Saturday 13 December 2014

2014: My Year in the Vegetable Garden

With the amount of snow I already have, the 2014 gardening season seems so long ago!

I've only been growing vegetables for about a decade now and the first few years I was growing only the basics (for me that means tomatoes, potatoes and lettuce).  I am still learning so much every year and trying new techniques to figure out what works best.  And just when I thought I had at least a few things figured out, I moved - this was only the second season in this new location.  So the soil, moisture levels, weeds ... even the bugs are different though I am only an hour or two from where I used to garden (thank goodness I don't have wild parsnip to deal with here).

So here are some of the new things I tried this year, with some being more successful than others.

The 3 sisters garden.  Verdict: Total Failure.
I've grown plenty of squash before and have dabbled with beans.  But this is the first time I've tried to grow corn and the first time I put all three in the same plot.  None of them grew well so I can't comment on the benefits of growing them together.  I had intentionally planted this away from my other gardens simply because I was worried the corn would attract more pests (namely raccoons).  And I think I just put it in a spot that didn't get enough sun.  I only got a handful of beans, the corn never got past two feet tall and the red kuri squash plants were rather pathetic with no squash to show for my efforts.  Now that I've dug up this bit of my lawn, I'll find something else to put there that can manage with less sunlight.  But I do want to try corn again and might still try these three items together again next year.

Kale.  Verdict: Awesome.


I have never even eaten kale before this year!  I planted two types - Nero di Toscana (seeds from William Dam) and some seeds that I picked up at a seed swap when visiting my family in BC that turned out to be Red Russian Kale.  It is super easy to grow and required very little effort.  This is one of those "cut and come again" veggies - trim off the tops and it just keeps coming up.  And a very hardy plant - it is still standing up tall in my garden under all that snow!

Bamboo Poles for Peas/Beans.  Verdict: Useless.
But it wasn't entirely the fault of the poles.  In my ignorance, I somehow expected the plants to wind themselves around the poles so I didn't even give them so much as a nudge.  I had grown them up a trellis the previous year (my first year with either beans or peas) and they seemed to just take to it on their own. I kind of thought they'd do the same with the poles but ... no.  Anyway, I think I prefer the trellis concept simply because it is easier to manage in straight rows.  But I'm still working on exactly what those trellises will be made with next year.
Wood Ash in the Garden.  Verdict: Unclear.
I have a woodstove that I use throughout the winter.  I have geothermal heating and once the temperature drops below -25°C (which it does quite often around here), it simply isn't as effective in heating the house.  So I use the woodstove quite a bit which produces plenty of ash.  I keep the ash in a barrel near the garden and so I added some to the soil for the peas.  Ash is alkaline so I figured it would be good for peas.  Although the peas didn't magically work their way up the bamboo poles, I still had plenty of them.  I just can't say it was due to the ash.  But I'll do this again next year and also see what other veggies I can try it with.

Spaghetti Squash.  Verdict: Awesome.


This is the first time I grew spaghetti squash and also the first time I saved seeds from a store-bought veggie.  So I don't know the variety but they grew well and taste great.  But I think I'll purchase some seeds for next year just so I know what kind I'm growing.

Composting.  Verdict:  Total Success.
Okay, this is definitely not the first year that I composted.  But this is the first year that I successfully created useable compost in a single growing season.  I always had a good idea of mixing up browns and greens in the compost pile, but it took the spring seminar on composting to really teach me proper techniques - mostly I just wasn't turning it over enough.  I only had enough to cover a 10' x 10' space this year but I'm going to build a much larger compost area next year.

My Own Seed Potatoes.  Verdict:  Success.
This was more of a coincidence than anything intentional.  But when spring rolled around, I still had a lot of potatoes left from the previous year's harvest.  And they had started to sprout down in the cold room - I mean really sprout!  It's the first time I used my own potatoes to grow more potatoes.  I will definitely make that a plan again for 2015.

Harvest Mondays.  Verdict:  Super Fun!
This was the first year that I shared my gardening posts on Daphne's Dandelions Harvest Monday collection.  I had a lot of fun with it and have learned a lot from the many gardeners who also share their own successes and failures in the garden.

Next season will have plenty more firsts for me in the garden, I'm sure (one of them being kohlrabi as I tasted it for the first time this year and definitely want to grow some).  But I have plenty of time to check out other blogs and get my plans ready.  And I look forward to hearing about other gardener's new ideas for 2015!


  1. I also had never eaten kale until I grew it. I wish I could get ash. We have acidic soil and I have to keep adding lime. It would be nicer to have some ash for that. But I have no real fireplace or wood stove, so I'm liming when I have to. And I'm glad you like Harvest Mondays :>

  2. Yes, too bad you probably have to purchase lime when most people don't know what to do with their ash most times!

  3. It's so funny how everyone considers different crops "basics". For me, the basic crops were ones that would be easy to grow. So potatoes were not on that list as I have often thought they were too difficult - I guess I find out next year when I grow some!

    And I'm one of those "don't know what to do with their ash" people - the soil in our area tends towards being alkaline so I can't use it there.

    1. My basic crops were just the ones I figured I would eat the most. But they were easy enough as well. I have had the easiest time growing potatoes from the first year I ever tried them. I usually just use kennebec's, red chieftain, maybe yukon gold. Lately i've had russian blue, and my favourite fingerlings. All delicious,although I think I'll cut back on the blue potatoes - they look great in recipes but aren't as creamy as the others.

  4. It takes a few seasons in a new location to get things sorted out. Looks like you are doing the right things. Kale is one of those magical vegetables that seems to be indestructible. Even the flea beetles and cabbage caterpillars in my area cause minimal trouble for kale. And it is one of the healthiest greens you can eat.

    1. Oh my, I've never even heard of flea beetles - hopefully not something I have to look forward to. :)

  5. It looks like you had a good year, certainly more success than not! I've found that beans don't readily wind their way up a thick pole. I use a trellis made from concrete reinforcing mesh which the beans readily wind their way up without much encouraging, but they don't readily take to the stakes that I attach the mesh to.

  6. What a great years of firsts Susie!
    I think I might have mentioned before that 3 sisters didn't work for me either. Instead I grow dwarf french beans under my corn. The beans do really well and the corn is good too.
    Wood ash is meant to be good for fruit bushes and trees, if you have any of them. And fruiting veg too I think, due to potassium in it.
    I joined harvest Monday for the first time too this year, in mid- late summer, it's very addictive! Glad to meet so many nice people and lots of good learning :)