2017 was my second year gardening a rented plot at my local community garden. This year I had 600 sqft of freshly tilled soil to learn to grow, and make my fair share of gardening mistakes. My 2016 garden was a great success and I shared my lessons learned: 10 Lessons Learned from Last Year's Garden 2016.
This year was a repeat success in some areas and an utter failure in other areas. You can find my final garden yields here: Final 2017 Community Garden Yields. This is what I learned from this year's garden.
Lessons Learned from Last Year's Garden 2017
#1 Plant more green beans!
I planted approximately 20sqft of green beans and yielded 15 lbs. Most these got canned or frozen so we could enjoy them all year long. I loved the Provider Green Beans from High Mowing Seeds, they continually produced throughout the season. However, my family also loved my green beans and requested more. I expect to plant more green beans next year, as fresh green beans from the garden at AMAZING.
#2 Peas need support
In 2016 I planted peas along a short fence as an experiment but didn't really expect much. They were pretty tasty so I planted more. I also noticed that in the large Victory Garden run by volunteers to feed the Food Pantry, the peas didn't have support. Well this year I planted the peas without support and turns out, I was wrong! My peas did OK, without support but largely fell over and the under ones rotted as the upper ones crushed them. Next year peas will be planted with a fence for them to grow up.
#3 Try potatoes
I recognize that my 400 sqft community lot will not provide all I need for my family, even my family of 2. I view my garden as an experimental place to learn to grow crops that I will want to grow abundantly in the future. I have shied away from potatoes as I hear they are a pain to dig up. BUT I need to learn to grow potatoes. So next year, in 2018 I will be growing potatoes!
#4 Tomatillos ripen slowly.
This was my first year growing tomatillos, first time ever seeing a tomatillo plant in real life. (Kinda sad, but that's city life for you). I expected my tomatillos to need support like tomatoes but I found this not the case. Towards the end of the season they started to droop, but they didn't need the tomato cages I expect. Also tomatillos ripen very slowly, I would find a few ready here and there each day. It was not like my tomatoes when 10lbs would ripen in a day and then a week later another batch. This made it so I had to save the tomatillos, holding them until I had enough to can or make salsa. I think the 5 plants will supply us the right amount for the amount of green salsa we like to eat.
#5 Long Island Cheese Pumpkins grow great
Long Island Cheese Pumpkins are an heirloom species, that grow smaller white pumpkins. I found they grew amazingly well, producing +20 feet vines and many pumpkins. So far the pumpkins have sat on my shelf and preserved well. I like the taste of them for Pumpkin Butter and hope to grow more of them soon. In comparison my Jack Straw pumpkin rotted before it ripened, which was sad.
#6 Most squash rotted before ripening.
I had lots of trouble this year keeping my squash from rotting. I tried putting wood chips under them so the water would drain away. I watched them closely for signs of rot. Perhaps it was just wetter than last year, but my butternuts, acorns, jack straw pumpkins and Boston Marrow squash all struggled to ripen. The gentleman in the garden plot next to mine put bricks under his pumpkins, so maybe I will try that next year.
#7 It was not a great year for peppers.
Last year I got amazing peppers from the handful of plants I grew. This year, I think I transplanted them too soon in the ground. However this was not my only problem, I then bought store bought peppers (Starting Seeds or Buying Transplants: Which is Better for Your Garden?) and these also didn't fare well. While they didn't die, they also had stunted growth and didn't produce. I did use fertilizer and they had mulch to prevent them from drying out. All in all, this one has me stumped. If I was in a survival mode, I would be bartering for peppers this year.
#8 Otricoli Orange Berries (from Baker Creek Seeds) taste gross.
I was super excited this season about trying these orange berries I found in the Baker Creek Seed catalog. I had trouble germinating them, but after sticking the seeds in the fridge for a week the seeds popped right up. They are in the nightshade family like tomatoes, potatoes and the wild poison nightshades. However they were rumored to have the consistency of a tomato but taste like citrus! That sounded amazing to me, citrus berries grown in cold Massachusetts. Well, I thought they tasted like bitter tomatoes not citrus. They were quite prolific in their nasty tasting berries.
#9 Zucchini is not fail proof.
Everyone always seem to be over run with zucchini as their plants tend to be quite prolific. Last year my zucchini were amazing, growing huge squashes. This year, I may have transplanted them too soon or something. They died pretty quick and those that didn't die didn't have enough energy to fight off the squash bugs. I did have some yellow squash in the late summer from a second attempt but not the overflowing bounty most gardeners complain about.
# 10 Be careful with your seed pots
I had 2 problems with year when I started seeds in pots.
First, I didn't have enough pots for every seedling to have it's own pot. This was a mistake, I ended up having to separate seedlings to plant then and mangled their root systems. This had mixed results but mostly poor.
Second, I bought some plants from a nursery that came in bio-degradable pots. When I was ripping out plants at the end of the year, I found the pots! The non-bio-degradable pots were binding up the roots and may have contributed to stunted growth.
So plant 1 plant per pot and don't use the bio-degrable pots as they don't break down fast enough.
If you haven't checked out the yield of my garden, you can find them here: Final 2017 Community Garden Yields. I feel my 2017 garden was a great success, I learned and expanded my capabilities to be self-reliant. Next year will bring more opportunities to grow plants and grow my experience.
- 7 Actually Easy to Grow Vegetables for New Gardeners
- Starting Seeds or Buying Transplants: Which is Better for Your Garden?
- How Much to Plant to Feed Your Family