The State of The Garden

Well, it’s time to take stock of the wins and losses in the garden this year. It’s been a mixed bag.

Wins

– The herbs are doing great. We have enough bay, thyme, rosemary, oregano and basil to use freely. In a few weeks, I’m going to harvest everything off the basil and make up a sizeable batch of pesto. In the fall, we’ll try our hand at overwintering the thyme and rosemary and maybe the oregano along with the bay indoors.

– The hops is a beauty to look at it. We’re still waiting to see if it actually produces any cones though.

– The hot peppers did amazingly well. We’ve eaten a few, and the squirrels have eaten a few, but overall they’ve done great.

– The sweet peppers did pretty good too, even though a few have gone to the squirrels.

– I’m not sure which category to put the chard in. We ate two good harvests, then we had the spider mite situation. Somehow we’ve managed to eradicate the spider mites, and while it’s putting out new growth, none of it’s big enough to eat yet. I think I’m counting it as a win, because I feel fairly confident we can get another few meals out of it.

– The cabbages are a win so far. They’re doing great and heading out nicely. They’ll be ready to harvest at the end of the month I think. Will I try my hand at home made sauerkraut with them? I think I might.

The Losses

– The tomatoes. They’re a real sore spot for us. We harvested a total of three tomatoes off of four plants. They were luscious and wonderful with such a profusion of fruit… then they got waterlogged, and then they got scorched and just when we thought we had them on the rebound the squirrels made a massive attack and ate every last one. And what kills us is the fact that the squirrels are so wasteful! A bite or two out of each one, then onto another. Sad.

– Cucumbers. Way back when at the beginning of the season, you might remember that I planted a couple pickling cucumbers in the window box, and those didn’t even make it a month before mysteriously dying off.

– Green garlic. I had a couple bowls of garlic planted at the beginning of the season and promptly lost that due to mold. It just rotted in the soil. This season has been oddly wet. After how many years of drought? Go figure.

– The strawberries were a loss. The foliage looks good, but we got a grand total of two ripe berries that we didn’t even get to taste, thanks to the squirrels. I’m not sure if we’ll do them again next year.

– Squirrels. We have a squirrel problem. In addition to decimating the tomatoes, as I mentioned above they’ve also had their grimey little hands on our hot and sweet peppers. This is why we can’t have nice things!

 

So I’ve been thinking about what I’ll do differently next year. We’ll definitely grow another four tomato plants, but those babies will be caged for sure. I’ve already been browsing designs online and thinking it over. And I think we’ll try cherry tomatoes instead of regular tomatoes. If we can keep the blasted squirrels off of them, we might get more bang for our buck.

I want to do chard again next season too, but I want to get it out of the window box and into a few larger containers so we can get bigger leaves. And it’ll be easier to isolate should we run into spider mites again next season.

I’m sticking with herbs, but going back to putting them into individual pots so we don’t have to transplant them for overwintering. As for what will go into the window box next season, I’m not sure yet. I have a lot of flower seeds that didn’t make it into rotation this year, so maybe I’ll do a box full of dwarf snapdragons, with a couple of morning glories to trail down the front. The would look pretty sharp and give us a nice shot of color out there.

I’m undecided on the cabbage being a repeat or not – we’ll see what happens with that when I harvest.

I’d like to add in a couple of edamame, because I just love that stuff for snacks. And next year I actually want to do the potatos in a trash can. I never did get those in and I ended up losing my seed potatoes to rot (techinically another loss I suppose). We’ll bring back the hot peppers, but probably not the sweet. I’m okay with buying sweet peppers, full sized tomatoes and maybe even cabbage at the farmer’s markets. And I’m on the fence about Lacinato kale – I might do a fall crop of that. And that’s something I want to start practicing at – succession crops and intercropping.

As far as hardscaping, I think we’re pretty well set. We’ve got a nice complement of patio furniture and planters. I’d like to get a couple more of the large plastic pots, so I have a total of eight. Maybe when I’m back on my feet, I can see if the dollar store has any left on sale. Probably not, since they were already starting to add in back to school stuff when I was in there a month ago, but it’ll be worth a look if I’m back on my feet anytime soon. And I’d like to get a little something for flowers to hang on the wall above the chairs, like some terra cotta wall pots. I actually found some made from plastic, which fits our budget these days a little better than the real deal –

So maybe we’ll get a pair of those. Or maybe I’ll do something upcycled on the wall, which we can do for free. These coffee can planters are a great idea, and we could spray paint them in any color we want –

I’d also like to add some type of small water feature, like a miniature table top fountain. Gurgling water is such a relaxing sound. I haven’t even begun to browse options for that yet, but I like the idea of making my own (of course) rather than buying something prefab. And it would be really cool to try to have it just large enough to hold a few small water plants, like dwarf papyrus.

So there you have it. Wins, losses and grand plans. The season is nowhere near over yet but it’s always good to take stock of things and see where you’re at. And if all else fails, there’s always next year. That’s the great thing about gardening.

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6 thoughts on “The State of The Garden

  1. Hi. I found your blog through Midnight Sun (where I have a CSA and so read their blog). I wanted to share my (very) limited squirrel successes. I didn’t get a single tomato or sweet pepper or hot pepper last year; they were all lost to those mangy little creatures! Man, was I ANNOYED!

    Last year I tried putting tons of cat fur all around the tomato plant and that did nothing. I also tried coffee grounds sometimes, although I can’t remember if that was just me guessing they might not like it or if I read that somewhere?

    This year I gave up on everything but tomatoes and herbs. I switched back to cherry tomatoes and have so far actually successfully gotten several before the squirrels do. I don’t know if it’s a matter of them ripening more quickly, so the squirrels have less time to find them?

    Two other things I did this year (again, I have no idea what is working or if it’s just luck): I have a couple of rubber snakes that I put out. I move them every day in different “menacing” poses. (I read that you must move them or the squirrels will realize they are fake.)

    I also bought some squirrel riddance stuff at Anton’s Greenhouse in Evanston. It’s pellets of dried blood, I believe, so it’s pretty gross. And I’ll be honest — it’s stinky as hell, too. So I have only used it a few times. Mostly I’ve been putting it on the rail that butts up to the tomato plant in the hopes they will be dissuaded from even paying us a visit.

    I have really enjoyed reading your blog.

    ~Kerri

    • Hi Kerri – isn’t Midnight Sun great? We love their produce, and the fact that they’re located so close to home.

      I’m glad to hear you’ve had some success switching back to cherry tomatoes, since that what I plan to do for next season. The smelly dried blood repellent I’ll probably have to avoid since we have shared patio space with other residents in our building, but I think I’m going to take your advice and try some rubber snakes. I’ve read that as well – that they’re only effective if you keep them on the move, otherwise the squirrels get desensitized to their presence. But hey, I figure we can move a few snakes around every day or two if that’s going to ensure us a tomato harvest!

      One question though – did you spend the big bucks on the ones they sell in the garden catalogs, or did you get the rubber toy snakes you see in the stores sometimes? It would be awesome to pop over to the dollar store and pick up the toy ones on the cheap, but only if they’d have a shot at working.

      • Yes, Midnight Sun rocks! They’re so fab.

        I just went with the cheap-o rubber snakes (bought at Tom Thumb in Evanston for a buck each or something). I wouldn’t get hard plastics ones is my only caveat. The rubber ones you can drape over the rim of pots, window boxes, etc. so that they appear to be slithering up and out (or so I imagine this is how it looks to the squirrels).

  2. I can’t remember what kind of strawberries you planted or whether you seeded them or bought plants, but just in case you didn’t know: Strawberry plants don’t really fruit much in their first year. They need a year to build up their root structure, and then you can begin harvesting in the second year. So IF, by chance, those were first year plants, don’t give up hope! You can bring them in somewhere cool, keep them watered, and let them go dormant for the winter, then try again next year.

    • I am so glad you mentioned this, because pregnancy brain or something happened and I completely forgot that we can overwinter our strawberries! Though I had intended to try to seed alpine strawberries this past spring, it didn’t work out and we ended up buying a six pack of plants from our local greenhouse. I don’t even know which variety they are, or even if they’re June-bearing or everbearing.

      I’ve got them in a small terra cotta strawberry pot, so it should be easy enough to bring it under shelter over the winter. Do you happen to know how often I should give them water to keep them alive, but dormant? I assume just enough to keep the soil damp?

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