End of the Garden 2015

Intellectually I understand that the end of the growing season is just a part of the natural cycle of things around here. I lived in both Hawai’i and Florida for several years when I was younger, and the lack of seasons was… disconcerting. (Okay, honestly, it might have made me a little crazy(ier).) So I actually really appreciate all of the seasons, but the end of the garden is still always a bit melencholy.

It means no more snacks from the back yard, no more delicious tomatoes to eat straight of the vine, no more handfulls of fresh-picked strawberries or raspberries when I’m in the mood for something sweet. The back yard starts to look barren, and it means from here until spring I’ll spend most of my time outdoors either shoveling the snow away from the barn doors or cleaning out the donkey stall instead of walking around my garden paths, drinking wine and eating fresh-picked green beans.


The fact that I don’t get those things year-round makes me appreciate them a hell of a lot more. I know this (even though I still get a little salty when it’s over) so I try to be actively grateful for all the wonderful things that come from my garden, especially at the end of the year when I find some surprise broccoli to snack on…


And, even better, surprise carrots! (That I forgot I planted.)


The end of the growing season this year has been full of all kinds of wonderful surprises. Like the glass-gem corn that I planted this year and (I thought) totally failed to grow…


Turns out all the tiny corn stalks were just hidden by all of the MASSIVE weeds in that part of the garden this year. But I found a few after the weeds died off and got just a few little ears of corn that I’m hoping got polinated and can be re-planted next year.

Garden clean-up includes a fair amount of weeding, cutting back the perrenials, pulling the dead annuals out of the beds, and my favorite…


Planting garlic for next year.

(It makes me feel like I’m already ahead of the game for 2016.)

Now that all of the “things that needed to be done before winter” are taken care of I have a bit of time for reflection on this years garden, and what I hope to grow next year. So here’s my recap on my 2015 garden… the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good

First off, parts of my garden legitimately feel “established” finally. Like the strawberries that have been spreading for a couple of years now. And the raspberries that had a fantastic second year…


Plus the mint, oregano, chives, and lavender that all came back for a second (or third) year this year.

I also had fun with a few new plants, like radishes!


These are a new garden and kitchen favorite. Radishes in egg salad are the best…


And one of my new spring favorites is thinly sliced radish and chives on top of some kind of soft cheese…



Plus my tomatoes did way better than last year (but not as good as my first year.) Still, I ate a lot of tomatoes-garlic-and-balsamic with my eggs this year…


And the cucumbers and broccoli made for great salads.


(I shared three of my favorite cucumber salads last year, still loving all of those.)


All in all I had a way better garden this year than last, but it wasn’t all pretty and delicious…

The Bad

Well “bad” might be overstating it. Last year I had 14 tomato plants that got the blight. That was bad. This year was more like… somehow I forgot to plant two of my very favorite things in the garden.

Bush beans, for example, which are my absolute favorite. And last year I somehow planted green beans on the vine instead, which weren’t nearly so good. So I’ve been without my favorite eating or snacking bean in my garden for years now. So dissapointing.

I also wanted to plant all kinds of squashes this year. Acorn, butternut, spaghetti, pumpkin. I love squash. But that didn’t happen either because by the time I got the “new” raised beds in the ground (and never actually got them filled) it was too late for squash planting.

And, in addition to forgetting a few of my faves, I’ve also had increasingly worse luck with corn every year. Last year I got a few tiny ears of sweet corn, but this year none of my sweet corn made it, and only a few tiny ears of glass gem corn.

(The sunflowers I planted on that side of the garden did surprisingly well though… so that’s something.)



So I have a few things to work on next year as far as getting organized, getting the right things planted, and figuring out what I need to do to the soil (and with the weeds) to get my corn to grown. And while this was a little disappointhing this year, it wasn’t the worst of it…

The Ugly

Here’s the real problem I’m having with the garden, and the reason it has created about as much stress in my life as delicious food for the last two years…



And it’s not just not done, it’s like every day that it’s not done makes it harder to finish becase the fucking weeds are taking over. Every day. But I’ve planted enough stuff (and also now have the bees to worry about) so I can’t just spray the whole damn area and start from scratch. In some ways I feel like the garden is my nemesis…

Here are some big mistakes I’ve made with the design of the garden:

  • The fence is not installed in such a way that it’s easy to trim the grass under and around it and it’s designed in such a way that grass can grow up through the slats. It drives me effing nuts. I have a half-formed plan to install bricks directly under the fence, or spray-foam in-between the slats or something.
  • The “border gardens” around the inner perimeter were a huge mistake… or at least poorly executed. I love the idea of having perrenials (and my strawberries and raspberries) in those beds, but I did not prep the ground well enough or something and it’s impossible to keep the weeds/grass out of those beds. (Which is in stark contrast to how easy it is to manage weeds in my raised beds.)
  • I didn’t just hire someone to install the beds and pathways the first year. I’m at the point where I truly dislike building the beds (mostly because I hate doing repetitive tasks), and I’m also about at my limit with installing weed fabric (especially after doing both the firepit area and the pergola this year.)

It took a serious amount of willpower to build and install five of the 10 remaining raised beds this year, and, because I didn’t take into account that the garden isn’t actually square, I measured off the wrong side of the fence and now they’re crooked…


This picture doesn’t really show the part that makes my eye twitch, but it’s enough that I’m probably going to pull them all back out of the ground and re-set them, and I just couldn’t bring myself to do that this year.

The good news is that I got a ton of other outside projects done this year… enough that I can actually spend the majority of next spring and summer trying to whip the garden into shape (and I’m seriously considering hiring help as well.)

Next Year

Okay, so there are some parts of this that are absolutely driving me nuts, but I’m also really excited for next year. I’ve got some big plans that include:

  1. Putting in a greenhouse! I finally reconciled myself to buying a kit house like this, otherwise it’s going to be three more years before I can even start to think about designing and building my own. I’m going to save that energy for my bee storage shed and some other fun projects. I hear these kits are fairly quick and easy to install, which is a huge bonus these days.
  2. Finishing the arbor. After building the big pergola, this should be easy. I’m also planning to put a couple of little beds with bee-friendly plants on either side of the garden entrance.
  3. Installing (and re-installing) the final 10 beds, and the gravel pathways inbetween them. Not excited about this, but I’ll be excited to have it done, and that counts for something.
  4. Swapping the wood edging on the border gardens for brick.
  5. Doing a better job at fertilizing from the compost pile (I’ve got more donkey and chicken poop than one human should ever need, but I need to actually put it to use.)
  6. Do a better job at mulching. My new weed-management strategy is going to be to cover every avialable surface in half a foot of mulch, and if that doesn’t work… laying prostrate on the ground and crying is plan B.

It’s rare that I check all the things off my list for any part of the property in a given year, but even if I can tackle the first three of these I’ll be in way better shape by this time next year. So, here’s to a short winter and getting back out there in a few months!

21 Responses

  1. I am amazed at your progress with everything. I feel your pain with the weed problem. I live in Mobile, Alabama which most years wins the prize for most amount of rainfall,= horrible Jurraisic Park type weeds. Weeds, I know about. #6 on your list should be your first priority, before all the other tasks.It will save you countless hours. Keep the sun from seeing the weed seeds. I have had good luck using newspaper mulches. Cardboard boxes work too. In the beds try a pre emergent herbicide. Do it immediately after the last snowfall. also, try not to disturb the soil in areas that aren’t planted.

  2. Is your fence keeping animals out of the garden? If not, which animals most want to eat your lunch in your neck of the woods?

    1. I think it’s decorative. It’s not going to keep out deer or raccoons or squirrels. Do the donkeys or nugs go out there? Also, I don’t see a gate. Maybe just take it down?

  3. Congrats on those carrots! I haven’t figured out how to grow them here. Too much clay.

    Mulch is your friend. I garden in south central Indiana [one of the foremost weed capitals of the world], all year long. The straw bales I get to insulate the winter cold frames are taken apart and used for mulch in the spring. Works like a charm. You can use new ones, too. No need to fluff it up, just peel off a layer at a time and lay them out like tiles between plants or rows. Also, save all your cardboard or newspaper and lay it out as mulch until you can get straw. The two together won’t win any beauty contests but I’d rather look at weed deterrent than all those weeds.

  4. I have pesky bermuda grass. The only way I’ve found to keep it out of my garden, flowerbeds, and fence line is to spray roundup around the edge of all my beds. I also have bees so I spray at dusk, after the bees have gone in for the evening. The roundup is dry by the next morning when they are out and about again. Maybe that would work for you if you decide that spraying is the only way to get the beds around the edge of the garden in shape.

  5. Hydroponic green housing is something you may want to check into vs. a standard green house growing.I am not sure about the initial $ outlay but I witnessed their potential many years ago. It’s amazing the little growth time and size of veggies one can grow. My son is currently building his very low cost self – sustained Aquaponics Growing System in his basement. He’s into fish as well, enjoys eating, catching and now will be growing them as well. I have plans for four to six raised beds in the back yard yet in spring.
    When wind is -0- none in spring I would spray under perimeter ( maybe both sides of wood fence and under) Gordons Trimec (kills over 200 weeds) My Botanical Guru Certified Master Gardener buddy convinced me of the simplicity and effectiveness of using no landscaping fabric/weed barrier in beds…. and 4″ min. of red cedar much. With 4 inches minimum cedar mulch your doing the same as fabric = no daylight but moisture goes through, plus you get the natural pest deterrent quality of the cedar. Using that procedure one has little to no weeds and you can add and transplant items w/o the hassle of the weed fabric in the way. I went w/this procedure when I cleaned out and re did the front house / deck area landscaping, like it – time saver and only add a small amount annually to freshen up the color..breaks down little, but keeping at least 4 to 5 inches it keeps weeds out n looks nice. I started composting in an area out back..for now it’s gotten a few table scraps, leaves and Doodle poo…heavy on the Doodle poo, plus what I pick up of the neighbors two dogs. I’m thinking about solar powered electrified woven wire fence might be in order..or a diy scrap pallet fence LOL
    constant growth…

  6. The greenhouse you chose is fabulous. I live on Mt. Hood in Oregon and you see these everywhere. Being mostly restricted national forest up here, there isn’t much, if anything, in the way of yard space one can turn into a garden. And the rain…well, that’s another story all together. I think you will be happy with your choice. Mine has been fabulous…and fun!

  7. Just a couple thoughts. First, you can get rolls of newsprint from your local newspaper in a couple of different sizes. The rolls make it much easier to put newspaper down under your mulch, if you like. It also makes it possible to later till the mulch into the garden, if that is the plan.

    Second, I struggle with corn as well. But most of mine is eaten by pheasants before it can get big enough. Either they eat the seed in the ground, or they pull up the sprouted corn to eat the seed off the bottom of the tiny plant. Either way, nothing grows. I plan to try a couple different things next year to see if I can protect the corn until it gets up and out of the ground. All that to say you might have something other than soil issues to consider.

    Finally, I had a fence around my yard at one time that actually belonged to the neighbor. The neighbor was totally not concerned with weed control along that fence. So I put down a targeted soil sterilizer that prevented anything from growing for a bit over a year. It really made dealing with the fence much easier. Part of the fence was right next to my garden and the sterilizer did not seem to impact the garden at all. Just a thought.

    Good luck.

  8. Every year I regret not planting something in the garden. This year I didn’t plant pumpkins for jack o’ lanterns, I forgot squash and sunflowers, and I didn’t prepare an asparagus bed.

    But our harvest was great.

    I am still envious of your raised bed garden. I think I am going to at least have a couple next year for strawberries and the above mentioned asparagus.

    You do so well for running the farm all by yourself! Give yourself a pat on the back as you plan for next year!

  9. Don’t lament – there is a fourth growing season for the garden, easy enough to accomplish with cold frames (also easy enough to accomplish by turning those raised beds into cold frames for the winter). A hoop house? A green house?

    Thank you for another great post – and for sharing the garden gems you found when putting it to rest for the winter.

  10. You continue to be an inspiration! Keep trucking and keep letting us city-dwellers live vicariously through your journey! Happy Thanksgiving, Kit.

  11. I’ve missed your garden updates this year, so it’s nice to hear about how things went. It sounds like we have a lot of similar plans and to-dos for our gardens next year. Do we need to do a DIY face off next spring? BTW, if you want squash, I’m happy to share. We still have four cartons of acorns, butternuts and pie pumpkins.

  12. Don’t forget to plant lots and lots of pumpkins for the nuggets. Just cut them in half and let them feast. Natural wormer. If you’re worried about weeds vs bees, I’ve read that you can spray apple cider vinegar on the weeds to kill them. Have never tried it but would be great if it works with no harm to the bees! Happy fall/winter, Kit!

  13. I love reading your blog because of your candor. I want to put in a garden and I don’t have the slightest idea how to do it. If you would share the things that worked and the things that didn’t and how you would do things different that would be so awesome. I have already noted that I will do raised beds for sure because the last thing I want to do is spend my days weeding!

  14. Hi,
    Yes, excess weeds are a great discouragement. Covering your paths with cardboad or newspaper and mulch goes a long way to help keep down the weed seed from getting into your raised beds.
    Heavy duty attention to getting the weeds out before they go to seed in the Spring will really make a difference. That is the time of year to get help. If you can do that and then have the beds heavily planted to crowd out the next round of weeds things will be more under control,
    I know this is all so easy to say. You have a lot on your plate, especially in those crucial Spring weeks,
    This is my first year with bees. Just winterized our hives here near Vancouver BC.
    regards Janine

  15. Howdy! First time poster here although I’ve been enjoying your adventures for quite a while. I’m a gardener adviser in my county and am continuously widening my hort training. You’ve gotten good advice on weed suppression using straw and paper. Just remember that weed seeds can travel in from afar and love to still take root in mulchs. I advise my clients against using weed fabrics and opt for mulches because it’s easier to root out (ha!) weeds from mulch than from when they eventually root into the fabrics. Fabric was a good use in the fire pit area even though you’ll end up w/ weeds in there, too someday.

    Anyway – also wanted to suggest you check out the greenhouse design that Ana has posted on her DIY website (ana-white.com). It’s one of the most builder friendly ones I’ve come across.

  16. I agree with Margaret, way above, and all the other comments regarding mulch. My lot is a typical city quarter acre with my house perimeter measuring 25 x 35. The home was vacant for two years after the 85 y/o owner passed away. The weeds were as high as my waist. I’m not a chemical person, but, it was way out of hand. I tried baking them with tarps to no avail. And the cost of restoring the lawn was crazy. I decided to make the front yard a kitchen garden and the back yard a park-like retreat. So, in summer, I sprayed an herbicide. Then, in areas of full sun, I used two layers of cardboard with six inches of mulch on top. I sprayed the underside of the first layer of cardboard with an herbicide. Thoroughly saturate the cardboard first. Place the mulch and thoroughly wet that too. I ordered double ground mulch, cuz it is becomes compact quickly. I ordered 20 yards the first year. Only 4-5 needed each year after, for the shaded areas where I didn’t use cardboard. I used a pre emergence fertilizer in spring, which prevents germination of those weed seeds you don’t want. Now, I only need to spot treat once, maybe twice a year. Also, if you want to go this extra step, I mulch my leaves and spread it on in spring and fall. I can’t believe how great the soil is now. The few weeds that grow pull out so easily. I compost everything, even weeds, as long as they have not gone to seed. But if they have, the trick is to cover them to deprive them sunlight i.e. a tarp or more mulch or compost. Tilling brings unwanted seed to the top so that it can get sunlight and germinate. I put straw over the raised beds in winter, mix it into the soil in spring and place another layer after planting. You can do this with leaves and grass clippings too. Or in your case, donkey straw and chicken poop. Put the worlds largest compost system on your to do list and place it near your garden so that your tractor can do the work. Even better, map out your garden, so that you can drive your tractor thru the rows or access them easily from outside the fence. Brick is a great idea, so is flagstone by the fence. But, mulch/straw over cardboard works great and is time friendly. Even fire pit ashes are great for next years tomatoes as mulch. I haven’t had to repeat the chemicals in five years. Everything pulls out so easily. I’m not a fan of gravel cuz organic matter breaks down in/on it and makes dirt for stuff to grow. It has to be very thick to succeed. And little stones don’t seem to abide by boundary rules without tight borders. Good luck!!

  17. Newspaper. Cover the ground or beds with one layer of newspaper then cover that with a layer of dirt just thick enough the wind won’t blow the whole business away. If the ground isn’t already frozen solid you can do it now (although I saw you had snow!) and it will cut down on sneaky early spring weeds. Even when you plant, you can just punch a hole in it and go on about your business. Water can get through but it definitely cuts down on weeds. It doesn’t last forever but it is especially helpful for those spots (beds) that don’t end up with plants the entire time.

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