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2017 Garden: The Good & the Bad & the Out of Control

04. August 2017

The summer is half over and I realized I hadn't posted an update on my garden yet. It's "Jolly Green Chaos" once again. I do NOT pull volunteer plants. I do NOT obey recommended plant spacing. And sometimes I space out and plant kale next to tomatoes. It's challenging to properly rotate plants yearly and do companion planting with a small raised bed. So if you're wondering how the tomatoes did next to kale, take a look at the far right side of the photo below. So yeah, it was that bad. I wondered how bad it would be, so lesson learned.

 

My bed is 6 feet by 18 feet, an odd shape for a raised bed. It's a few feet wider than most raised beds, so it's not as easy to reach into without wanting to step into it. While it's only 5 inches deep, it was at least placed on top of an existing garden that was dug down deeper. So it never feels too shallow for me. But it is awkward to get around. We placed it right up against our back fence. So if I bend over, my butt hits the fence and pushes me into the garden. And since it's only 5 inches deep, not much can stop me from falling face-forward into plants. Making access more complicated is a small electric fence around the bed. There's only a foot or so between the fence and bed, so it's a narrow path to walk. And did I mention how easy it is to trip on this little fence? Basically every trip to the garden is a major workout on the glutes! 

 

YES, those are blackberry bushes growing inconveniently between the fences. Thanks birds! 

CanningCrafts.com Raised Garden Bed

I stopped planting zucchini many years ago out of frustrations with squash bugs. My plants never grew more than a foot in size before perishing to those nasty buggers. After a 5 year hiatus in trying to grow one of my favorite veggies, I tried again. I read that a trench of wood ash dug 3 inches deep and wide around the plants may work. It may be too soon to tell, but you can at least see how large my plants are in the above photo. I check the underside of leaves daily for squash bug eggs. The plants are enormous and loaded with blossoms.

So, I don't pull volunteer plants and I place plants too close together. What can I say, I like the lush green look of a garden. It does make it tricky to get into though. And certain plants may suffer from being too close together. But I take my chances. Below you can see potatoes planted next to swiss chard and green beans. At the beginning of each garden season, some of my swiss chard from the previous year comes back up. It tends to bolt very quickly though. So I'm letting it go to seed this year so I can collect them. The mustard greens have flowered, but I'm only leaving them for the pollinators. It looks like a jungle!

 

CanningCrafts.com Raised Garden Bed potatoes

 

CanningCrafts.com Japanese Tomato Rings cage

 

The tomato tower is out of control. I blogged about this type of a tomato cage before. It's the Japanese Rings Method for growing tomatoes. I try to only plant determinate tomatoes around it because it can be difficult to manage otherwise. Well there was a mixup with one of my nursery plants being mislabeled. So I ended up with a cherry tomato plant instead. It has vined out of control and wrapped clear around the cage and other plants. On the positive side, it's the best cherry tomato I've ever had. So it's what Bob Ross would call a happy accident. We believe it's a Sungold tomato, and it's very prolific.

CanningCrafts.com Japanese Tomato Rings cage

 

CanningCrafts.com Sungold cherry tomatoes

 

If the other nursery plants were labeled correctly, these are Speckled Romas, Mortgage Lifter, and Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatoes. 

CanningCrafts.com Heirloom tomatoes Cherokee Purple, Mortgage Lifter, Romas

 

My Cherokee Purple tomatoes are larger than Mortgage Lifter. This surprised me some. I thought with a name like Mortgage Lifter, the fruits would be huge.

CanningCrafts.com Cherokee Purple Heirloom Tomato

 

With the abundance of cherry tomatoes, we've been eating a simple kale salad with a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Oooohhh, pretty.

CanningCrafts.com Sungold Tomato & Kale Salad

 

Then this happened. Panic ensued. "Operation: Harvest All Half Ripe Tomatoes" was carried out. My husband got yelled at. Why? I don't know, just because I like to yell??? But was I angry at the animal just trying to survive? NO. I was angry at myself for leaving this nearly ripe tomato on the vine. I should know better by now. Rant over.

NO, rant not over. Did I mention this was the first nearly ripe tomato of the season. Typical. OK, now rant over.

CanningCrafts.com Heirloom Tomato garden fail

 

Can you spot all the volunteers in the bean patch? There are several tomatoes and dill.

CanningCrafts.com Potatoes & Beans 

The first potato I dug up was HUGE. So that's a plus. But then I got discouraged as I continued the potato treasure hunt. 1 potato, 2 potato, 3 potato, more??? Hello, where are all my potatoes? Out of 9 plants, I thought I should've gotten more. Hrrumph. But I'm thankful the ones I did get are a decent size. Plus they are homegrown and organic, a win win in my book!

CanningCrafts.com Potatoes

 

CanningCrafts.com Potatoes

 

I was a bit disappointed in our lettuce patch this year. The variety mix I planted didn't fully germinate. So I bought two new varieties, Mantilia and Red Romaine. This is Red Romaine lettuce. It looks nothing like the photo on the seed packet. I kind of hate when that happens. It was ok, but I think I'll go back to a variety mix next year. 

CanningCrafts.com red romaine lettuce

 

Red Russian Kale is our dog's fan favorite veggie. He loves to tear up the leaves and stalks. I think kale is ok, but I could honestly live without planting it. I think I mostly plant it just for the fun of watching our dog play with it. Gasp, did I just say that? Please don't tell the vegans.

CanningCrafts.com red russian kale

 

I'm not sure if these green beans are Top Crop or Blue Lake Bush. I've planted both of those for years. They started off great but have slowed down since. I will plant more in place of the potatoes I just harvested. Next year I will try a pole bean to help free up some space in the small raised bed. 

CanningCrafts.com Green Beans

 

Tuna Fish Joe looks pretty pleased with today's garden haul. He also likes green beans. No, he does not help with the watering or harvesting. This dog knows how to garden.

CanningCrafts.com Tuna Fish Joe with green beans

 

We all have our successes and failures with gardening. For me, growing zucchini was a losing battle against squash bugs. If you've ever batted those nasties before, you know the frustration. So I gave up growing squash for years. But I was determined to try again and win the war this year! Now maybe I'll eventually lose. But for now, I've at least harvested two beautiful zucchinis. And while that may not sound like much to some gardeners, it's HUGE for me. So don't give up! If you get frustrated, take a break and try again later. If you don't succeed, go to your farmer's market and support someone local. Or, do what I did for the past decade and steal squash from your mom. 

This beautiful zucchini variety is "Ronde de Nice". I would prefer to have the traditional long and dark squash. But I tried a new variety to see if it would survive the bugs. I believe I planted a round zucchini in the past without luck though. At any rate, this is the first zucchini I've grown in nearly a decade. I can't seem to wipe the smile off my face.

CanningCrafts.com Ronde de Nice round zucchini

 

How is your garden growing so far this year? What have been your successes and failures? Let us know any tips or tricks in the comments below!

 

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