2011 Summer Garden Notes

I have spent many hours over the last couple of days digging up my garden beds to get ready for fall. I can’t believe I’m trying it again either, but what the hell!?! This has meant lots of time to reflect on things I did well this summer and the things I did not so well.

My summer garden was, in some ways, so much more successful than I anticipated. It started as an experiment and there were lots of challenges, but in the end it was totally worth it. I wish I had kept a spreadsheet of all the produce harvested (Nerd Alert!) so I could give you the stats, but alas you will have to settle for these unofficial notes. I want to have something to look back on next year to help guide me.

Crookneck Squash Bonanza

What Worked

*Soil TestingI mentioned this back in May when I started getting everything ready and honestly, I think it was 100% the reason we had overflowing amounts of everything. Well that, and we planted A LOT. I hardly fertilized but I think because I started with soil that had all the correct amounts of pertinent things, it helped my otherwise novice skills.
Soil Testing...will it make a difference?

*Elizabeth’s Tomatoes
– I bought 4 tomato plants from Lowe’s and planted 12 little seedlings that Elizabeth gave me. The Lowe’s tomato plants? Were garbage. Only one produced regularly and the rest were just limp, lifeless and hardly had any fruit. Despite all that, we still produced over 220lbs of Tomatoes (OHMYGOD, I KNOW!) I stopped counting mid-August mostly because I forgot, and because at that point I started giving them away to people on the streets. Next year I will seed myself and put in the freakin’ effort. Totally worth it.

Thanks Elizabeth!
Eat me!

*Spaghetti Squash + Zucchini – These were amazing and awesome to have around all summer. No maintenance. I planted 2 spaghetti squash plants and 2 zucchini plants. I would definitely plant again. Maybe even MORE zucchini?

*Garrett’s Irrigation System – Despite the fact that we fought like crazy over this (also over staking tomatoes) — Gardening: Good for the Tummy, Bad for the Relationship? — having an irrigation system hooked up to timers that automatically watered was paramount to maintaining a garden this size. Everything would have died otherwise, I’m sure of it. Worth the time, money, effort and bickering.

What Didn’t Work

*Lemon Cucumbers – I actually enjoyed these in June and a bit in July but then they started getting REALLY seedy. Didn’t love that. Might just plant regular or burpless cucumbers next year. Oooh, or pickling cucumbers. Yes, those!

*Bell Peppers – After all damn summer, I got ONE pepper. One. And it wasn’t even very big. I think I’m either doing it wrong or they are a pain in the ass to grow. Either way, not worth it. Won’t plant again. Or mayby I’ll do jalapenos or something small??
Miniature Green Pepper

Seriously?????

*Crook Neck Squash (maybe) – This was delicious at the beginning of summer. Towards the end they started getting super bumpy and dry on the inside. I don’t know what causes this. Then they would grow and look normal on the vine, only to be discovered completely HOLLOW when I would pick them. Weird. I love squash, but I will pick a new kind next year and probably seed it myself.

Herbs — dude, this was another pain in the ass. I planted Dill, Lemon Thyme, Basil and Rosemary. The dill died, I never used the lemon thyme and then IT died, the rosemary just become a fort for spider webs, and the basil, while that did well, I forgot to pinch off the flowers so it ultimately stopped growing Herbs are drama. May or may not attempt again next year.

Miscellaneous Notes

*Just Wear Gloves– Yes you will probably only be out there for a minute but just do it, ok.

*See Also: Sunscreen.– Nuff said.

*Cage your freaking tomatoes.
– Don’t be a dummy again next year.

*Keep a Spreadsheet – acknowledge your nerdiness. Delegate to Garrett, the spreadsheet nerd of the house.

*Pick tomatoes more often – also can them. You will miss fresh tomatoes this winter. FIGURE IT OUT.

****************************

All in all this was a totally fun experiment and I can’t wait to track fall progress!

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8 Responses to 2011 Summer Garden Notes

  1. bethanyrx says:

    We had some garden drama this year as well…

    I planted 4 tomato plants and at least one decided it didn’t feel like producing any fruit.

    Our cucumbers were THE SEEDIEST things I’ve ever seen in my life. And they got squishy one day after being cut off the vine. Fail.

    My pattypan squash is JUST NOW producing little squash babies… quite frankly, I had given up hope.

    My peppers did the two-pepper thing, and none of them got very big.

    The basil did well, but all of the other herbs were fussy. Mint started flowering (I have NEVER seen that happen before, usually it just spreads everywhere), dill fell over on itself and flowered, but that’s not very appetizing to cook with (besides making pickles out of my seedalicious cukes), cilantro of course went bonkers and then died.

    All in all, a good first year for learning… and for being dedicated to watering every.single.day during our 21+ day heat wave in the Midwest. And I will be starting my own seeds next year!

    • Holly says:

      Good for you! Oooh, pattypan squash — i love those! So cute. Maybe I’ll have to do some of those next year in lieu of my weird crookneck squashies. Herbs — are pretty much dead to me. I’ll just buy them at whole foods! I think I would feel less frustrated dealing with all the crazy hippies in there than dealing with an herb garden again, but you never know.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    We don’t usually have good luck with peppers. Next year are doing them all from plants (not started from seeds) because those do a little better. We do have better luck with chilies than with bell peppers.

    Cucumbers – basically start them as early as you can, eat them for as long as you can, but right about the time you said when it starts to get hot (july) they aren’t good anymore. It’s just…the nature of the beast. There’s pretty much no cucumber out there that will grow all summer long in a super hot place, although you can look for heat resistant seeds to get a few more weeks or days out of them.

    I am so happy my little tomato seedlings were so awesome!
    And I am very jealous of your spaghetti squash, I am totally planting that next year.

  3. Heather R says:

    I had the same problem with my peppers. I got 4 and started out with 5 plants. Only 3 plants are still alive.

    I had 10 tomato plants and one is 3/4 of the way dead. I struggled to keep it alive this long. It always had yellow leaves at the bottom.

    I found the only things worth growing (for me) were tomatoes, basil, and green beans. The peas were fun, but you need to plant A LOT of peas to even be able to harvest enough for a meal. My kids had fun eating them as snacks though. Next year I want to try squash and zucchini.

    What kind of irrigation system did you use? I tried a soaker hose, but I wasn’t super happy with it. Lucky for me, we had enough rain in the month of August here that I only had to water once last month! Our water is really expensive, so my husband will be happy!

  4. Jessica says:

    Did you at least freeze some tomato products? Canning seems so expensive (jars aren’t cheap!), but 220 lbs of tomatoes? How do you eat all of that?

  5. Jeff. says:

    Holly, remember, this “summer” thing, that has supposedly almost come to an end, is really only about half done. You’re likely to get fruits and veggies through November with this weather. My plants (with nowhere near enough sun) about doubled in size over the last three weeks. I believe this was partially due to me adding some compost over the tops of the roots, but also due to the weather. Also, before giving up on peppers, they don’t need nearly the sun a tomato does, so give them some afternoon shade and try again. Herbs as well. I have to get some new beds in for my fall crops. I have a feeling they are going to do MUCH better than my sun deprived Spring/Summer crops. But, I’m not pulling any of my Spring stuff out until it is DEAD!

  6. Jeff. says:

    Also, I don’t know if you’re into podcasts or not, but check out “the Davis Garden Show.” I listen to it on stitcher, but I think it’s available on their site too. Yep, here you go!
    http://davisgardenshow.com/