Autumnal Assessment

April is upon us, and it’s time to assess how the garden year went.

In a word, it was disappointing. 

It started off bad, with my seedlings in fungal-infected seed raising mix. That problem was made worse when I contracted Covid and couldn’t move those seedlings into better mix quickly, so they languished for a while. Many were planted out late or small.

And the problems continued once plants were in the garden. Flooding last winter sucked the nitrogen out of the soil in about half the garden, leaving my pumpkins, corn, peppers and eggplants all looking anaemic. To be fair, I harvested pumpkins—enough to enjoy fresh, but not my usual quantity that lasts us all year. We also ate sweet corn, but had none extra to freeze. The peppers and eggplants were so slow to grow this year that they’re only now ripening fruits—just in time to be killed off by winter temperatures.

The tomatoes and peas grew well this year, but were decimated by birds.

The cucumbers and melons were slammed by phytophthora during an early summer wet period—most died, and those that survived grew slowly. The only cucumbers that grew well turned out inedibly bitter, and I tore the plants out of the ground.

On the positive side, the potatoes were great—died off a little earlier than I expected, but produced plenty of tubers, with little trouble in the way of pests and disease. 

The perennial fruits did well overall, too, and the freezer is stuffed with berries for the winter. Even the 3-year-old fruit trees gave us crops this year (small ones, but the trees are still tiny themselves).

So, as usual, there were wins and losses, and now I’m looking forward to how to increase the wins for next year. I spent the past several weekends digging a drainage ditch and soak pit to draw flood water off the garden this winter. Hopefully that will help retain the nutrients I’m hauling to the garden in the form of manure each week. My husband and I have also been discussing improving our bird defences before next spring—permanently netting an area of the garden for the most bird-ravaged crops. I’ve also identified some new varieties of bean that are doing better in the new garden than my standards from the old garden, and I’ll adjust next year’s planting to allow more space for the more vigorous varieties. 

That’s the best part of gardening, really. You always get another chance to do it better. So I head into autumn a little disappointed in last year’s garden, but with high hopes for what next year will bring.

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