Garden Updates, Growing Green, Seed Starting

Garden Wrap Up October 2015

I came on the blog and realized that I hadn’t posted the wrap up for end of 2015.  So here it is, probably more for my records than anything else.  It is really important to keep a journal of sorts of what you did and how everything grew so you don’t repeat mistakes and so you remember what worked.  I absolutely need it written down.

Well, this year was not my favorite gardening year for sure. We were starting a new garden, in a colder place, with hot (not matured) cow manure compost. All new garden beds. We were fighting bad weather, late planting, no automatic watering (I am notoriously bad at remembering to water consistently), poor soil, unknown bugs, very low sun levels, and giant, brown pests with four legs that will eat ANYTHING – otherwise known as deer. They are the WORST. Comparable to gophers. Both are terrible to have to deal with.

Here is the garden report, such as it is.

Main Garden Space
The Main Garden Area with Deer Fencing

Garden Space Number 1: This is the report from the main garden, with dappled sun, and high walls. Building the walls resulted in later planting than I wanted, but kept out the deer. The garden was built to be narrow with 1 foot raised beds. The walls are about 7 feet high. The narrowness and taller beds gave the deer no room to jump in and land.

The peas: The peas did well here in the cold, Montana spring. They lasted far longer than they ever did in Idaho. Clear into August for a few, though they were pretty much done by the end of July. Always in Idaho they were drying up and browning by the 4th of July.

The tomatoes: The early girl tomatoes did pretty well. By far the biggest winner in my low sun garden were the cherry tomatoes. The sungold cherry tomatoes did very well. As did the Sweet 100.

The beets: I think that the root vegetables would have done better with the proper amount of compost, but I was hesitant to add too much, because it was hot compost. BIG mistake. The soil needed the compost. I have tiny beets. Nothing of substance.

The carrots: Same as the beets. Oh, but maybe worse because something – I still have no idea what – ate most of the tops, resulting in almost NO growth.

The green onions: Oh, did I plant green onions? I think I got 1. Same results as the beets, only worse.

The Zucchini and Summer Squash finally took off!
The Zucchini and Summer Squash finally took off!

The squash: I honestly did not think the squash was going to do ANYTHING. I waited. I got a couple of babies. Then a couple of babies rotted at the bottom. Then, unexpectedly, the squash took off. I have gotten several nice green zucchinis and yellow squashes just the last 2 weeks. Weird. The Rampicante squash did nothing.

The cucumbers: The cucumbers were pretty great, considering. It would have been nice to have planted them about 2 weeks earlier. If that had been the case, they would have time to get bigger. As it was, we had many baby cucumbers. This one was on me. The cucumbers tried really hard to do their job.

The beans: The bush beans did very well. The pole beans were pathetic. Eh. Foliage, flowers, never developed into beans. Perhaps they also should have been planted earlier. Maybe a few more weeks of hotter weather. I don’t know.

The peppers: The mini sweet peppers did okay. The small, hot peppers I planted (Grandpa’s Home Peppers) did okay.

Spicy Peppers
Baker Creek Seeds – Grandpa’s Home Peppers

The larger peppers not so much. I planted one pepper (I think it was Red Marconi) that grew beautifully and it is very big, but it has yet to turn red. I am honestly surprised that with the limited sunshine, I got any peppers at all. So, this one seems like a wash.

The herbs: The herbs were the most successful. Everything except the basil grew beautifully – the cilantro, the oregano, the greek oregano, the thyme, the orange thyme, the rosemary, the lavender, the thai basil, the chives. The Genovese basil didn’t do well- something kept eating it.

Herb Planter
The Herb Garden

Next year, I think earlier planting, now that the garden is already in place, and lots more compost with consistent watering will really improve the garden. So although this year was a bit of a bust and made me feel like a crappy gardener, I have high hopes for next year.

Garden Space #2: This is the report for the 4×8 garden bed that was left unprotected, based on the information I received from various people and internet searches that deer don’t eat onions or garlic. If I may be so bold: This is a complete lie. Deer in Montana are quite willing to eat almost everything. Hot, spicy, thorny, fuzzy leafed, etc. They also ate all the deer resistant flowers I planted nearby with the exception of the Lavender. The lavender was the ONLY thing planted outside the protected area that was left untouched by the crazy, giant, destroyers of beauty and order. Every bulb onion green that shot up, was quickly nibbled to nothing. The garlic disappeared. The green onions that managed to fight through the terrible, stony soil were snipped off summarily at the base as soon as they were visible. Every day there were hoof prints throughout the bed. The “garden bed” is now a bit of dirt bordered by the rustic fallen logs we placed on each side with hoof prints inside and some native forest foliage coming up in the center.

Unfenced garden = Buffet for Deer
Unfenced garden = Buffet for Deer

Garden Space #3: Not only did this garden get planted late, it didn’t have very much new soil added, a tree fell on it, and the deer got in. This was the garden we carved out of the forest. We were going for a more natural garden look. So that you might stumble upon it in the forest and feel surprised to see edible food crops growing there.

Forest Garden
Forest Garden

We did put in a nearly invisible fence. The deer basically laughed at us. Though in all fairness, they only started really jumping in as fall approached and food became more scarce. A tree also landed on our fence earlier in a windstorm and took out an entire section. Conveniently, this happened when my amazing husband and oldest son was out of town, resulting in my he-man of a middle child and myself dragging out the offending log and patching together the destroyed section of fencing. Thank goodness for that boy. 🙂 We got a few tomatoes, and the asparagus got established there this year. A couple of tiny yellow squash. A few mini peppers. A handful of beans. That’s it. Again. This was a total gamble of a garden. Definitely late and not totally thought out. Still disappointing.

Here is a lovely picture of one of my sons defending the garden against the deer. The children were pretty upset. The put up a defense all around the garden with spears that they carved.

Forest Garden - Deer
Defending the Garden against deer

Raspberry canes: 3 out of 6 of the raspberry canes grew. One grew out of it’s cage a bit and was promptly bitten back by a deer who didn’t seem to mind the thorns at all.

So – overall, not a great garden year. Sorry I didn’t report throughout the year. Super busy settling in to a new place. I am hoping that next year will be a much more productive gardening experience. We can fix the nutrient level in the soil, we can fix the late planting. We can not fix the lack of sunshine or the critter problems. Though we can try and plant more shade tolerant plants. I guess we will see. Here’s to the garden break. I know by January I will be ready to start my pepper seedlings again. And the tomatoes. And the flowers…yeah…the break won’t last long.

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