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Lessons from this year’s garden harvest will guide your planting next year

For most of us, I suppose our gardens are pretty well to the point that we might talk about this year’s successes. I also hope any gardener might have a few stories about crops that weren’t so successful. I know I have my share of those.

It is a good thing we weren’t counting on having to put up any tomatoes this year.  We have plenty for everyday eating but we will not have enough to can. I take the blame for this for a variety of reasons. One reason was that I let the beautiful flower larkspur grow all around my plants. This flower seeded itself and grows many places in my garden. Eventually I decided in favor of the tomatoes, but I waited long enough that my tomatoes suffered from too much shade.

Another vegetable that didn’t do well for me this year was the broccoli I planted. The location was not quite sunny enough and I did not have good enough weed control. Next year, I will go back to planting my broccoli in a raised bed in full sun where it is easier for me to stay on top of the weeding.

The jury is still out on how my cucumbers are performing.  We have had quite a few at this point in the season but some of my plants are not looking too healthy. One of the positives on having a big garden is having the space to plant the same thing in several different areas. So while some of my cucumber plants aren’t doing well in one area, the plants I have in another area are looking fine.

My potatoes, carrots and onions have done well. I have actually harvested all my onions and about half of the carrots and potatoes. My garden soil is fairly well drained and the root vegetables like the fairly light, somewhat sandy growing medium.

We are still in the middle of green bean production. I did pull out the earlier beans I planted as they were pretty well done. My second planting has produced quite a bit and looks like it will continue to provide several more pickings in the coming weeks. Next year, I will go back to planting all my green beans in a raised bed to make the harvesting a little easier on my back.

Growing bell peppers seems to always be a challenge for me. This year is no exception.  We have harvested enough for everyday use and it seems there will be enough for us to freeze some for future use. The banana peppers are more of an afterthought for garden produce so I am not too concerned how they turn out.  The same goes for the jalapeño peppers, although I do hope to harvest a few to add to the fresh salsa I will be making.

My eye problems this spring have kind of made me look at my garden a little differently.  While I am still able to do the work required to raise and maintain a large garden, I am not sure I want to. With another grandchild added this year, it seems my priorities are shifting somewhat. Also, as my wife and I move along in our senior years, there is still more traveling we would like to do.

I made a step in the direction of downsizing the garden when I bought a small quantity of native wildflower seeds recently. While I will still use the six raised beds I have, I am going to cut back on the size of the rest of the garden. This fall, I will till up a large section of my existing garden and turn it into a native flower patch. That will take some effort but should result in a beautiful patch of various colored wildflowers to attract butterflies and other pollinators in a few seasons.

I have always said that it is not about how much you garden but rather it is about the attitude you have toward food raised locally with a minimum of chemicals. Particularly old fashioned varieties full of taste and nutrition. If you think about it, the saying that ‘you are what you eat’ has some pretty strong implications. Growing and eating your own food won’t cure everything that might ail you, but it sure can help.

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