2019 Gardening Lessons Learned

Every year we learn a ton in the garden, no matter how many decades we’ve been at it, and moving out to the North Oregon Coast and starting from scratch after nearly 13 years in our little house in the city? Definitely brought some new lessons as we learned about things that we hadn’t previously had to think about before in the (slightly) more seasonal type of climate of Portland. Clockwise from top left:

  • Tomatoes: Wow, did these surprise us! As mentioned in my earlier post, they definitely grew like crazy and responded well to the hoop house setup I built, but they were so strong that they’ve started to pull the bottom plank of the raised bed out, and the supposedly strong wire we used? Umm, notsomuch. I’ve used traditional cages in the past which are fine, but wanted to trellis them this year as per some online recommendations (I did the center-stake method years ago which got so-so results, and one year created a wooden ‘tomato jail’ that just made it harder to access the fruits, oy!). I did the vertical twine thing for all of htem but the plants got so huge and that mixed with wind? They just yanked the top wires down and leaned over to one side. So while 2020 planting is definitely many months away, I’ve definitely got my homework to figure out over the winter how to six-million-dollar-man these beds next year (better, faster, stronger…we CAN rebuild…). Our raised beds are all 4’x12′ and the two tomato ones comfortably held 25-30 plants). If you do tomatoes in raised beds, what do you find to be the most successful – and wind-resistant?
  • Scarlet Runner Beans – One of my favorite things to trellis, as I love their orange flowers and how you can just leave the beans on the plant to dry out for effortless harvesting. I planted these on a trellis against our barn, where they loved the sunshine and providing a happy orange (for some reason I’ve been mad about orange flowers the last few years…though not a color I’d ever wear…). But apparently 8 plants aren’t nearly enough, because this bowl? That’s pretty much what we got this year. The pods are like 6-8″ long, but I’d forgotten that there are not too many beans to each. Note to self: plant more! PS – they are perennial in mild climates so hopefully they’ll remain of disinterest to the deer 🙂
  • Strawberries – As my favorite snacking fruit, the strawberry bed was an awesome success. The learning part? Last fall, I’d read that garlic was a good companion plant for strawberries, with the added benefit of detracting would-be strawberry eaters, like deer. So I went crazy on planting it. Problem is? Strawberries quickly shaded out the garlic in a raised bed situation, and we were only able to rescue about 4-5 measly heads. In 2020, garlic will definitely get an entire bed to itself, because we love us some garlic (not to mention it’s great in powdered form to mix in with the duck and chicken feed!).
  • Squash – This definitely became a “multiple lesson” situation, as in the past we always grew our zucchini from starts, planting them right into the ground back in the city, with a little fence around them to keep out four particular nosy squash-blossom-and-leaf-eating ducks. This time I decided to give them an entire bed, planting 100% by seed for the first, with a plan to create a big beautiful tall arched trellis (thanks Pinterest! eye roll…) that would connect them to the adjacent bed and create a cool tunnel. Well, I planted the seeds for zucchini, butternut, black futsu and blue kuri, they germinated beautifully, and…proceeded to nearly all die back. So with that, I focused exclusively on the zucchinis which appeared to have the best chance of saving, and ignored the others, including my plans to build the trellis, and was just thrilled when two zucchini plants finally came around. And I swear, right after I exhaled, the corpses of the three squash plants must have heard that and came back from the dead, as now that bed is WAY overcrowded and I’ve had to create an emergency ‘bridge’ to the now-empty adjacent bed so they don’t attract any evil webfooted creatures since they are all trying to jump ship and trail along the ground. Sigh…

And while it’s not something one can photograph, the other big lesson was that I definitely need to figure out a way to utilize our 1,000 gallon rain tank for drip irrigation. While cute little rain barrels can be put on stands next to beds, we rely on our awesome mega tank to supply our water for our veggie garden and ducks year round (keeping our water bill at a happy $35/mo), and it’d be so freakin’ awesome if we could automate this a wee bit more….not to mention ensure more consistency in how things are watered!). Any ideas???  Do I suck it up and save up to buy a $500 pump, or…?

What did you learn in your garden this year?

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