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Posted by on Oct 31, 2016 in Gardening, Uncategorized | 7 comments

8 Lessons from My Summer Garden

8-lessons-from-my-summer-garden-fb

This year, my garden was much MUCH better. Unlike last year’s fiasco. Thank goodness. 

However, even though this year’s harvest was a happy thing, I still learned plenty of lessons from my summer garden. So I thought I would share them with you all. Feel free to tell me about YOUR summer garden in the comments!

1. Drip Irrigation is a life changer.

I hesitated to get drip irrigation in the past. This was for many reasons, including: I have a strict garden budget and I actually LOVE watering my garden by hand. However, my sweet hubby surprised me with drip irrigation supplies, so of course we set it up. I have mixed feelings about using drip irrigation in my garden.

The positives: This summer was very dry and hot in South Carolina. Our Drip Irrigation had a timer and it went off twice a day without me having to worry. Instead of daily spending hours watering and rewatering my plants, I only had to stroll through once a day for weeding and other maintenance. My plants thrived with drip irrigation, too.

The negatives: I spent less time in my garden this summer than ever before. I used to have to water everything multiple times a day. This meant I spent many hours everyday in my garden. With drip irrigation, sometimes, I wouldn’t even go in my garden at ALL for an entire day. How sad. I’m hoping to fix this by adding a garden bench, so I can sit and enjoy my garden a bit more next year.

2. My first dealing with Japanese beetles.

I had issues with pickle worms last year, but that was partly because the pickles were rotting on the vine (story here). This was my first out-of-control pest problem. Japanese beetles attacked my poor beans with their typical nastiness. Fortunately, they also LOVED my comfrey plants, which is super hardy and when the leaves are cut down, just comes right back. I made the mistake of cutting down my comfrey in the hopes of getting rid of their main food supply. Tragically, this just made the Japanese beetles attack my beans even harder (duh). Thank goodness my comfrey came back 9 days later. I used food-grade diatomaceous earth (like this) on my plants, but I don’t know if it made much of a difference. One day, the Japanese beetles all disappeared. All of them. So I’m still trying to figure out what to do in case they return next year.

japanese-beetle-damage_1_full_width

3. I learned about bad batches of dirt.

I  had a weird experience when I was starting my plants from seed. I have a very organized garden plan (see more about that here), so I first started my earliest seeds indoors. The last plants I needed to start indoors were my tomatoes and peppers.

All of my plants happily grew from seed to young plants…except my tomatoes and peppers.

I tried THREE times to start them from seed. Every single time, the plants would get 4 inches high, stop growing, and then die a week later. Fortunately, I read this post from Jill at The Prairie Homestead. Jill wrote about how her garden was poisoned by a bad batch of mulch.

It made me realize that my last seeds were planted with a new bag of dirt from the garden store. All of my earlier plants had been used with one bag of dirt, and then my tomatoes and peppers were planted with a different bag. It was the same company, bought at the same time. However, the only difference was the bag of the dirt. So I’m pretty sure the bag I used for my tomatoes and peppers had some type of disease in it, and it kept killing my seedlings. I ended up having to buy some peppers and tomatoes from the store this year. 

Hopefully, next year I can use only the BEST soil possible.

4. Purple pole beans are the BEST (for southern gardeners).

This is the second year that I’ve grown purple pole beans, and I will continue to grow them in the future! My last batch of beans was on October 15 this year (see photo below)! They started giving me beans in July, and they are very happy producers. My freezer is FULL of beans (here’s how I preserved my beans). Even though the Japanese beetles also LOVED the purple pole beans, somehow, those plants were resilient. They came back from some nasty devastation and still gave me more beans than we can eat.

purplebeans

5. Comfrey should be planted carefully.

Okay, I read tons of stuff about comfrey before I planted it. Everyone warns you that it is a bit invasive. I planted my comfrey in the cinder blocks on the edge of one of my garden beds and figured that would be good enough. Check out this photo. I have hacked my comfrey all the way down FIVE times this summer, and it just takes over the path and garden bed. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about it, but at least it’s happy!

comfreyplants

 

6. I only need *one* cayenne pepper plant each year!

I’ve been planting cayenne pepper plants every year for a long time now, I always use these seeds and they grow great. Ground cayenne pepper is one of my kitchen staples for cooking. In the past, I always watered my garden by hand and grew 3-4 cayenne pepper plants. This year, drip irrigation helped give me crazy big harvests. Since I had to buy my pepper plants this year (see #3), I only bought one cayenne pepper plant. Thank goodness that’s all I bought! I’ve harvested about 50 cayenne peppers so far and the plant is still loaded with more! This photo is just a FEW of them as they dry.

cayenne-peppers

7. Moonflower vines are pretty and smell great….but…

Here’s the story: my peas were done in early summer and my homemade trellises needed something growing on them. And I saw a packet of moonflower seeds and thought they looked pretty.

I didn’t do any research on them and since drip irrigation made everything grow very well,  I found out the hard way that moonflower vines grow over 30 feet tall! Yikes. They were very…healthy…those vines. So healthy (and heavy) that they broke my trellis (see photo below).

Somehow, they are still growing, so now I have a mass of fragrant moonflowers in a pile in one of my garden aisles. Oops. I will probably grow them again because WOW they smell amazing. However, they will not be in my garden unless on good and sturdy trellises that can hold the weight of 30 feet of vines…

moonflowers

8. Garlic deserves a place in everyone’s garden!

I’ve written about how to grow garlic in one of my posts. Garlic has got to be the EASIEST plant to grow. I planted the cloves last fall that I got from here, and then late summer, I  harvested them. They needed no fertilizers and they had no pests. Plus, look how pretty they look as a braid in my pantry! I highly recommend growing garlic in your garden.

garlic

 

So there you go. This is my list of 8 lessons from my summer garden. Please tell me about your gardens in the comment section below. I LOVE connecting with fellow gardeners over the joys and trials from the garden. <3

 

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DISCLOSURE: > In order for me to support my blogging activities, I occasionally may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. However, I only recommend products or services I have personally used myself and trust. 
By Cris Daining

7 Comments

  1. It was a great garden year here in Michigan too. (I also have raised beds made with concrete blocks!) I grow jalapeño plants every year and usually dry and grind some to use similar to cayenne. I had so many jalapeño’s I had to try new ways to use them, which was fun. I made jalapeño jelly, relish, pickled some, froze some and dried some. Definitely will not be planting jalapeño’s next year!

  2. We lost 95% of our garden due to grass hoppers so I built a greenhouse and we now have several different veggies growing including beans, cucumbers , potatoes , marigolds, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts and tomatoes and it is 11-1-16 praise the Lord

    • Wow! That is awesome! It can be hard to be hit with pests in the garden, and I like that you figured out a way around it and had success! Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  3. Hi Cris, This was my first year with a vegetable garden and I planted purple and green pole beans. I love eating green beans but I had a problem with these. They looked beautiful and grew beautifully as a second crop after my peas were done on my trellis. But they were so tough we couldn’t eat them. In addition they were full of strings. I must be missing a step because I ended up throwing them away. I just couldn’t prepare them to make them edible. Any idea what is wrong? I started thinking they were meant to only be shucked not used whole? I just don’t know.

    • Hi Denise, thanks for visiting and commenting! Where did you purchase your seeds? One reason that I prefer online seed companies (http://www.thehomesteadgarden.com/high-quality-seed-companies-for-the-organic-gardener/) is that you can read the descriptions of varieties of each type of crop. I know that pole beans are often prone to being tough and stringy. I thoroughly read the descriptions of each pole bean variety at multiple seed companies before choosing the one that I did, which had a description that specifically promised me no tough/stringy beans. Perhaps if you try another variety, you will find the right pole beans for you and your climate! Hope that helps.

  4. Your comfrey doesn’t look like my. comfrey. Mine does regrow after you cut it down. But it has kind of like fuzzy downy leaves, not so bright green as yours and it will get beautiful little purple flowers that the bees love. I wish I had a pic of my comfrey but I don’t think I do. It is very invasive. I started with one plant and now I have at least 6 or7 plants. The purple flowers when they fade must spread seed. I did enjoy reading your post and the eight things you learned from your garden!

    • Hmm…mine also gets purple flowers that spread seeds and has fuzzy leaves. Perhaps our plants are slightly different because one is Russian comfrey and the other is True comfrey?