Last year I blogged about the vegetable garden I put in and my trials and tribulations in protecting it from critters. Today my garden looks like what’s shown in the photo on the right. I live and garden in the northwest corner of New York State in the United States.
Therefore, I thought it would be a good time to review what I did right and wrong last year as I start to think about my 2010 vegetable garden.
Last year was the first year in about eight that I decided to put in a vegetable garden. In the past I have gardened quite a bit, but I had not made the time to continue it from year to year. Also, we have a particularly obnoxious bush-like weed that spreads via thick, deep underground roots, so it’s a battle all season long to help the vegetables win. I was pretty successful in this this last year, but it was a lot of work.
As I just mentioned, that weed is very hardy and persistent. If I keep the garden where it is now, I may rent a small backhoe to dig down and pull up all the roots. One key reason to move the garden is to get it away from the black walnut trees that ring the property and are near the driveway. The part of the garden that is toward the front of the photo is just over the drip line for a black walnut and so only certain plants will grow there.
If I move the garden, it will be a lot further back in the property and centered in a grassy area. However, it will be very difficult to water and I’ll need to rely on rainfall for the most part.
That brings me to …
The fence I installed did a good job keeping out the deer, especially once I extended it by a couple of feet around the corn. The deer just nibbled on the corn over the top of the fence until I added two more feet of fence.
The right side of the garden was entirely in sunflowers and corn:
|Lemon Queen Sunflower
||Sundance Sweet Corn
||Sugar Dots Sweet Corn
||Peaches and Cream Sweet Corn
||Garden Cross Bantam Sweet Corn
||Velvet Queen Sunflower
From left to right, the corn moved from earlier to later varieties for harvesting. Probably 40% of the entire garden was planted in corn. It looked pretty promising.
We didn’t get one ear of it. The raccoons ate it all, though they didn’t bother anything else.
This next year I’m not going to bother with corn at all. To keep out the raccoons I would either have to install an electric fence or completely enclose (encage?) the garden, sides and top. I’m not going to do that. So next year I’ll have more room for vegetable and maybe try something new, like pumpkins.
Peppers, Tomatoes, and Basil
The peppers I planted in the ground were fantastic, though those I put in a container did not do well. This year I’ll be expanding the group to more varieties and only put them in the ground.
While we did get some tomatoes, it’s clear they were affected by the blight. I needed to get a replacement tomato plant and I picked up one from a home center on a whim, and I think that infected the rest of the crop.
The basil crop was strong, though late in arriving. This year I plan to start many of my plants directly from seed. They’ll need to get going around April 1, so I’ll have more on that as I get closer. I’ve ordered several packets from some catalog sources, and I’ll go through how I’ll make my final choices.
Squash and Cucumbers
The Garden Spineless F1 Hybrid Zucchini Squash grew well (too well), and produced a large crop. I need to stagger the planting of the seeds this year to not get inundated with zucchini. This is an old joke, but we were indeed told when we moved to this village that people locked their cars in summer so that others would not put zucchini in them.
The Summer Pac F1 Hybrid Calabaza Yellow Squash was a disappointment because it was more of a gourd than a yellow zucchini. I blame myself and will need to do more research this year.
The Marketmore Cucumbers produced a good crop and didn’t overwhelm us with volume. I grew many of them up the trellis I used earlier in the season for the snow peas, and that sort of worked. This next year I may build a wood ladder for them.
Beans and Peas
Both the Tender Green Improved Bush Beans and the Yellow Kinghorn Wax Bush Beans did very well, however they were too crowded. I fell victim to the urge to over plant too many vegetables in too small a space. This year I’ll either have more room because I’m not doing corn, or I’ll be in a larger space in a different location.
For peas I went with the sugar snap variety. We got a few, but I put them in too late. I should have started them around May 1, or even late April, but it was closer to the end of May by the time the garden was in shape. My mother always told me to get them in on St. Patrick’s Day, but around here the ground is still frozen and we’re likely to get more snow, so that’s not going to work.
Lettuce and Carrots
I got a lot of lettuce but should have staggered the crop. The carrots grew very slowly and we didn’t get to harvest very many. Next year I need to explicitly amend the soil where I plant the carrots with a lot of sand.
The major lessons in my return to vegetable gardening were:
- If the deer don’t get you, the raccoons will. Watch about for ground hogs as well.
- Your fence can never be too tall.
- Plant half the vegetables you want to plant in the space you have available.
Sources and Books
In a previous blog entry I gave some good sources for vegetable seeds. If you want to go organic, pay very close attention to the seed descriptions or else go with an all-organic provider like High Mowing Organic Seeds. Rob Weir also posted a good blog entry with ten seed providers for New England gardeners.
There are hundreds of books about vegetable gardening, some of which are specialized to specific parts of the US or the world. Here are some that I’ve found to be quite good: