Yesterday it was 30 plus degrees Celsius, now it isn’t even 20, and the day is dull and gray. Rain is gently pattering around me, and my fingers are a little numb from cold (lol)…but I am safe for now under my patio umbrella. Stubbornly indulging in a margarita, I’m pretending it is still summer. It’s so hard to let go of the warmth and life of it. The enforced inactivity turns my thoughts to my garden season, my triumphs and my lessons learned.
When I look back on the past year, from a gardening perspective, I have done a whole lot. There were a bunch of lessons learned, too, and I’ve come up with an answer to many challenges I faced this year. Next year will be even better!
The hoop house has continuing problems with the pvc pipes popping out of the holes they should sit in, along the centre beam. The beam is an improvement over the previous pvc pipe joiners, which constantly cracked and broke with the movement. But it didn’t solve the problem of holding the pipes in place, just bolstered the overall strength of the structure.
Hoop Houses move a lot in the wind. If you fix it to a solid centre beam, you have to fix the pvc pipe securely or it pops out of where you want it.
- I used Gorilla Glue™ to try and hold the PVC pipes in place in the holes in the wooden beam
I will grow peppers in hanging pots in the hoop house – these did tremendously for me this year, while the ones I grew in the hoop house beds were all chewed upon by a small, unidentified critter. Aside: Why do they do that, chew just some, out of each pepper?? Eat one whole one, leave others for others I say! Silly rabbits. I thought pepper dust, spray, etc is a critter deterrent? Not here! But next year only mice will have access and they will have to be acrobats.
Hoop Houses offer excellent housing to snakes, mice, spiders, grasshoppers, butterflies and moths, even rabbits. You can’t pile up anything without something deciding it looks like home. And remedies, like hot peppers, that work in one location, may not work in another.
- I am running a length of chicken wire around the bottom edge of the hoop house, to keep out critters bigger than mice. Since the snakes favour my hoop house, I assume they will keep mice in check.
- I cleaned out all the mess and odds and ends of fabric row covers, unusable wildly bent PVC pipe sections, tools, old pots, greenhouse cover clips…you name it, somewhere in a jungle of weeds and exuberant growth lurked one of almost everything garden related. I bumped into a spider with a body the size of a ping pong ball. And a garter snake about two feet long. Shudder!
- grow peppers in hanging pots inside the hoop house
The hoop house was not magically weed free in 2015. The ones that did grow seemed to become monstrous overnight, basking in the excellent conditions they found themselves in. I can’t face any more weeding!!! Trying to garden organically has left me exhausted from battling weeds!
Weeds require a strong, consistent strategy or they take over everything. Weeds love a hoop house and are even harder to control organically inside it than they are outside the hoop house environment.
- I’ve laid down tarp sections throughout the inside of the hoop house, and covered them in bark chips. Some raised beds direct in the ground remain, these are not covered in tarps and bark chips.
- I will grow inside the hoophouse, in recycled feed bags on a bark chips floor.
Each plant can receive individual nutrients and care, and can be removed if it succumbs to insect pests or other factors that could be a threat to the rest of my crop.
My okra in feed bags on my back deck are flowering and spawning many baby okra…will they survive they next week of low nightime temps? I don’t feel confident, so I harvested what they produced so far, and made a huge pot of vegetarian gumbo and threw in some carrots I grew as well.
Yesterday, when summer was still here, I waited until the late afternoon, when oils are the highest, and harvested lettuce leaf basil, and Persian basil. I made herbal vinegar using them, for Christmas gifts to family and friends. That plan led to me acquiring some nifty little teflon funnels, to pour the vinegar from the mason jars I made it in, into the decorative bottles for gifts. He he he.
The cucumber test trials were plagued with disaster, including rampaging dogs (my own!), overnight visits from raccoons, and cold nights. The labels all faded in the summer sun, and I don’t recall which ones were necessarily wine or not. I guess I will repeat the trial next year….you can read about this year’s cucumber soaking sweetness trial here.
I went to a workshop on zero waste gardening last year. We made starting and even growing containers from both new and used plastic recyclable, food safe containers.
- Save my plastic drink bottles and make reusable plant starter containers for plants I will transplant elsewhere
- make big buckets like the one picture here for all season and even indoor growing
Someone whose garden I drool over nightly on my commute from my day job had some great ideas that I plan to implement next year. They planted peas and beans on two rows and then in between, made tall but narrow hoops out of pvc pipe – they span the two rows only. The vines grew up and over this hoop, making a tunnel of clean, freely hanging fruits to be harvested easily. Great idea, and I’m happy to use it!
- make a tall tunnel of pvc pipes bent into hoops bug enough to walk under, cover them with chicken wire to make a tunnel
- plant runner beans and cucumbers there
- grow lettuce underneath
I will make a canning and preserving plan and try to grow as much or more of what I need for executing said plan. As I am also learning to cook as I go, I learn more each year what I think I would like to can or cook or bake, and I can refine my garden plans from there.
- Plan garden back from a preserving and harvest plan for my own eating and cooking plans
- write a blog post about it
I hope to grow pea shoots and greens and herbs indoors this winter, something I never have any luck at but never stop trying to achieve! I have hundreds of thousands of pea seeds that I will not use up before they are too unreliable at germinating to bother with, planting in a normal fashion. I suppose there is a lesson for the lessons learned there too: dont buy more seeds than you will germinate in a year or two. I love stir fries, and love pea shoots in salad so why not try my hand at serious green raising, indoors, this winter.
My approach is to try things on a very small scale, perfect the method, and then scale up. I’ll bring you along with me on this latest adventure, growing and eating gourmet greens indoors.
- Sprout and eat pea shoots over the winter season, indoors
- write a blog post about it
Is that Canada Geese overhead? Sigh. A winter rest sounds good….but my soul yearns for the garden ….and winter from here, seems an eternity. Still…..only a few months until a new publication of seed porn, ahem seed catalogues. I can savour my apple jelly, hot pepper jelly, fennel saffron sweet pepper pickles and dream of next year’s bounty while I sit by the fire and warm these bones, dogs at my feet and the garden in my heart. And my lessons learned are documented, safe and ready to implement.
So, how did your garden grow this summer? Tell me in the comments section, I would love to hear about your own adventures, struggles and surprising victories in 2015!