This year's garden, the second year in this location, has been a bit of a disappointment. On a positive note there is the soil improvement. While soil building does not happen over night especially when high nitrogen manures are not added, I'm definitely seeing improvement thanks to the cardboard and straw. There's no doubt that the earthworm population has greatly increased as has the overall abundance of fungi and microbial life. Now that I'll be adding in a bit more nitrogen thanks to the chickens and lots of comfrey that starting to establish well I should be able to give it a bit of a boost next year.
The downside of this years garden has been the actual harvest. I started off with a huge mistake which was fencing that was not rabbit proof. The little shits spent the spring eating my greens and onion tops. So, no real onion harvest to speak of and the greens eventually came on to provide an okay crop. I've since gotten the fence to about 90% rabbit proofness though they can still get in. Will have to add a bit more of the chicken wire to the last bit of fence that only has up to 12". They can jump over that 12" and through the welded wire though it is pretty obvious that my rabbit visitations are greatly reduced. Lesson learned and next year's production should be much better.
Another problem was the start. We had such a wet spring that I started lots of stuff too late. Squash, melons, cukes, corn and a few others. Those things that did get in were so flooded that they struggled. The sugar peas died and many of the tomatoes barely made it. The potatoes and sweet potatoes have done very little. The cukes, which have looked okay and have had quite a few flowers, have, thus far produced only one fruit. Same spot as last year where they produced gobs. Even with the late start the various squashes have produced... not great but they are producing. More coming from them I'm sure. The melons have fruit though they are slow. The corn was demolished by rabbits and next year will be well fenced. Lots more squash bugs this year, probably due to the greatly increased number of squash plants!
The peppers have fruit on though they were late to the game. Probably due to the late start and very cool July?
Pests such as tomato hornworm and flea beetles have been a huge problem. The flea beetles turned the eggplants leaves into a network of holes and something else finished them off, not sure what. The hornworms have been all over the tomatoes since early July and have decimated them. Even so I've gotten quite a few tomatoes but not enough to can which is a shame because I had well over 60 plants out there. I certainly got my money's worth in terms of the $8 spent on the five varieties of heirloom seed but probably only 10 or 20% of the crop I would have had without the hornworms. I've also had a bit of blight or bacterial wilt, not sure which.
The four varieties of basil have been fantastic and the zinnias and cosmos filled out pretty well. I'm going to have to plant lots more color and scent next year to better camouflage the tomatoes. This year I used the fence as a trellis and am thinking that was a part of the hornworm problem. If I use the fence again next year I'll be certain to have plenty of flowers along the outer side of the fence which is the plan regardless. I'm transplanting lots of sweet coneflower that is coming up everywhere to the outside of the fence and will be transplanting purple coneflower as well. The gaps will be filled in my basil, zinnia and cosmos. I'd like to have twice the flowers next year.
So, yeah, not the best year for the kitchen garden. I feel pretty confident though that the soil improvements will start to show and of course the rabbit proof fencing will make a huge difference next year. Really though, the garden is too big for one person. My keyhole beds by the cabin are enough to feed me, at least in terms of leafy greens and probably even peppers and tomatoes. Will try a few things differently next year. Looking forward to the fall garden and trying out the greenhouse for a bit of season extension and winter greens. The tomatoes in the greenhouse are thick and green, so far untouched by hornworms though also not producing many blooms or fruit. Not sure why? Wondering if those free windows have some sort of uv glaze that is inhibiting fruit production? Will be curious to see how the greens do in there.
Living and learning...