Fall has rolled in and the fluctuation in temperatures surely indicated the end of the summer garden season. Well the ending because a few things continue to survive and even produce but fall prep and planting has begun so it’s time to recap the summer garden. As we all know 2020 has been some year. Staying at home for months on end (7 months and counting) has been a rollercoaster ride of emotions to say the least.
I found solace in my summer garden in a way that far exceeds the calm it normally brings to me. I’ve cried, grieved, laughed and spent a lot of time digging in but also being still. With so much time at home, this season led to a lot of unfinished projects in the garden getting the attention they desperately needed. Before we dig into DIY Garden Hardscape projects, let’s talk about all the pretty and the bountiful things the garden gave us, a few issues and some lessons learned.
A Bountiful Season
This year I started a lot of seeds indoors in February. Normally I’d start just a few and then do a lot of direct sowing in my beds and containers. But I knew I wanted to grow plants to gift to friends for their own gardens so I got started with more sooner and it paid off. I started tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and tiger melons indoors. From that I was able to gift over 20 tomato and 5 pepper plants to family and friends. 2020 was the perfect year for this. Seeing those plants thrive was one of my greatest joys this season.
In my own garden the tomatoes were the star of the show. An endless amount of rainbow, sungold, rainbow, Roma and San Marzano peppers. There was fresh pasta sauce, tomato jelly, fried green tomatoes and on and on. Not to mention tomatoes on every sandwich I made. If you don’t know, I’m a Roma girl when it comes to sandwich tomatoes. Next year I plan on bringing back larger varieties and I have my eye on a few really pretty and interesting heirlooms as well. My list is long!
The peppers came in a close second. Lots of slices jalapeños for recipes and drinks. Spicy hot cocoa was certainly a favorite for me. The eggplants were abundant and always fun to whip up. Eggplant chips were a hit with my kiddos. The tiger melons did absolutely nothing. There were tons of tiny melons but none of them made it. I’ll try again next year.
My kiddos had fun starting beans from seed. We went with the paper towel method for germination, then potted them up and then moved them out to the garden when the time was right. I normally direct sow all beans but we will definitely do this again because fun, hands on and science is real. Now if only the cutworms will stay away. But the yard long beans were a big hit so they are excited to do this again.
We had a good amount of carrots, 2 beets (they still conquer me) and several rounds of small radishes.
Squash… small but mighty harvest before the vine borers took over. Tromboncino and patty pan squash with eggplant and tomatoes from the garden roasted on a sheet pan was perfection.
Herbs continue to be the gift that keeps on giving. I cut, dried and even gave away tons of fresh herb bouquets. Herbs are always on my list for new gardeners to start with. Most are pretty low maintenance and change the game in the kitchen. The lemon balm tea we made all summer is proof.
This year I incorporated more annual flowers. I normally just sprinkle a packet of wildflowers and hope for the best but I started some flowers indoors two times this summer and I was so happy with the outcome.
My favorites were definitely the marigolds, zinnias, sunflowers and those super late but beautiful cosmos.
The pollinators really enjoyed the flowers and herbs.
My sprinkled in flowers also did really well.
I added my first rose to the garden and even though it’s still small it gave a gorgeous preview of roses to come. Yes I know it’s best to pinch those first buds off but that’s not how I roll around here.
I added my first dahlia tuber to the garden. The dahlias were beautiful and now I have a long list of dahlias for next year. Where am I putting all this stuff? I guess we will see.
What Went Well
I’d say that mostly everything I started indoors did really well. Having the kids start their own seeds and them actually producing was also a highlight. Beyond those seeds, they helped me water the tiny seedlings and they were on hardening off duty just before we transplanted everything outside.
What Didn’t Go So Well
Ugh the pests were plentiful! The major pest problem this year was a surprise to me. Pill Bugs aka rolly pollies. For the first time ever the population was out of control and those buggers took out there fair share of plants including a perennial flowering plant, several seedlings and I’m pretty sure they are responsible for some of the bean plant loss along side the cutworms. The continue to dominate the garden and while they are usually a friend, the overpopulation is a problem and they have already set their eyes on my fall starts. I’ll have to remedy the situation.
Another thing which is something I say every single year… I should have grown more of XYZ. This year I’ll say melons, okra, sorrel and squash. I started my melons late and pickle worms and a believe a squirrel took every single melon. But I definitely should have planted more melons.
Only 3 of my 15 okra seeds germinated and only 2 of my 6 sorrel plants signaling the end of my pickled okra and Jamaican Sorrel drinks for the holidays dreams. For squash even though the vine borers are the ultimate enemy. I stumbled upon a front yard squash bed in my sister’s neighborhood. I’d say it was a good 7 ft all around (49 sq ft) with so much summer squash. It was amazing and definitely an idea for next year if I can find the space. There will hopefully be enough squash for us and for the not so welcomed garden visitors.
Cucumbers, I skipped them this year and regretted it immediately. No refrigerator pickles? Fail! What was traditionally my best crop went disastrous 2 years ago and I haven’t planted them since. But they will be back next season for sure.
Last on the not so well list are my fruits vines. I got a few raspberries but no grapes and no figs. Operation propagate and then relocate the main plants to full sun will be happening in a few weeks.
Well this post is so much longer than I thought it would be so to end on a high note, the thing that went the absolute best this season was Building Out The Garden Hardscape areas. Lots of info to share so check it out if you’re interested in adding a paved patio seating area, simple “pergola” or pea gravel to your garden.
Fall planting has begun so stay tuned for more and until then, grow everything with love.