2017 Evaluation

Winter potager compressed  As the second year of the potager ends, it is time to evaluate the successes and failures of this past season.  Yes, even after over fifty years of gardening, there are still failures, and that’s okay.  Once it was cause for dismay, but now I view it as a learning experience, or actually as a gift.  Not everyone, especially those my age are blessed with a garden.  And we as gardeners must always remember that a garden is not like a painting, or a book, or a sculpture that at some point is “finished” and will always remain so.  A garden is a living, breathing piece of art that is constantly growing, maturing, fading, and bombarded by whatever Mother Nature throws at it.  We gardening artists constantly practice and perfect our skills as we refine, renew, exchange, and harvest…all good things.  And in the process, we have more fun than anyone else! Center view pot Apr 17 compressed  So the 2017 season began well, with the springs bulbs about on their “normal” schedule and the first seedings and plantings just a bit later than last year, although heavy rains in late winter caused some bulbs to rot and delayed planting a bit.  The time spent installing bubble wrap insulation in the greenhouse paid off with better plants, especially since winter lasted a bit longer than last year.  Poor weather definitely delayed hauling in mulch, and the grass was tall enough for making hay before we could mow.  Things were plugging along when we had a late HARD freeze that resulted in no gooseberries at all, most strawberry blossoms and early fruit frozen, and damage to some of the early crops.   Some broccoli plants never did form heads or even side shoots!  Only 2 beds were covered with protective cloth, but the freeze was so hard that even those two suffered damage, so I’m not sure my lugging more rolls of frost cover would have helped.

East half pot May 31 compressed  However, the pea crop was wonderful, as well as early beets and greens.  The elderflower and elderberry crops were huge.  The favas were slow, but I did get a small, delicious harvest that makes me more determined to do it better next time.  The weeks passed with a terrific garlic and shallot harvest, and more than enough beets, carrots, onions, cabbage, beans, peppers, cukes, and tomatoes.  The timing on the melon crop was much, much better than last year.  Overall, I was a happy gardener as rains came when we needed them for the most part, and the crop timing was acceptable.  And, I got the lavender slope covered with lovely stone, which was a major triumph.Lavender slope path compressed  Then came time to start the fall crops, and I’d spent extra time last winter tweeking last year’s poor schedule, so plants were started earlier and grown into bigger pots until finished crops came out to create space.  Lots of fall greens, spinach, late carrots and beets were direct seeded.  Even a few late squash and melons were planted as a gamble/test.  Beautiful broccoli and brussel sprouts plants went into the ground.  I smiled as all the new rows germinated…..and then I went to France.  And the rains stopped.

I have lovely neighbors who water for me when I travel, but they are not experienced gardeners, and by the time they realized the plants in the ground needed water, it was too late.  They did a wonderful job on the containers, but most of the fall crops were either goners or too stressed to pull out of their funk in time to produce before freeze.  But, do I regret going to Normandy?  Not a bit!  I tried to salvage some fall plantings with a poly tunnel, but that was when my back went out, so it was never finished.  Maybe I’ll get it going next spring?  But, the fall carrots were terrific as well as the late lettuces.

The failures?  Not a single fall broccoli or brussel sprout was harvested.  The last beets and spinach crops only reached 2″ before killing freeze.  No pumpkins or winter squash this year.  However,  I’m happy.  The pantry shelves are filled with hundreds of jars; the freezer is stuffed, and I had wonderful, wonderful fun dreaming, planning, and actually doing it!  Seriously, runners run, golfers golf, etc., etc. but do they have a full pantry when they are finished?  Potager with house compressed  So,  what are the changes for next season?  1.  Do a better job recording the harvest.  This was the first year for the potager’s harvest journal, with a total of 639.5 lbs officially recorded.  However, that does not include all that I ate while gardening (and that was significant amounts!) bags and boxes that I picked on the spot and gave to visitors, produce the neighbors picked while I was in France, over-done produce that wasn’t picked but went into the compost, and produce that I just forgot to record, or was too lazy to make a trip back to the scales after I remembered!  2.  Fewer shallots and more storage onions next year.  3.  Pea fencing for some varieties so the vines don’t crowd their neighbors  4.  Battle the squash bugs more effectively!  5.  Try again to get those fall crops productive.  6.  More favas and kohlrabi  7. Spend more time enjoying the garden, just sitting and inhaling!  8.  Take more photographs.

Keeping good journal records of plant varieties, planting schedules and amounts, harvest details, and weather notes helps but spending a bit of time actually evaluating those records, making comparisons, and drawing good conclusions is equally important in helping to prevent repeating mistakes and improving next year’s garden.  You may not get all of it right, but just fixing one or two, and actually realizing how much you did learn this season will help you grow as a gardener.  Herbal blessings, Carolee

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About carolee

A former professional herb and lavender grower, now just growing for joy in my new potager. When I'm not in the garden, I'm in the kitchen, writing, or traveling to great gardens.
This entry was posted in gardening, harvest, Harvest Journal, kitchen gardens, Potager, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to 2017 Evaluation

  1. Wow.. Just amazing, such a shame about the plants that went thirsty.. Wishing you all the best for 2018 and beyond Carolee.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You have an amazing veggie patch! I am sure you are the envy of many gardeners!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Happy New Year to you 😊 As a relative newbie to this gardening lark (we’ve just finished our 2nd year), I find your blog truly inspirational and I wish you lots of triumphs and only constructive failures for 2018!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mala Burt says:

    Your garden is huge. My four beds at home and three at our community garden are as much as I want to handle. It is always a learning experience and every year is different. The seed catalogs are arriving and it is almost time to inventory my seed stock to see what needs to be ordered.
    It’s always a good New Year for gardeners.

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    • carolee says:

      It’s not huge at all in comparison to my former gardens, but I’ve tried to make it as easy as possible. And, you didn’t say how large your beds are. Mine are mostly 3 x 6′ and 6 x 6′, with 3′ deep interior borders on 3 sides and a 4′ exterior bed on the east side. Do you find the beds in the community garden get less attention? I love working in my potager’s raised beds, but have to make myself work in the flower beds around the house…giving myself a good reward when I do!

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      • Mala Burt says:

        My four beds at home are 4′ x 8′ by 10″ and have drip irrigation. The three beds at the community garden are 4′ x 14′. One of those beds is one that nobody wants because its under a maple tree. It is now planted with garlic. The other two community garden beds are in full sun and I have better luck with tomatoes there than my beds at home. All are redug in the spring and amended with whatever I can get my hands on. I have nearby trees so tree roots are an issue. I’ve been involved in keeping the community garden going since it was started five years ago. Occasionally people give up a bed and if we don’t find a replacement, I plant it until we do.

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      • carolee says:

        Ienvy your drip irrigation. Maybe someday…..

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  5. bcparkison says:

    Only in my dreams am I industrious to do what you do.Very inspiring read.Thank you

    Like

    • carolee says:

      Thank you. My goal is to keep doing as much as I can while I can. Eventually, I’ll just be sitting in a rocker dreaming about past gardens, but for now I love being productive and learning, learning, learning!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. cavershamjj says:

    If my plot is even part way as productive yours in 2018 I will be a happy camper!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Island Time says:

    Well done Carolee! Happy New Year to you. I am sure your next garden will be just as spectacular as the previous ones; you are so right about gardens being a work of art in progress. Always something to be done, always something to be tried and learned. Having fun with it all is the main thing, and a full pantry at the end of it all doesn’t hurt either! Even better if you can have a successful garden and still manage to get a bit of travelling in as well! All the very best for 2018!

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  8. I just really enjoy your thoughtful posts! Looking forward to a new gardening year. We had a family health crisis that pretty much canceled my personal garden, though I did get a lot of peppers and kale. Crisis resolving, and there’s always next year!

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    • carolee says:

      I’ve always said gardening is like life. There are some good years, some bad years. Sometimes it gets all our attentions and sometimes we are totally distracted. Lovely when it’s filled with good characters and experiences, annoying if it’s not, but it’s always there, waiting to soothe us, and to suprise us with something wonderful if we just pay attention! Never feel guilty when family or health issues interrupt and everything goes into chaos. Life is too short to agonize over things we can’t change.

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  9. You are an inspiration – good gardening for 2018!

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  10. Helen says:

    Sounds like you had an amazing amount of produce. I only weighed my strawberries – can’t remember how much now but it was many, many kilos.

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  11. WOW! and I thought I had a big garden–yours is spectacular! Aha, kohlrabi. I forgot about that. I’ll have to put that on my list for this year 🙂 And bravo to your journaling. I tried to journal one year–did okay until I started spending hours weeding. I try to remember what does well, but sometimes it’s a by-year thing: one year the beans/beets/kale does super, then next year not so much. You’ve got a great setup for rotation as well. I try to rotate as much as I can, but the garden location and the soil limit what can grow where a bit. Think Spring!

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  12. singledoubt says:

    Your pictures of your garden are lovely – even in winter. I’m not sure I could ever be as neat and organized… at least not in this life. One thing that did make me smile was your beautiful garden fence. I’m guessing you don’t have as many deer as we do out here in the Pacific Northwest. Without my seven foot deer fence and my metal rabbit fence, my garden would be decimated.

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    • carolee says:

      The fence was built to match the fence surrounding the decks. Yes, we do have lots of deer; there were 9 in the back yard recently and the tracks in the snow are witness to others. I’d read that deer don’t like to jump over things unless they have a clear sense of where/how they will land. With the raised beds and metal archways, they are hesitant. I also leave my bamboo poles and smaller metal trellises in the garden even in winter to make more visual confusion because I fear that once one figures out it is safe to jump in, others will follow! And the fence has 3′ of chicken wire attached to prevent rabbits and is buried 10″ for deterring groundhogs and other digging critters. I’m surrounded on 3 sides by woods so we have lots of wildlife, cornfield on the fourth side.

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  13. Love your gardening attitude and Potager is fabulous!! I’ve got about 200 SF of vegetables and am adding fruit trees etc in South Florida, enjoying it immensely, good luck in 2018.

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