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Thursday, December 24, 2015

2015 Recap and Some Lessons Learned - Part 1

The good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly of  2015.

Next year's garden is always going to be perfect - it is what keeps gardeners gardening.  But I have to say, that while the 2015 season was wayyyyy far from perfect, I have been so blessed to be back on the land.  And despite 12 days of continuous rains that turned most of the tomatoes to mush, I think this may go down as one of my favorite gardening years... but I think I say that every year!

Summer Harvests

 Major Milestones
  • Purchased home with 3.8 acres - suburbia to the left, 20-50 acre lots to the right
  • Identified existing trees - black walnut, honey locust, winged elms
  • Started first large garden in 4 years
  • Had photos accepted to http://www.istockphoto.com/
  • Took way more photos than in 2014 - way more than double
  • Planted Trees
    • 11 fruit trees
    • 5 weeping willows that I grew from cuttings and that are now several feet tall
    • 6 hybrid poplar trees that I also grew from cuttings and that are now 4 or 5 feet tall
    • transplant of a cedar from the little woods to the wind break line
  • Opened up some of the woods
  • Wood mulched most of the existing trees in the pasture
  • Harvested Black Walnuts (still more to process!)
  • Gave away some of the harvest as Christmas gifts
  • Bought local from local producers for Christmas gifts and consumption of things like jam and veggies that I didn't grow or that didn't do well
  • Saved seeds from tomatoes, beans, cow peas, basil
  • Froze more than 20 pounds of tomatoes, a pound of basil, lots of bell peppers
  • Dried a lot of peppers
  • Purchased tools - for gardening, for canning, for dehydrating, for jerky making
  • Helped field dress my husband's first TN deer
  • Began planting perennials in the herb garden
  • Started most of my own vegetables from seed: tomatoes, peppers, beans, cukes, pumpkins, water melon
  • Started many of my herbs from seed: basils, lemon balm, oregano, sweet marjoram, flowering sages, sunflowers
  • Road in my first helicopter
View of South Kentucky from my first helicopter ride.

Things that love The South

I guess I could have predicted this, but it is good to have the observations any way
  • Sunflowers - even ones planted in straight clay with competition from "weeds" grew and flowered.  Seeds from the same packet of Mammoth sunflower that barely made it to 5 feet tall in the desert with a 10" head grew 8 - 12 feet tall with disks that were nearly two feet across, with stalks 2 inches in diameter.  Bees, praying mantis, and all number of insects partook of their abundance.  I harvested some for seeds for 2016, and I left some standing for the birds.
  • Cow Peas - Trialed several varieties - planted around my fruit trees for nitrogen, but also in quantities for eating and seed saving.  I don't think I will have to ever buy seeds for them again. The climbers - easily scaled the sunflowers, and even toppled two of the sunflowers from their weight.
  • Basil - Grew nearly 4 feet tall - Mrs. Burns Lemon Basil being my favorite
  • Peppers - had not grown a lot of peppers before.  Some of them didn't like all the rain, and some went bonkers, even with the rain.  Cayenne peppers - they loved it here.

Last of the Cayenne and Arroz con Pollo drying.
Squash Bug Hell

So I went on a two week business trip seconds before the Squash Bug Hatch. I came back to two acorn squash fruits and one black tail watermelon - the plants themselves were almost completely consumed.  All the cukes and pumpkins were dead, gone, kaput.  Have to tell my boss - no travel during Summer Squash Bug Battle season.

One of two survivors.  Teach me to go on work travel in August!


Next post to include more recap and plans for the future.

Black Walnut Tree (with view of neighbor's home)

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