additional source of nitrogen.  It became apparent with my dwarf nasturtium and basil plants that there are some serious deficiencies in my garden beds.   I made a bin of leaf mold, which broke down nicely, even without mulching first.  Also, the network of oak and elm roots have started invading my nice beds.  Not sure what to do about that except spade down the edges to slow their growth?

The solution:
I used the leaf mold to amend the beds, as well as a few bins of alpaca manure I procured during a farm spinning demo.  Also, I've planted rye and vetch for a living mulch over the winter.  I will weed whack it down a month before planting, and leave the roots intact to rot and keep the soil structure intact.  My plan is to soil test and add blood meal.  And I've been adding wood ash sparingly.  Also, the large areas under the trees which were bare dirt and roots that I covered in leaves is resulting in some nice humus under the mulch.  I learned you can never have too many leaves.  Planning to make at least two bins of leaf mold.  I also started a compost pile and have plans to make a plastic garbage pail one to help conserve heat during the winter.  Lastly, I might add a straw bale garden if I can get the truck running again and find a cheap, local source.

I was really happy with where I situated the garden beds and herb circle.  They received adequate sunlight, and the herb circle was happy with partial sun.

The problem:
Water was a bit of a challenge moving into the summer months.  There was a brief period of time, when faced with the reality that something was seriously amiss with the soil situation, where I neglected watering and murdered a few plants.  Sorry lavender, rosemary, peanut butter plant and peony.  :(  Earlier in the season, I only used a hose with a hand attachment.  Later on, I was able to purchase a four head adapter and connect a soaker hose for the vegetable bed.  This was very helpful, except the time I left it on for 8 hours and my water bill was astronomical.  Oops.  Then there is the outdoor sink.  It still isn't plumbed, so I'd like to find the right fittings and get it up and running for next year.
The solution:
Next year I will set up a container irrigation system.  Also, I will get a timer for the hoses so I won't have those issues.  There is a possibility I will set up some kind of rainwater collection system, however, my rented roof has no gutters, and I'm still exploring some possibilities.

Mostly, I didn't have too much issue with the temperatures.  It was hotter than a hootenanny this summer, but aside from my watering issues, nothing did so terrible due to heat or cold.  I was saddened that my tomatoes came so late in the season, but feel it has more to do with the soil issues and the fact the first frost was a little late this year.  My remedy for this is a hoop house currently under construction to extend the late and early season. I also will make a cover for my salad table.  It needs chicken wire to prevent squirrels from digging holes (wasn't the black walnut offering enough?  Gah!)  and some plastic to help insulate.  Not sure about insulating the roots.  Will think about that.

The Plant List

Edible flowers:  These did not go so well.  Though I had seeds for different edible flowers, and some did bloom, they did not take off as I had hoped.  I blame lack of nitrogen.  I will try again next year.

Herbs:  The grand prize winner.  I had copious amounts of dill, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, lemon balm, horehound, basil, parsley, sage, and a few alpine strawberries.  The strawberries died in a strange fashion, one plant after the other within a few weeks time.  Not sure why.  Lemon balm took over, and I learned I only need one lemon balm plant.  Culantro and cilantro failed.  Murdered my container banana mint, and waiting to see if the chocolate mint will spread along the back fence.  So far, it's not too happy.  The mint seeds I sowed in the alcove didn't germinate at all.  :(

I have two oakleaf hydrangeas that took hold.  Not entirely happy, but alive.  Not sure how much growth they should have while getting established.  The buttonbush and beauty berry did well.  Can't find my chickasaw plums or hazelnuts.  Also weed wacked the blueberry on accident.  I thought the container peony had died, but just found it had some growth so soaking it to rehydrate the soil and see if it's back in business. Foxglove, comfrey and daylilies came back, too.  I also have malabar spinach, kefir lime, and fig to put in the hoophouse.  Still building the soil for more perennials.

Well, truth be told we don't have grass.  We have a mixed plot of weeds.  I had gotten a push mower, but it's not capable of mowing weeds that are too tall.  The solution was a high schooler looking for work on his bike.  He mows the lawn for us now.  Wish I could call him and see if he wants to add leaf wrangler to his resume.  Next year I'm planting a shitload of white dutch clover and calling it a day.

Well, the vegetable garden did give up some bounty, but nowhere near optimal yield.  All the plants were small, even the large, indeterminate tomatoes should have been larger.  Tomatoes did not grow big, but stayed tennis ball sized or smaller.  One did not produce fruit.  We got one pumpkin.  She is the crown jewel of the harvest.  A few cucumbers, some small jalapenos, 2 golf ball sized watermelons.  All in all, a sad affair.  The saddest was the cauliflower.  It actually was growing until cabbage worms invaded when I was in NY for a week.  Hubby doesn't garden, and when I came back, they were decimated.  One is still trying to survive.  I'm going to keep it in the hoop house and see what happened.

My mind is exhausted.  I have only eaten two hershey bars today and it's 2:11.  Methinks I'll eat something now and save my tool/project review and plans for next year for another post or two.  Happy gardening!


Sara said...

YOU, my friend, have been quite busy.

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