Vegetable Garden Lessons from 2022
If I had to pick a word to describe this year’s vegetable garden experience, I think it would be along the lines of “underwhelming” – but that’s on average. There were still some highs to balance out the lows, and many lessons learned as always…
What I learnt in 2022
Less (types of crops) is more
I thought I started a lot of green beans, but ended up with roughly the same amount as last year. It’s time to hone in further on the crops I love – bonus points if it’s produce I can’t get here (e.g., green beans, Brussel sprouts, artichokes, chard, bok choi, dill, fresh herbs, the list goes on), and drop the rest.
It’s still a long list, but this new approach feels like an important step to take.
Then of course there’s anything new or fun like Romanesco cabbage (see featured image) – because that’s just pure amazingness to look at, and growing such unusual vegetables brings me joy.
I’ve started making one area of the garden into a perennial garden. So far, that means physalis, artichokes, lemon balm, and Echinacea. Let’s see what else could be invested in for annual returns!
I definitely want more of the magic rainbow chard delivers – this spring I finally pulled out a bed of rainbow chard that had been feeding us generously for two years! I did not expect that, but love chard all the more so for it.
Oh, and I probably need to dig up our asparagus to replant them. Not excited about that – though I’m hopeful it’ll lead to more asparagus in our lives.
A few experimental pilots that need to pivot
This year, I had two trials I wanted to run:
- Herb boxes: Planting herb boxes all around the garden instead of having herbs mixed in with other crops
- Mulch: After years of telling myself I should mulch, I finally mulched
The results were unexpected.
The Herb boxes were mostly just not great. I suspect a combination of not enough soil depth with a lack of regular watering, but maybe having herbs grow solo instead of with companion plants really just isn’t their cup of tea.
Next year maybe I’ll try for flowers in these boxes and add the herbs back into beds!
As for the mulch, it delivered on keeping weeds in check and maintaining more moisture, but – and this trumps all other considerations – it was also a beacon inviting free range chickens to come and cause a ruckus. They invaded the garden daily to nestle in the dirt under the straw, scratched at it all, and devoured everything they could.
Bye bye broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts *tears up*.
The big challenges
Water was an issue this year. F changed the setup so the sprinklers had more pressure, but it meant hand watering was a nuisance. Not good.
We also had a few snafus with our water system, which, combined with it being a very dry year, made it particularly easy to kill seedlings and plants or get a meager crop.
I am hoping to figure out a better automatic watering system and manual option too.
Related, I’m dying to set up more growing spaces, but with free range animals and the watering required, I’m not sure how that will all evolve.
What sort of worked & The Big Lesson
We did get a few decent harvests: green beans, beets, eggplants, strawberries, and butternuts. Tomatoes were weirdly disappointing, with decent plants but very late fruit and almost none maturing on the plant. Go figure. And we got 1 zucchini and 1 cucumber, mostly because we had single plants left after the ducks destroyed everything else. Ouch.
But, I decided to focus on what we got and any small wins, even if it felt like a bit of a “throwaway year”. And that kept things light and fun.
That said, here’s what I learnt: a vegetable garden needs nurturing. It won’t just happen. If I don’t make it a priority to grow things and check in on them, no one will do it for me. Duh, I know. And how absurd is it NOT to prioritize growing good for my family given where we live and the importance we give to sustainable living practices?
Last year I got a lot more out of the garden because I was sure I wouldn’t, with a newborn, and kept sneaking a few minutes here and there to plant, weed, water, check, course correct, etc. I did many waves of planting, and was thrilled with the overall results.
I think I’m also a bit frustrated that I have nowhere to keep me seeds organized or easy access, nowhere to have a setup where I can just pop over and plant a few seeds. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that will change anytime soon, so I need to find a way around that…
The goodness of homegrown food
Last but not least, I defrosted a simple tomato basil sauce I had made last summer, to use it as a base for a pasta sauce – but it was SO good that we devoured it as is.
We’re in the process of setting up a big photovoltaic system, and once we have it running, we will be able to set up our big freezer here (right now it’s in the village) and have electricity in the big house with the big kitchen.
All that points to more preserves and homegrown goodness! Plus maybe buying things in season and freezing them or their processed forms, whether tomatoes as sauce or berries or or or. The possibilities are almost infinite!
So, as usual, a lot to process and learn and do differently next year.