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.
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…
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…
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…
IT’S NOT DONE.
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.)
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Swapping the wood edging on the border gardens for brick.
- 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.)
- 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!