Things I’ve Learned This Year

It’s that time again. It’s time to go over what has and has not worked this year in the garden. It’s always a learning experience and this year was no exception.

I like making these posts because I always go back to them to remember what we need to change the following year.

1. “We’ll do it later” actually means “We’ll wait until the last possible chance and by then it’s too late.” We will probably lose our entire apple crop and a good portion of our pear crop to codling moth and apple maggots because we kept putting off covering the fruitlets until well after the moths laid their eggs on the fruit. We also never got around to thinning out the Asian pear which means all of those fruits will be tiny. We also would have gotten a lot more potatoes if we hadn’t kept putting off hilling up.

2. I really need to get better at succession planting. Our green beans are already done for the year, which is a bummer because it didn’t seem like we got very many this year.

3. Don’t plant short stuff on the east or north side of tall plants. No pickles this year because our cucumbers are being shaded out by our 12′ tall corn.

4. Pay better attention to plant placement. Some parts of the yard are better for certain crops. The beds closest to the artichokes should not be used to grow plants that snails and slugs like and are slow starters.

5. If it works don’t change it. If it doesn’t work, change it. Oranglo watermelons do well for us so I need to stop dicking around with other varieties. As much as I LOVE Marina di Chioggia squash, it doesn’t do that well and to be honest, we’re too hesitant to crack open a large squash for a small meal. It’s time to switch to smaller, more manageable squash.

6. Use more manure. We were stingy last fall with putting manure on the beds – only an inch or two in some areas. There is a huge difference between the beds where we put more manure and the beds that got less.

7. Label! Label! Label! Having three varieties of yellow beefsteak-type heirloom tomatoes is getting to be a problem because I’m having a hard time figuring out which one is which. One of the problems is the wooden tags I had go moldy and you can’t read what they were. This coming year I’m going to try using cut miniblinds for tags.

8. Save seed. I ignored the spinach and lettuce this year and didn’t get any seed from them. I did get seed from the carrots and dill though. I also need to make a more concerted effort to keep varieties separate so it’s easier to isolate them.

9. Black plastic doesn’t work for all heat loving veggies.

10. I miss growing pumpkins. We chose not to grow pumpkins this year and I’m regretting it. Pumpkins of the jack-o-lantern persuasion generally aren’t good eating so we decided to forego them. Next year I’m going to bring them back because I really love Halloween and want a good carving pumpkin. We didn’t grow them mainly because they will cross pollinate with zucchini (they are both C. pepo). Next year I have a brilliant plan. I’ll do pumpkins for C. pepo, Triamble/Shamrock for C. maxima (smaller winter squash), and Zucchino Rampicante as a summer squash (C. moschata). I might looking into growing a pie pumpkin as well and just staying on top of isolating flowers.

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  1. Deborah Joy says:

    These are all great! I need to earmark this post – cuz I won’t remember all of this stuff. I really like the mini-blind idea (a great use for those extra length blinds!) and the squash family tips.

  2. Max Morgan says:

    Erica – when you say you need to use more manure, are you talking about steer or chicken manure? If steer, do you have any problems with salt buildup?

    • Max, I don’t use steer. The manure that goes on my garden are from my own animals – rabbits, chickens, turkeys and goats.

      • Max Morgan says:

        Oops, I meant “Rachel”. For a minute I thought I was over on another one of my favorite blogs! Thanks for the quick reply.

  3. Love this list, and can especially identify with numbers 1, 2, 6 and 7. I planted five types of bush beans this year–some for dry and some for fresh–and pulled the old “I’ll write down what went where later”. I kinda figured the pods would tell the story of what was what. Not so much, and now I can’t remember if one of the rows is a blue lake for eating fresh or a shelling bean.

    I didn’t put nearly enough manure in my beds either, in spite of having two ready piles in the yard. I think that’s the main thing I’ll change next year.

  4. 2. I think succession planting was one of the hardest things for me to learn. And even now I don’t always get the timing right. My second zucchini crop was way earlier than I expected…

    3./4. I have major shade issues, so I’m always mindful of what goes where…but sometimes I have no choice. As for placement, I was shaking my head a couple months ago when you lamented transplanting cukes. I usually have to replant 3 times, but this year I chose a spot far from the madding slugs and voila, I’m drowning!

    5. Yes, absolutely!

    7. Labels are your very best friend, in both yard and pantry. I cannot tell you how many plants I’ve forgotten or how many jars of mystery year jam I’ve tossed. LOL I have few absolute rules, but that is one of them.

    The best thing about gardening is there is always something else to learn.

  5. I’ve never saved seed from squashes because I thought they all crossed together.

    How do you find what genus/family/species (I never remember what category is which…) a particular squash is? My seed catalogue doesn’t list the latin names (I use Baker Creek).


    • Melissa, I don’t think their paper catalog says what species the squash is but their website does at least for most of them. In the summer squash section if it doesn’t say what it is assume that it’s a C. pepo. There are four primary species: C. pepo (zucchini, pumpkin, acorn, delicata, spaghetti, etc), C. moschata (butternut, Long Island cheese, tromboncino, etc.), C. maxima (turban, kabocha, hubbard, buttercup, marrow, banana, Australian blue, etc.), and C. mixta (cushaw). Mixta is the only one that can cross pollinate with the others. Pepo, moschata and maxima will not cross with each other.

      • Thank you so much, thats great info to know!

        I just checked and it looks like my red kuri squash is a c. maxima & the zucchini isn’t specified, so it appears I can save seeds from both!

  6. - I still suck at succession planting. In fact, sometimes I just suck at planting – this summer would be exhibit A to that effect. “Later” is rapidly becoming a swear word in our house.

    - I use cut mini-blinds for labels; they work great. I tried pencil the first year since I had read that it wouldn’t wash/rub off as readily as permanent marker, but it was ridiculously difficult to read because it was so light, so the fact that it didn’t wear off was practically moot.

    - I love tromboncino squash. They are duel purpose and we eat them as summer squash and also mature them for winter keeping. If I had to pick one C. moschata that would be it (and I love butternut).


  1. [...] this coming year. Surprisingly, we’re making quite a few changes even though I’m always saying that I need to stick with varieties that we know work. This past year was a success for some things [...]

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