This Year's Garden Lessons

This is the first year that I really tried to grow enough to feed my family. I've had a garden for years but mostly just for fun. I've learned a lot this year. Even though I have seeds started for my winter garden I'm sad my summer veggies are almost ready to be pulled up.

What I learned is this year-

#1. Don't give up! I had to plant some seeds 3 times before they grew. I don't know if it was the seeds or some other reason. I'm glad now that my plants are coming to their end that I tried so many times because I've gotten so many more veggies this year.

#2. Try to work with the bugs. I know that sounds crazy, but I didn't want use pesticides unless I needed to. I had pill bugs that kept eating my bean plants as if I planted them just for them. After trying several things that didn't work, I decided to give them a few pieces of veggie scraps and it worked. So, every once in a while, I'd give them some more.

I also had aphid eggs and ants all over the bottom of my okra leaves. I finally realized if the infestation wasn't that bad to just let the ants take care of them. Otherwise, I'd spray a little neem solution to give the ants some help.

Also, I had big red ants on my Indian long beans I planted on a whim. I figured as long as they weren't bothering the beans, I'd just leave them alone like all of the spiders. We have those joro spiders everywhere now, but I had garden spiders in my beds all summer long.

#3. Let the volunteers come up wherever they grow. I had 4 tomato plants that came up where they weren't supposed to be growing like next to my potatoes. I decided not to pull them out and neither plant affected the other.

#4. I'm going to try to space my plants out more next year. Like the okra I planted was too close for me to walk between to pick once they started getting taller.

#5. Don't be afraid to try something new! I tried the Ruth Stout method this year with potatoes, and it worked great! I also tried the Indian long beans which grew like crazy. I found an organic fertilizer at the grocery store of all places marked half off that my plants seemed to love.

#6. Don't fight the Rabbit! I had a rabbit living in my backyard who ate all of my raspberry rumex lettuce but left everything else alone. I figured why fight the rabbit since it was only eating that one plant - well 8 of them but nothing else.

#7. Several plants never got fruit or only one fruit this year for the first time since I've been growing a garden. To this day I have a lovely zucchini plant that has never gotten a zucchini. Not one female flower at all. A tomato plant only got one tomato the entire time! Finally, after growing for weeks and weeks I have 2 small tromboncino squash. I did plant the seeds late, but the vine is huge and has tons of flowers that have fallen off. So, all that to say next year if I have plants that aren't producing, I'm not going to worry about it. I'm just going to plant something else.

#8. It takes more than I thought of every plant to actually feed my family. We had plenty and some to share but not much to put up for the winter which I was hoping to be able to do. So, next year I'll know to plant more of everything.

What have you guys learned this year? What will you be trying next year?


  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭

    It's surprisingly difficult to grow enough vegetables to feed a family, even if you don't count eggs and meat.

    Like you, I had to reseed several times this year, which is not normal. I think the unusual temperature and rainfall patterns this year affected germination.

    Sometimes the solution to insects eating the garden is to encourage more predators. Sometimes it's changing the varieties you grow to other types that the insects don't like. Sometimes it's hand-picking the insects, especially early in the season. Sometimes it's planting a trap crop that the insects love, and letting them eat that instead of your desired vegetables.

    Often, it's just accepting that the insects are going to get a certain percentage of what you grow. (This last is more acceptable when the insects are munching on adult plants that can handle some loss; you can't tolerate it young plants that would not survive.) With Japanese beetles in particular, i've had to just accept that they are going to do significant damage to my beans. Fortunately, I still get a large bean harvest, and the beans act as a "trap crop" that keeps them away from most of my other plants.

    Joseph Lofthouse has written at how he is breeding both insects and vegetables to keep the damage under control. He is careful to allow the insects to eat weeds and wild plants, and allowing a certain amount of the wild plants to grow in or near his garden. The insects are not disturbed when found on or eating wild plants, but those who eat the vegetables are destroyed (by hand). If some varieties of vegetables around found to be highly attractive to the insects, they are not grown in future years. The long-term result is a healthy insect population that has little negative impact on the garden. (Unfortunately, this only works for insects that don't travel far, where next year's insect population comes mostly from those that bred in the same yard last year. It wouldn't work for my Japanese beetles, which are very strong fliers and can travel significant distances.)

    If you have space to spread your plants out, it is not only easier to walk between them and harvest, but they also handle drought better, and can grow in soils with lower nutrient density. But not everyone has space to do that, so the gardening trend over the last few decades has been toward small, dense beds of highly nutritious soil.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,537 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited September 2022

    Never give up!!!~

    Sometimes its the weather, sometimes location.

    Love your list @kbmbillups1 They are all great observations.

    The first few years of gardening or location are always more challenging.

    Things I have learned over the years.

    1. there are always more seeds so plant again if need be.
    2. Work with a neighbor or friend if possible
    3. there are certain veggies or plants you just can't grow so have a friend grow those and you grow a challenging crop for them
    4. grow what you need and use the most or what costs the most to buy at a store (if you can )
    5. use methods to extend the growing season
    6. compost!~
    7. vertical growing and has less insect issue
    8. mix you crops
    9. plants flower in your garden for eating enjoyment and pollinating
    10. there will be disappointments but look back and enjoy the successes. If your garden had a rough year but was better than the last year or you learned it was a success

  • kbmbillups1
    kbmbillups1 Posts: 1,370 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @VermontCathy Someone said in a reply to a post in a conversation on here back in the summer to plant lovage to attract aphids - I think. I'll have to search for the post. I bought some seeds to plant next year to see if they'd be attracted to those plants instead of my okra.

    When I pruned my lantana in my front yard last year I found horn worms! My friend has terrible problems with them this year so I told her to plant lantana. Who cares if they eat that! They could munch all day and not make a dent in it.

    We have Japanese beetles as well. I went out with a cup of soapy water every day for a couple weeks flicking them in the soap bubbles. I guess they finally gave up and went to someone else's yard who would leave them alone because they left sooner than normal.

    Makes me feel better to know I'm not the only one who had to reseed this year.

  • kbmbillups1
    kbmbillups1 Posts: 1,370 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Monek Marie My neighbor and I traded veggies because they were able to grow cucumbers which I couldn't seem to grow this year. They gave up on beans a couple years ago so we made several trades.

    This year I did what you said and planted flowers in each of my beds along with the vegetables. Usually I plant marigolds and calendula but this year I planted nasturtium and several other flowers too. Then, a growers outlet I love had zinnias for $1 a flat because they were closing for the summer. I planted them all over the place and hope to be able to do the same with some type of flower next year. I had so many bumblebees and wasps visiting the flowers!

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,537 ✭✭✭✭✭

    And I bet it was beautiful too. Love the $1 a flat zinnias

  • annbeck62
    annbeck62 Posts: 1,019 ✭✭✭✭

    I've found "volunteers" really want to grow and be productive so I also let them be.

    This year I tried bitter melon and python bean. Both grew huge but so far not even any flowers let alone anything to pick. I may or may not give them another chance next year.

    I tend to plant things in multiple places because many times a plant will be happy in one location but not another.

    Some things grow really well for me and others stubbornly refuse. I've started planting a lot of what does well for me and learned to enjoy even if it didn't used to be a favorite ;)

  • kbmbillups1
    kbmbillups1 Posts: 1,370 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @annbeck62 I saw on a post of the Ice Age Farmer on Telegram where people responded about issues they'd had that they'd never had before. There was a very long list, but one thing a lot of people were saying was that zucchini was only getting male flowers. Another was that a lot of people had seeds from grocery or big box stores that didn't sprout. So, it would not surprise me that you have not gotten any flowers from those two plants.

  • annbeck62
    annbeck62 Posts: 1,019 ✭✭✭✭

    @kbmbillups1 wow, thanks for the info. That is really frustrating and troubling.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,537 ✭✭✭✭✭

    We need to save our own seeds. I have heard a lot of comments on stores and box stores seeds having issues.

  • nicksamanda11
    nicksamanda11 Posts: 733 ✭✭✭✭

    I planted hyacinth beans and I think kudzu grew😲😳😣

  • SuperC
    SuperC Posts: 937 ✭✭✭✭
    1. @kbmbillups1 I had to reseed the arugula and cucumbers and the green beans. The yard long beans did not produce much so that one will be eliminated due to they need a more tropical climate.
    2. The Butterfly Weed plants, seeds that i panted, take 365 days to germinate, so that will come up next year.
    3. I’ll plant more dill in longer rows, and same with the carrots.
    4. I’d like to winter sow more sunflowers because only one grew out of a while seed packet.
    5. the Nasturtium (sp) flowered quite lovely.
    6. i learned that rose hips once the seeds and fuzzy parts inside the fruit is removed can be eaten and has lots of vitamin c.
    7. Ants like straw, so next year to get the northern garden prepped, it will need a much needed lasagna Permaculture technique.
    8. The tomato plants reached almost eight feet tall, so I’ve learned the proper pruning techniques and there were so many yellow cherry tomatoes!
    9. Finally, with all of the gardens in the front and back yards, I’ll put in more carbon down since there is a lot of green sources, and carbon makes more produce as green makes more leaves. The cucumbers were happy. Oh yes, and i’ll be returning to planting Pole Beans as they are easier to produce a nice crop.
  • kbmbillups1
    kbmbillups1 Posts: 1,370 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @nicksamanda11 Wow! Kudzu is terrible!! Hopefully, you grew beautiful non flowering bean vines instead.

  • kbmbillups1
    kbmbillups1 Posts: 1,370 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @SuperC That a long list!

    I want to plant more carrots next year too. Strangely, I couldn't get them to grow in my garden bed but they grew very well in my self watering buckets. Next year I'd like to reverse that.

  • Cornelius
    Cornelius Posts: 872 ✭✭✭✭

    @kbmbillups1 I believe ants help spread aphids and protect them since the aphid will provide them with sugar.

    @nicksamanda11 Kudzu is edible and has some heart benefits according to "The Lost Book of Herbal Remedies" by Nicole Aplein Ph.D.

  • kbmbillups1
    kbmbillups1 Posts: 1,370 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Cornelius At least on my okra once the ants took care of the aphids, I haven't seen any more of either and that's been at least a month if not longer. The ants on my Indian Long Beans haven't brought any aphids and even the spiders who have made webs all over my garden recently have left the ants alone. Come to think of it since it's gotten a little cooler I haven't seen as many ants on them either.

  • vickeym
    vickeym Posts: 2,095 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Things I learned this year in gardening... Every so many years we get a cold rainy summer. The plants mostly don't like that. If it happens again I will remember to go plant more cool weather crops and give them extra drainage.

    Pole beans got lots of height and lots of leaves. We got one yes, one lonely little bean. The bush beans did a little better but need to be planted sooner than we got them done this year.

    Tomatoes did great, but the paste tomatoes did not ripen in time and were still pretty small so again get them started earlier.

    Need lots more flowers throughout the garden and greenhouse areas to draw more pollinators. One greenhouse did great, lots of bees around. The other didn't have the flowers as close and did not do well.

    Tried bush and pole beans this year, as well as broccoli rab, second time trying romanasco and this year we are getting tiny little heads. Have wild lettuce growing this year, but again late start. never even got a flower stalk. Hoping some will survive the winter (normal as low as -25 here but have seen -30) and get bigger for next year.

    Slugs are destroying my horseradish leaves, but only late in the season. They did not touch it until a few weeks ago. Even this is not bothering me as the last two times I planted horseradish, something took off with it. could not find even a trace of what I planted and never even sprouted before it disappeared.

    Looking forward to getting a permanent garden put in next year and growing much more.