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!