If I could summarize the past season in one sentence it would be this: Disappointing, but not altogether surprising.
My preference is to post the reviews on the individual veg first and then do an overall summary. However, since a big part of the harvest results this year were affected by factors that influenced the entire garden, I decided to start my end of season reviews with the overall harvest tally instead of finishing with it.
Memories of Summer
Considering the weather we had this past season, it really should have been a stellar year in the garden. The spring got off to a rather late start, but summer was beautiful, especially for veg that prefer warmer temperatures. We received an average amount of rain – not too much and not too little – and it was pretty much spread out throughout the season.
All of this tediousness meant that, more often than not, the soil was drier than it should have been by the time I got around to watering. Then, when I did water, I would often forget to switch the hose/sprinkler to the next bed in a timely manner. The result was a less than optimal cycle of the soil being either too wet or too dry throughout much of the summer.
The overall production went down by 12 kg (25 lbs) in 2015, even though I added 5 new beds (excluding the asparagus/kids beds). In addition to inadequate watering, there were other issues in the garden this year. Some of them were specific to a particular crop (the eggplants, for example, appeared to have some sort of wilt issue) and others spanned several crops (sowing was delayed on a number of veg when our vacation timing was less than optimal).
|Keeping track of the rainfall is all well and good,|
but I tended to forget that warmer temperatures = thirstier plants
It rained 10-12 days out of each month and the total monthly precip ranged from 78mm to 90mm (3-3.5 inches). This was good news for the perennial beds and trees – I didn’t really have to worry about how much water they were getting, although I did give the new fruit tree and berry plantings a good soaking several times during the summer.
A delicious preview (hopefully) of bountiful harvests in the years to come
The vegetable beds, however, were a different story. Raised beds dry out more quickly than ground level beds and with the warm/hot temperatures all summer, the rainfall we did get was nowhere near enough to keep the beds consistently moist and productive. Since I don’t have drip irrigation installed in most of the beds, I had to drag the hose around for a good chunk of the day to water all the beds. Not surprisingly (for me) this resulted in rather sporadic irrigation.
|Inadequate watering was the likely cause of onions|
that were generally smaller than those grown last year
I did place trickle/soaker hoses in some of the beds, but this still required the hose to be manually connected, turned on/off, and then switched to the next bed. Since I knew that I would be installing permanent drip in all the beds soon, I didn’t want to invest in more soaker hoses for the remaining beds so those were watered with overhead sprinklers…definitely not ideal, but for one summer, I figured I could live with it.
|Green trickle hoses in one of the brassica beds|
I'm confident that the feast or famine watering cycle was a big factor
in the reduced tomato harvest & increase in BER this year
By contrast, in 2014 we had a cool, wet growing season. I barely had to water as Mother Nature did the job for me. Even though it was a much cooler growing season - not what one would consider optimal for vegetable growing - production was significantly better than this year for most vegetables. Even heat lovers like tomatoes did better in 2014 because they had more than enough to drink throughout the season.
Annual Harvest In Grams
Annual Harvest In Pounds
One of the veg-specific casualties:
My first attempt at corn was thwarted by a corn stalk muncher
I won't delve into the numbers any further at this point as I'll be doing a series of posts on the performance of specific vegetables or vegetable groupings in the coming weeks.
I've spoken of my disappointment with the harvests this year, but I must mention that the season was not without it's stellar moments.
|The broccoli plants that just wouldn't quit|
|After waiting for 4 years, we finally harvested a nice quantity of plums|
(and NO plum curculio damage - hurray!)
First year growing potatoes & VERY happy with the results
As most gardeners will tell you, the successes usually more than make up for the failures. And even though production fell short of what I would have liked, I learned a LOT – which is, in itself, very satisfying.
I will be doing many things differently next year. Most of my changes will specifically relate to a particular crop, but there is one overriding “fix” that will apply to practically the entire vegetable garden: Drip.
Right now, I have drip irrigation installed on the 4 original beds. The first order of business next spring will be to install drip in the remaining 17 beds, including the asparagus beds.
|A lot of thought and a worn down eraser;|
the drip plan is finally complete
It’s a rather complicated affair as I not only want to install drip irrigation, but also a spigot in each area. This will allow me to attach a hose for hand watering as well as eliminate the need to run back and forth from the house each time I need to turn the water on/off. The drip system in each veg area will run off a separate timer and each bed will have a shut off valve, giving me even more flexibility.
The other big issue I had this past year was lack of time. Firstly there was the hilltop garden, which was started from scratch - new beds, compost area, fencing and mulching.
These photos show the hilltop progress that had been made by mid-summer:
|Before - Hilltop, facing east|
|Mid-summer - Hilltop, facing east|
|Before - Hilltop, facing west|
|Mid-summer - Hilltop, facing west|
Our mild fall weather allowed me to make quite a bit of progress since these photos were taken. The pallet bin compost area was finished (in the area to the left of the above photo, where you see pallets on the ground) and the blue tarp that covered some leftover soil is now gone and that entire area is mulched. The weeds you see peaking through the existing mulch were also removed and more cardboard/mulch was applied to skimpy areas. Although I'm only about 2/3 of the way towards what I envision this area to be, I'm excited to get a few more "after" photos once spring arrives.
In addition to the hilltop, a fence was installed around Area #2 and it was re-mulched, as was Area #1. And finally, we made some long awaited perennial additions to the garden - 3 apple trees, 1 nectarine tree, 2 blueberry bushes, berry canes (10 blackberry, 5 red raspberry, 5 golden raspberry), 2 haskap bushes and 3 asparagus beds. All of these take at least two or more seasons to get established and start bearing, so I was determined to finally get them going this year.
Next year, I'll be slowing things down. I will be concentrating on fine-tuning & maintaining what is already in place instead of starting anything new. Well, that's not entirely true - I do plan on adding one new bed to the hilltop...I'm blaming it on those dang Solanaceas.
Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year and "see" you all in 2016!