I missed the entire gardening month of September and wish I hadn’t let it go but that’s part of the learning process – I bit off more than I could chew. However, all is not lost. Here are the final results of the garden and some changes I’ll make for next year:
Three Sisters method – fairly certain I messed up the spacing and that’s why the corn didn’t grow. Without the corn, the beans didn’t grow, and the squash vine borer made sure the squash didn’t bear fruit. This was one-third of the garden and disgusted doesn’t begin to describe how I feel about it. I may or may not try this again.
Green peppers - definitely a hit and I have many packages of frozen peppers to enjoy in soups and stews all winter. They are still producing.
Companion plantings - radishes, cucumbers, and nasturtiums together was odd. The radishes were terrific but the cucumbers and nasturtiums just looked weak and underperformed. The adjacent row of Indian corn produced 10 delightful ears.
Tomato plants – too many, too big, and too heavy. I will need an industrial strength method for supporting them next year. The companion basil and sunflowers were overcrowded by the tomatoes and underperformed. Placing straw under the tomatoes was very effective at keeping them healthy and I’ll do this again.
Basil – excellent crop. I had so much I shared it with the neighbors and I have many freezer bags filled with ice cube-sized pesto to add to sauces all winter. I’ll plant just as much next year. This was also the most successful seed planting in the greenhouse.
Catnip – excellent crop. I harvested it four times and could have done more. I dried enough to fill seven large Mason jars and just picked another bunch that is a fraction of what is still in the garden. I will start working on cashmere catnip mice to sell in town and give as gifts.
Herbs in general – not all successful. The chamomile was terrific for about two months and then croaked. That will take some research. I get the feeling it’s a delicate plant since I’ve killed every one I’ve purchased over many years. The lemon balm is still doing okay, the lemongrass needs harvesting again, the thyme flourished but anything else was simply crowded out by basil and catnip. I’ll need to do a better spacing job in the future. The Sweet Annie that came up on its own adorns the doors of several friends and neighbors.
Sugar snap peas – not stellar. I picked about 30 pods but that was it. I’ll need to figure out why they were spindly and underperformed. The lettuce surrounding the peas was terrific and I’ll do that again. Many salads were enjoyed from one planting.
Flowers – all flowers including companion marigolds were very abundant. The cut flowers brought the most joy of any part of the garden and I highly recommend growing them. The colors are beautiful to see every day and so are all the insects! Flowers are still blooming.
Carrots, onions, catnip – I can’t find any carrots or onions and they were definitely there two months ago! The catnip overcrowded them and once again, I need to pay more attention to plant size and spacing.
Gourds – the bottle gourds are abundant and now it’s time to let them dry, then sand off the mold, and make birdhouses out of them. I’ll place them all over the yard - might look like a Salvador Dali painting when I’m done but the birds will be thankful.
Watermelons and pumpkins – looked promising and then they became squishy and rotted. I’ll blame that one on the squash vine borer.
My most damaging pest was the squash vine borer and I’m already researching what to do about it. There are traps similar to Japanese beetle traps but vigilance and finding/destroying the eggs is more effective. I have a great contact at MSU who is already helping me for next year.
Weeds – worst issue of the garden and one I didn’t spend much time researching. Straw helps but I need to give this far more attention. I simply do not have the time to weed a large area and do not want that to deter having a large garden again. I’ll work with MSU on this.
Fencing - the hideous milk jug, pie tin, metal stake, and chicken wire fencing combination worked like a charm. No deer or rabbits ever entered (no rabbits after chicken wire installation) and that’s a miracle since both are abundant.
Next steps? All the hardware needs to be methodically taken down and stored. I’ll save everything – including the pie tins and milk jugs and I expect to take an entire weekend to do this work. I will save as many seeds as possible – dry, label, and properly store them to cut costs next year. Finally, I’ll call my landscaping friend and have him plow under everything even though that’s not recommended. It will at least boost the compost level in the soil but of course encourage the weeds all over again.
Observations – while straw helps keep the weeds down, it’s slippery to walk on when it’s dry. Lemongrass is sharper than a knife. Garden spiders can make nose-level webs. Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars love fennel. Bottle gourd flowers are white and open late in the day. Squash flowers close at noon – with male squash bees quietly at rest inside while the females keep working. Rabbits can hop over a walking-dead arrangement of 12-inch skewers but do not attempt to dig under them. Maintaining a large garden and harvesting is a full time job.
And yes, I’ll do this again next year - all 3,000 square feet.