It’s hard to believe how much more my garden produced since I posted in July. When I did my mid-summer check-in, I thought I was at the peak of my produce as I had already collected a decent harvest from many of my plants. My tomato plant seemed to be the last of the original batch that was pending harvest. Many of the posts on local online gardening pages were about people already done with their big harvests. I assumed that I had reached my first year peak. Little did I know but my garden was going to double in size from that point.
I had considered transitioning over to a Fall garden in late August or early September, but now that everything has been so active, I haven’t really been able to pull anything to make space for new plants. Of course, I’ve already started working on fixing that problem for next year; I added a trellis arbor for the climbing plants like cucumbers, a third large box, and got a separate potato bag. Most of this won’t be used until next Spring, but I wanted to get started on laying this all out so I could possibly get some last minute Fall produce in, and clear out space for the last of my vining melons.
My pumpkin and watermelon have taken off! My yard has basically turned into a pumpkin patch. The satisfying part is that we do have a lot of pumpkins growing (it’s not just all vines for show). At the moment we have about half a dozen decent sized jack-o-lantern pumpkins in the works, but I can see buds for more amongst all of the flowers. The boys are thrilled!
My watermelon has also been very fruitful and we have about four or five melons that I’m just waiting to ripen. My tomatoes had a large enough harvest to make a huge batch of salsa, make homemade tomato sauce, and distribute about a dozen to friends. My peppers took off to where I made a batch of pepper jelly to use up a large harvest that happened all at once, and I had a giant zucchini that I didn’t even notice growing underneath all of the pumpkin vines.
The kids have loved following the progress of the garden and come out with me to check on it almost every day. I think adding in a few pollinator plants that I picked up from Homewood Nursery really made a difference. I wasn’t seeing a lot of activity aside from dragonflies, but once I added the lantana and sage, so many bees and butterflies started visiting. Homewood has their Fall plant sale starting this weekend so I plan on picking up some more perennial pollinators to replace the prickly holly bushes that are currently lining the fence by my garden.
The garden has definitely kept me occupied during our time at home for the last 6 months. It has never been ‘too much’ to manage, though I know changes that I will be making for the next season, and I plan to be better prepared to harvest some of the more bountiful plants (I’m looking at you cucumbers). We had a couple of dedicated garden ‘mornings’ where we would trim some plants back, weed, or harvest, but it was more of an exciting activity for the family rather than a chore.
I haven’t had time to chart out the latest draft of my garden for next year, but here is what I think it will look like:
- Box 1: Tomatoes (2 varieties), peppers (red, green, jalapeno), green beans
- Box 2: Carrots, Beets, Spinach, Mixed Greens, Cucumber (with giant trellis to climb)
- Box 3: Pumpkin, Watermelon, Green and Yellow Squash
- Onion Box and Potato Bag
I’ll follow what I did this year and throw in marigolds and petunias in empty spots. I think that helped to keep away some garden pests like squash borers. I had so many marigolds that I grew from seed that at some point I had to cut the plant back so that it would stop drowning out my watermelon.
Of the plants that I started indoors, the green beans, herbs (in a separate area), and some of the marigolds did well in being transplanted, but I’ll probably just buy starters from Homewood again next year and grow a few directly in the boxes from seed (carrots, beets, onion, and spinach).
This experience has been so fun and satisfying! I can’t wait to see how my next round goes, especially as I’ll be able to use compost from our bin that we started this Spring. I also have a better idea of spacing from the square foot gardening experience, particularly as it relates to the bully vines from cucumbers, watermelon, and pumpkins. Their placement should be more conducive to allowing them to travel without taking over the other garden boxes. I’m also optimistic that I’ll have a harvest from my two fig trees this year. They’ve been doing great, but no fruit for their first year as they’ve put all of their energy into filling out and growing to establish in our yard.
If you started a garden this year, how did it go? Or do you plan on starting one next year? What will you be growing?