The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Some of our plants did really well, resulting in a large harvest or more consistent produce over the summer.

Our potato growing skills continue to improve. We managed to get a big haul of potatoes again this year with average sizes being larger and more consistent than previous years. Our straw to soil ratio seems to be working well, however we once again had all the potatoes mainly in one section of the towers. The goal for next year will be to have potatoes throughout the entire tower. I may also start doing 3 different varieties of potatoes, one variety for each of our three towers. K would like some russet potatoes and I would like to add sweet potato. Hopefully we get our shop built and have a cold storage built for our root vegetables. It would be nice to have them available for the winter.

Potato damage

The only concern this year is that we did find one potato that had been hollowed out by something and a few other potatoes in that tower had signs of worm activity. After doing a little research I am less sure of what it may have been. Wireworm was my initial assumption, but after reading and looking at photos, I am not convinced that those are the worms we found. Based on photos and descriptions of how the larvae acts, I believe we had Therevid Larvae that I assumed were the culprit, when in fact they are actually helpful to a garden by eating the pest worms. Wireworm is thicker, yellow and has legs. The worms I found were white, very slim/tiny and had no visible legs. I did find both slugs and centipedes, which could be our culprits. I’ll have to keep an eye out and maybe do some traps in the spring to make sure they are not wireworm.

Final carrot harvest

Our carrots were fantastic this year. We -replanted and spaced out the plantings so we had carrots through the entire summer right until a few days ago when we cleared all the beds out.

Due to spacing out the days we planted rows, we had a variety of sizes. K also decided to try planting some closer together which resulted is some great clusters of carrots. We have always spaced them out very evenly and uniform and have gotten good yields, but this year it was interesting planting a few rows where the carrots were growing all together. The carrots were smaller but packed a lot of flavour.

Carrot clusters

We had far less split carrots this year, much to the dogs chagrin as they usually get to eat those carrots. I think due to our timing in planting the rows, we were using them before they could sit long enough to split.

Onions were great this year. The accidental variety allowed us to eat onions for the entire summer rather than just late-summer/fall. Although the spring onions are smaller, they made much better salad toppers than the sweet onion does. They also had finer tops that made for better compliments to egg salad sandwiches or garnish on baked potato.

Our strawberries did really well again this year with the exception of the 2 week rain hiatus. It was unfortunate that they stopped producing for 2 weeks, but overall for the year, we did well. We also didn’t have all our plants come back so we had one less level from our strawberry tower producing this year. We left the runners to go a little hog wild this year in anticipation of transplanting the plants to a new, permanent bed in the spring.

Wild driveway berry patch

Our unexpected driveway wild strawberry patch also did really well considering the berries were never bigger than the tip of our baby-finger but packed a huge flavour. They were like little candies. Hopefully those plants come back again next year.

Our tomatoes did great this year. They were ripe earlier in the season than last year and were abundant. I have two large mixing bowls of Roma’s on my counter waiting to be made into sauce or canned for winter use. Our cherry tomatoes also did really well. Next year we will be testing our tomatoes in a new temporary home while we build the walls on that side of the yard. We are also going to include more variety, including tomatillos.

Our little herb planter also did great once again. We will be adding a larger herb patch into our garden, but this little planter will still continue to be full each year. I like having herbs that I use frequently, situated so close to the kitchen. Herbs like basil, parsley and rosemary are used regularly so they will likely be in the planter as well as the garden.

Our impromptu rhubarb plant that was given to us from our neighbour did good for its first season. It didn’t wilt after transplanting and provided us with a few harvests throughout the summer. The only challenge in the future will be trying to keep the spider population down. Those leaves seem to be ideal locations for wolf spider nests, making it difficult to want to harvest it.

I managed a beautiful strawberry rhubarb pie, which turned out excellent. I will share that recipe for sure. K has asked me to make another one with the rhubarb we just harvested, but I have made all my strawberries into jams and preserves for the winter. I may have to do a rhubarb cake for him instead.

My cucumbers were an improvement this year and did ok overall. The first few years we did pickling cucumbers and harvested huge baskets a day, so switching over to long English felt like a step backwards because they do not grow as fast or abundantly as pickling cucumbers. Last year we tried a new location and failed at growing cucumbers. This year we managed to grow enough throughout the summer to not have to purchase any, so it was an improvement. I would like to see the vines get bigger and produce just a bit more. With 4 plants we should have had more than enough for ourselves and have spare to give away. That will be the goal for next year.

I’m splitting the peppers up for this post. Our hot peppers did good as usual. Also a little late to start, but that is likely due to the unusually wet and cold June we had. Their best harvest time was the fall with tones of new peppers still starting in the last weeks.

I haven’t done zucchini for a few years and was eager to put it back in the garden this year. The plant did well with some nice veggies harvested. In the past I usually get a lot more from my zucchini plants so I am not sure if it was also briefly stunted from our unusual June weather or if a different location would have been better. We will find out next summer when we plant them again on the sunnier side of the yard.

The spaghetti squash and Butternut squash plants did not do well. The plants themselves grew well and produced lots of flowers as well as the beginnings of squash, but as they developed, the hit a certain point and withered away. I am not sure what the problem was. I have grown many types of squash before and never had an issue. My theory is that it was not in a good location. All of the other squash that I have grown has been on the left side of the yard. These were on the shady, right side of the yard. We will see how they do in the permanent beds on the left next year.

My sugar baby watermelons did not work out. Again, the plant grew well, especially once the hot weather arrived, and lots of flowers and melons started. I did manage two really small melons that I was able to eat, but it was minimal. Most just withered away. The two that I did get were from the sun catching side of my trellis. Again, they will be planted on the left side in the spring, so they will be exposed to much more sun. I feel that may be the issue since the sunny side fared just a bit better than the shady side.

My brussel sprouts did amazing when they first went in. They were healthy, happy and grew tall and strong. I was learning to grow these this year so I am only slightly disappointed in not actually being able to harvest any of these. I was just getting to the point where the leaves are ready to be clipped up the stem when disaster hit. Or rather bugs…maybe mould? I couldn’t really tell. Nothing moved so I am not certain it was bugs, but at the same time the patches in the leaves looked eaten. Regardless, I have way more research and learning to do this winter about growing brussel sprouts. K and I love brussel sprouts, and they aren’t the cheapest veggie to enjoy, so it would be nice to be able to grow our own.

The sweet peppers this year were once again not a stellar crop. We have tried them in different locations but have never had a lot of peppers. The peppers we usually get are also very thin with not a lot of meat to them. Our plants are always smaller going into the garden, so next year we are going to start them earlier in larger pots that we can add soil to as the plant grows and hopefully have a nice size plant going into the garden. Perhaps if they are a stronger plant going out, then they won’t take most of the summer to get flowering. Ideally vegetables during the heat of summer would be better than the fall just before we shut down the yard.

Overall, we continue to learn, we continue to tweak the yard, we continue to adjust how we grow vegetables and we review each year so we have noted in the spring. Some of our crops get better every year, some stay steady and others we struggle with. That is part of the joy of being a gardener.

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