A Peek into my Garden Journal: Successes and Failures in the Summer Garden
by Anne-Marie Miller
I always like to record my successes and failures for each garden season so that I can improve my yield every year. After all, my definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result. I don’t want to go insane over this garden thing and I bet neither do you. I wish I could peek into everyone’s garden journals and glean the kernels of wisdom hidden between the pages.
We will start with the failures first since Greg says, “Failures are just opportunities to learn.” Love that man’s positive approach to things!
Failure/lesson #1-Moringa Trees
I had heard that the Moringa tree would shoot up to the sky in my warm Summer climate. The nutritious leaves could then be harvested to put in smoothies, salads and the like. Then in the cold of Winter this super tree would succumb to the frost and die. I was hoping I would get some seeds off it to start the cycle all over again in Spring.
Well, I planted my seeds and was rewarded with a stout little tree right away. I had high hopes. In the end all I got was a little stout tree. I couldn’t help but notice my friends bragging on Facebook about the unbelievable height and lush growth of their trees. What was I doing wrong? When I went back to my seed packet to check the requirements of this mysterious plant, I couldn’t help but notice one small word on the back. The word was dwarf! Who wants a dwarf Moringa tree? I guess if you wanted to put it in a pot and try to grow it year-round in a sunny window or if you have a greenhouse that stays toasty warm during the cold months then dwarf might work for you. However, I have neither of those conditions. So, if you are thinking that a dwarf Moringa tree would be just the thing for you then let me know in the comments and I will email you and send you the seed. I for one, will be seeking seed for the true, “grows like crazy tall tree” to try again in the Spring. On a side note; dwarf or not, the leaves were very tasty!
Failure/lesson #2- The squash vine borer is still eating my lunch, literally!
For those of you that don’t know about the squash vine borer. It is an orange colored moth (my garden nemesis) that lays tiny brown eggs at the base of plants like zucchini. What makes squash plants so attractive to this pest is their hollow stems. After hatching, the larvae then burrow into the stem and eat your plant from the inside out.
In my garden journal I have the following list of things I tried that did not work:
- Bt spray (must be applied each time you water or it rains, at the base of the plant. That sooo didn’t happen)
- Tin foil or frost cloth wrapped around the stem of plant (the eggs just were laid above that)
- Marigold spray (I know, don’t laugh. I was desperate!)
- Marigold plants crushed and put around base of each plant. (again, desperate)
- Row cover placed over the plant (I think the moth pupated and came from the earth and bees couldn’t get to blossoms)
- Removing the eggs at the base of the plant with a soapy sponge. (Really? Who can keep up with that!)
- Decoy plants set around the perimeter of the garden (Yes, my nemesis enjoyed those too!)
Now for the one thing that did work, kind of. This method at least got me a few yellow squash or zucchini before the plant gave up and keeled over.
Doing a surgery with a scalpel and tweezers to remove the hated pest. Then mounding up compost around the damaged stem. If you have something up your sleeve that is not on the failure to work list, then please share it in the comments, I beg of you! This next plant is a good transition to my successes because it goes under the failure and success list.
Comfrey- I had heard of all the wonderful uses for comfrey leaves. It can be fed to livestock, used as a medicinal salve, as a nitrogen fixer and a nutritious mulch/fertilizer. I had heard also that it grows and spreads amazingly fast!
It probably would have grown amazingly fast had it not been regularly eaten by wild rabbits!
Most everything I grow is inside the protection of my front yard rabbit fence. Why did I put this plant outside my fence? I had just taken a mini course in permaculture. They threw all kinds of words and concepts at us, like food forest and edible landscaping. So, with all these words ringing around in my head, I took my wee comfrey start and planted it in my side yard where I imagined a food forest abounding. Well, yes, it was a food forest for the neighborhood rabbit population to feast on to their hearts content and they did just that. Good bye comfrey.
This story turned into a success because I met another gardener that gave me some new comfrey starts! Yay, I love meeting local gardening friends! These little comfrey starts are planted safely behind my garden fence. At least I learned that rabbits love it. I have some rabbits of my own that I am going to feed it to and it will save me a lot of money on rabbit food!
My first super garden success was shade!
I know it is a bit ironic that I moved my garden to my front yard to escape the shade. Now I am trying to create it. In the past I have always thought of shade as coming from above. However, a strong wind blows over the plains and through my garden taking all my shade structures with it. Turns out I was overthinking the whole shade problem. Shade can also come from the side. I put shade cloth on an existing cattle panel I had up to support my tomatoes. The sun came up in the East and traveled across the great expanse of the sky. As it reached a point in the West it hit the shade cloth just in time to protect my bell peppers from the scorching heat of the afternoon. This led to the best crop of bell peppers that I have ever had in my life!
My second super success was Egyptian Spinach!
I have reported how well Egyptian Spinach did in the garden before and it did not disappoint again this Summer season. We ate it in eggs, sauté dishes, chopped it and mixed it with rice and put it in green smoothies. We shared it with neighbors and our rabbits and chickens ate it. That is a lot of wonderful uses for something that started out as 3 tiny seeds, but grew taller than me!
My third super garden success was planting new tomato starts around the 4th of July.
I happen to live in a very challenging tomato growing climate. So, if you find growing tomatoes easy peasy, then this might not apply to you. In my climate (Dallas Texas) tomatoes produce in the Spring if you start early (before the last average freeze date) and protect those little beauties. There is also a bit of luck involved with the weather. Assuming you are able to nurture your plants through this period and hopefully harvest a bounty of those beautiful red tasty orbs you will hit a hotter than hell period. During this period your tomatoes will not set fruit no matter how much you want them too. Many people, including me, try to get their tomatoes through this hot dry time in hopes for more luscious fruits in the cool Fall weather.
This is when you need your best friend to come over, take you by the shoulders, slap you hard across the face and yell,
“Give it up already! Pull up those suckers! The fat lady has sung!”
This year I took my best friend’s advice. As soon as the night time temps went above 75 degrees Fahrenheit, I yanked every last tomato plant and sighed a huge contented sigh. However, I had a little trick up my sleeve. A garden center near me knew well the plight of the tomato grower and prepared starts to sink down in the earth in mid-summer. Those healthy little starts did so much better through the rest of Summer and produced lots of tasty homegrown tomatoes.
Next year I am going to cut off a bit from each Spring tomato plant and root them. That way I will be ready mid-summer with fresh starts without the expense of the Nursery plants.
I hope you have enjoyed a peek into my garden journal. I garden all Winter where I live, so things have not slowed down a bit, but I know I have to take time to record my successes and failures from the summer season before I forget. If you haven’t started a garden journal, then let this be the year. You don’t want to make the same mistakes over and over. You might go insane!
How about you, what worked in your garden or what was an absolute flop?
Let us have a peek into your garden journal in the comments. Please, also let us know where you are gardening from.
Anne-Marie or Dash (for the hyphen in her name) is an urban farmer in Dallas, Texas. She raises chickens and rabbits on less than ¼ of an acre. Plus, she has turned her front yard into a large stand-out-in-the neighborhood vegetable garden. In addition to the farming she does on her homestead, she helped create a community garden literally from grassy field to thriving garden. What stands out about her little urban homestead is her determined out of the box approach to overcoming obstacles. You can follow her adventures on her little urban homestead by visiting her blog, BloomWhereYourPlanted.com.