Wednesday, December 19, 2018

A Look Back at 2018


The year is coming to an end and it’s time to look back and reflect.  What went wrong, what went right (not a lot this year!), and how lessons learned will impact the garden & how I do things in the future.

Harvesting a few tomatoes to snack on πŸ˜‰

This was a rough year personally, with both of my in-laws passing away before we even hit June.  My head was all over the place and my attempt to maintain normalcy was only partially successful.  I was also away a lot this summer – 5 weeks in total with 4 different trips between May and September - which didn’t help when it came to staying on top of things.

Both the vegetable garden & the ornamental beds suffered, some more than others.  Many of my plans, such as finally tackling one of the ornamental borders in our backyard that hasn’t been touched in years & installing drip irrigation in the raspberry runs, fell by the wayside.

In the end though, just like with each season in the past, some things went wrong while others went right.  I don't have many pictures in the first section as I just didn't think to take photos of dying plants and weeds πŸ™„.

What Went Wrong

My Bad (Things that I did...or didn’t do!)
  • Glitch in the Irrigation System in Area #2 – I purchased new timers this year for the drip irrigation and didn’t set up the one in Area #2 correctly.  Then I went away and there was a heat wave, with temperatures in the 30C’s (high 80F’s).  The beds affected had newly transplanted peppers and tomatoes together with carrot seedlings and strawberry plants in their 1st year.  The tomatoes ended up not doing too badly, but the harvest from all the other beds was dismal.  The carrots were stunted, the pepper harvest was 75% less than what it could have been and I ended up with barely a handful of strawberries.
This is what the strawberry bed looked like a week or so before we went away & the bed went bone dry.
We not only lost almost all of the developing strawberries, but a few of the plants as well.

  • Sporadic weeding – While I kept more or less on top of weeding most of the front ornamental beds and the mulched areas in Area #1 (I’m trying a new “frequent weeding” strategy in my effort to weaken and hopefully eliminate the incessant bindweed), the veg beds themselves didn’t get weeded as much as they should have.

  • No succession planting – This wasn't something that went wrong, but it did have an impact on how much I harvested, so I figured I would include it here.  With everything happening on the home front, I knew early on that succession planting would be a struggle as even in a “normal” year it’s a hit or miss proposition.  Instead of planning to do it and then feeling guilty that I didn’t get around to it, I decided to cross succession planting off the list right from the start.  I did manage to get in a 2nd round of carrots though.

The one crop I miss the most when I don't succession plant is lettuce

  • Lack of harvesting – Since I was away so much, harvesting suffered, especially when it came to the greens.  In September (when I was away for 2 weeks), I “picked” several buckets of rotting/eaten (by slugs) tomatoes that had fallen off the vines.  So sad.
  • No straw bales – I was planning on getting a few bales going this year but I kept procrastinating and then it was simply too late.  This meant no winter squash other than the two butternut plants that I grow in a bed.
Memories of my success growing squash in straw bales, back in 2016

Mother Nature’s Bad (Things that were beyond my control)

  • Super-hot summer – It was another record breaking summer, with WAY too many days where temperatures hit the mid-30’s (90’s), especially when the humidex was taken into account.  The heat would, of course, impact on the yield of crops that prefer it on the cooler side, such as the potatoes, lettuce and brassicas.  P.S.  You know the 2018 season was too hot when Wikipedia actually has a page entitled “North American 2018 Heat Wave”.    In fact, the hottest temperature ever recorded anywhere in the world was logged this past summer in Death Valley, California, with 4 days where it hit 53C…127F - yikes!! 
  • Pests – There were two notable pests this year, aside from the usual things such as slugs and some sporadic rabbit damage (most notable of which was on the sweet potato vines - they were essentially rabbit chow).  First were the leek moths, not in the onion beds as in prior years (since these were well covered this time round), but in the garlic bed.  Not only did the garlic bulb harvest go down dramatically, but so did the scapes.  Secondly, there was a new pest in the garden – asparagus beetles.  I don’t think they affected the harvest this year as they appeared after I stopped harvesting and the asparagus had ferned out but I have a feeling next year’s harvest may be impacted.
Asparagus Beetle Larva...yes, there were LOADS of them

What Went Right

The shrubs I planted in the fall of 2017 were still in the "creep" stage, but I did manage to get a few blooms - can't wait until they "leap" next year!

Rose of Sharon 'Diana'

Crown Princess Margareta - my first David Austin rose πŸ˜ƒ
Now my fingers are crossed that it actually makes it through the winter!

We finally got around to redoing & widening the front walkway (which I spoke about HERE) & I was able to keep on top of weeding the front yard flower beds (well, most of them anyhow).

I grew a whole whack of annuals in pots - and I loved it!  Yes there were a few casualties and yes, I made mistakes (some pots were WAY overcrowded while others had plants that were simply too tall and not suited to a 10" pot), but hey...it was a learning experience.  Can't wait to do it again next year!

This terracotta planter included alyssum, dwarf cosmos &
a peach nasturtium (a new favourite!), all grown from seed

And speaking of annuals, I went wild with the zinnias & planted about 8 different varieties along the perimeter of one of the veg areas.  They did a great job of obscuring the ugly but eminently useful chicken wire fencing.

Zinnias surround the veg garden,
together with a few other annuals such as cosmos

Miracle of miracles, I actually kept on top of watering & they did really well.  There were definitely a few favourites in the bunch, but I'll leave those details to a later post.

Let me see, what else.....oh yes, I found out I liked beets (!!), specifically the colourful and/or stripy ones.  Although I’m not a fan of them cooked (yet), I do love them raw, grated or julienned in salads.

Beets are now part of the permanent grow list

And lastly, even with everything that negatively impacted the harvests this year (most of which was my doing), there were still some winning harvests.  At just over 100 lbs., the tomato harvest was not that bad, especially considering how much went to waste in September.

I really liked the variety mix that I planted this year - I think I'm almost at the perfect mix

There were a few other winners in the harvest department this year.…but I’ll leave that for my next post.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

22 comments:

  1. I'm sorry you had so many difficulties this year, Margaret. However, it is somewhat comforting (to me) to see that I was not the only gardener with problems in 2018. It was a bad year in which I didn't even have your tomato success. It's time to use the gardener's mantra 'There's always next year!' P. x

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    1. Yes....next year! I have seen many people talking about their struggles in the garden this past year and, like you, it makes me feel a whole lot better when it comes to my own struggles.

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  2. I doubt there'll ever be a year when everything does well so it's best to put the failures down to experience and focus on the good things. It looks like you've been bitten by the ornamental bug now too so I look forward to hearing your plans for next year with those. I love beetroot, I can eat it any way, though it's not something I cook with all that often as no one else here likes it and it's a bit faffy to cook it just for one.

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    1. You're right - it's always best to focus on the successes and look to the failures as learning experiences. The one good bit when things don't go according to plan is the feeling of accomplishment in subsequent years when they do perform well.

      Perhaps your family may enjoy a beet or two grated into a salad (not the red kind but the yellow, orange or striped, which are milder & don't bleed all over the place). Mine had no idea that the slivers amongst the lettuce were beets. And loving that word...faffy :)

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  3. I'm impressed by all your pretty veg! I'd have never imagined that it could get that hot up your way - this global warm-up is downright scary. (We hit 110F (43C) here in July on the coast of Southern California!) I'm sorry for your family losses and can fully appreciate how that affects your ability to focus. Still, you clearly learned a lot in 2018 and I'm sure you'll make use of those lessons in 2019.

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    1. Thanks Kris! We usually get a few days of very hot (30C+) weather over the summer, but the past couple of years has seen the number quadruple...but 110!?! That's crazy!

      Some years are definitely more challenging than others but there's always something to be learned - I'm looking forward to 2019 and applying a few of those lessons :)

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  4. You have done so well with being away so much and the parent's deaths. My problem with pots is not watering enough or overwatering. I love your zinnias. I bought some but they weren't very big. I love pickled beets! Nancy

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    1. Thanks Nancy! I tried to keep on top of watering the pots, but have to say it was challenging, especially the unglazed ones during the hottest days - sometimes I had to go out there 2x a day to give them a drink. On the plus side, I loved looking at them so much I actually found that it wasn't as difficult as I expected to remember to water.

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  5. I'm amazed that you accomplished as much as you did with all the challenges you faced this year. I'm sure 2019 will be an improvement. For both of us I hope.

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    1. Yes!! The hard times make us appreciate the good times all the more & next year is bound to be better, right?

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  6. Years can be so up and down and we never quite know how they will turn out, but we do somehow get through them.

    My eyes were certainly drawn by those wonderful vegetables.

    My good wishes.

    All the best Jan

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    1. Thanks Jan - yes, no two years are ever the same. It certainly keeps us on our toes as we never know what mother nature or circumstances will throw our way!

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  7. I'm sorry to hear about the passing of dear ones. We are having a very challenging 2018, as well, and 2019 looks to be challenging on a personal level, too. But back to gardening...you had many beautiful successes and your "shortcomings" are really simply the results of circumstances beyond your control and learning experiences. But you know that. :) I really like your companion planting practices. This post has me dreaming about gardening plans ahead. Thank you for that. Merry Christmas!

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    1. Merry Christmas to you too, Beth :) I've been meaning to surround the veg garden with lots of flowers for several years and was thrilled that I finally got around to it this year.

      I'm sorry to hear that you are going through difficult times as well. One of the reasons I love the conferences is that it really is such a wonderful escape from our everyday stresses, and that was especially the case last year. I hope that you are going to one (or both) this coming year...I always miss you when you are not there!

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  8. You are so organized and systematic - so impressive! Things will always go wrong with gardens, especially since there is so much out or our control. I love the flowers you have blooming around your crops - nasturtiums and zinnias are favorites of mine. And that's a gorgeous basket of multi-colored (and shaped) tomatoes!

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    1. Thanks Jason! Yes, there are a lot of things not within our control and the erratic weather patterns in the past few years certainly don't help matters. All those challenges certainly keep us on our toes!

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  9. Looking at your photos, I'd say you've nailed the tomato growing - that basket looks wonderful. No year is going to be perfect, even for very experienced gardeners but it's a pity about your winter squash. I think we appreciate winter veg more because there's less to harvest from the garden. And can I just say that I'd rather have a hot summer with all its watering challenges than a dismal rain-sodden summer such as we've had in the past in the UK!

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    1. Oh, I adore the veg that keep all winter long such as winter squash, onions & garlic. There's just something about grabbing that fresh produce from the basement or onion basket in February that warms my soul. I would have to agree about wet vs dry - at least if it's too dry, you have the option to water but little can be done about constant rain short of using a greenhouse...and to make matters worse many more veg nibblers prefer it wet too! Fingers crossed we each have a more moderate summer next year :)

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  10. Each gardening year us made up of winners and losers isn't it. It's the reason for growing lots of different things.

    Our strawberries were losers this year too. I'm a zinnia convert after being given a packet of seed by a friend last year.

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    1. That's exactly right about growing different things - and even when it comes to different varieties of the same veg as there can be a big difference in tolerance to less than ideal conditions. Aren't zinnias amazing? Once you have them in your garden, it's hard to imagine a year without them!

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  11. Margaret you have accomplished amazing results with your gardens !
    Far more positives than negatives .. I love your photos, especially that strip of flowers with the zinnias and cosmos .. the beets and tomatoes are fantastic!
    I am a beet lover raw and cooked .. sometimes I wish I had room for veggies but then I have to be honest and say I really don't have the patience and energy to take care of them properly .. I will have to live vicariously through wonderful gardeners like you ;-) to appreciate the home grown ones.
    Here is to a GREAT 2019 garden year for us all !

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    1. Oh, thank you Joy for the kind, encouraging words! It is sometimes hard to see beyond what went wrong in the garden (or in life!) and I find that taking stock of things, one by one, really does help. Veg are a lot of work indeed - it's rewarding but there are trade-offs. And YES! Here's to a VERY floriferous & bountiful gardening season for all of us in 2019!

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