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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 Recap and Some Lessons Learned - Part 2

If I seem to ramble... well, why yes, I am.  :)

2015 Cayenne Pepper Bumper Crop
  • Dried peppers
  • Made venison jerky (or any kind of jerky)
  • Learned to use a pressure cooker
  • Helped field dress a deer
  • Grew sweet potatoes
  • Started willow and hybrid poplar trees from 5" cuttings
  • Harvested and process Black Walnuts

Raised Beds - Things I knew, and new lessons learned

It takes 3-5 years for lawns, abandoned pastures, or desert sand to really start producing well.  I have seen this happen everywhere I have gardened.  So I did not adhere to strictly regenerative and/or organic methods, although I did not use pesticides.  Our pasture is clay and slabs of limestone rock.  I wanted some kind of garden.  This meant that there was quite a bit of "garden soil" brought in from "the big box stores."  Much of it laced with Miracle Grow, because it is pretty darn difficult to get "plain old garden soil."  Most of the beds were only 6 inches in depth, which was OK for most things.
  • Not enough mulch.  
    • There is never enough mulch.  But I can get the shredded wood stuff for free, and I know what the deal is.   And I still didn't get enough of it!
    • Putting a layer of mulch under the raised beds would have helped keep the crab grass from invading from below (even though I thought I killed it by black plastic tarping the areas before building the beds)
    • Not a wide enough, deep enough layer of mulch between the field and my beds - crab grass had a mere 12 inches to leap to get into my beds.  In The South, with 1-3 inches of rain a week, that is not a difficult thing for it to do.  Cardboard under paths covered in at least 6 inches of  shredded wood chips.  Where I did that, I mostly won.  Around the edges, I didn't do that.  I lost!
  • No edgings on beds.
    • Too expensive, no time, weird weather, she said.  Pounding thunderstorms eroded the edge of beds, allowing crab grass to sneak in.  (The upside - it also allowed some rouge passion flowers and honeysuckle to pop up.  Depending on the bed, that was a good thing.)
    • More difficult to build deeper beds without siding.  Sweet potatoes were yummy and of OK size, but many of them made a right angle when they hit the clay bottom, and so were weirdly shaped.  Didn't hurt their taste, but probably not what the market is looking for if I go down the path to small commercial plantings.  10" deep was not deep enough for pretty and fat tubers - but was quite enough for thinner ones to cut into "rounds" for chips or for mashing or dicing into recipes.  
    • They just looked messy by the end of summer (I say this like none of my gardens have ever been messy by the end of summer!  If I am honest, most... er, all? of my gardens are messy by the end of summer.  I blame it on business travel.  Yes, that's it!)
I know there is mulch somewhere under that crabgrass!
Good Things
  • Just did stuff
  • Planned stuff
  • The balance between just doing and planning wasn't perfect, but did lead to successes
  • Roma Tomato VF seeds from 2006 - on the edge of tomato seed viability - germinated well, and have replenished my seed stock.  I had some seed from 2011, so I knew I'd be OK in the Roma Tomato VF department - but I am sentimental - that packet of seeds has grown tomatoes for me at 3 homes.  Now it is in a place where it can be grown out for generations and adapt to the region.  
  • Trialing all different varieties of tomatoes, peppers, beans, peas, cowpeas, summer squash, and winter squash was absolutely the educational experience that I expected them to be.  And a yummy experience it was, too.
  • I spent too much on seeds.  So much fun.  So many types of beans - who knew? (You'll see this listed under the "bad things" too!)
  • Kept enough things isolated, that I was able to save seed from several toms and several cowpeas
  • Trees, glorious trees - got the first part of the orchard planted!  Extended Autumn weather meant that even though I was late in ordering, I got to put in both Spring and Fall trees!  Carolina Bell peaches, Karla Rose nectarine (had to buy my namesake!), September Wonder Fuji apples, Sweetheart cherries - what dreams are made of.  Dreams to hopefully come true in 3-4 years! (Stamps feet.  I'm not moving again.  Left the last place just as the apples started to produce.)

Bad Things

So nothing really bad happened except for the squash bugs!  Luckily I got some summer squash before the attack, but really? I had no zucchini to assault people with?
  • Do I get to mention squash bugs again?  Apparently I've never before gardened where there are squash bugs?  Google is my friend - going to be prepared this season.  I know what your eggs look like, and I'm learning what your life cycle is - I'm going to be gunning for you!
  • Spent too much on seeds.  Many never got planted.  I just hoarded them.  Most will be viable for several years.  So, of course, Mom sent me $$ for my garden for Christmas and my Birthday... so what did I spend it on. Dang, you, Johnny's and Baker Creek - I was supposed to not order more seeds for this year... (but I am giggling while I type this - because I'm doubling the size of the garden for next year...)
  • I tried to start small because I know this is year one, and there are a lot of outside inputs to a brand new garden... but I, of course, over-did it.  I have never been good at starting small.
  • I am no longer 25.  This makes me, perhaps (only perhaps) a better gardener... but it does mean that the joints protest more and I am not as inclined to stand outside in cold, wet weather.  
Do more of these things
  • Dry hot peppers - they take up way less space than in the freezer - and it makes it easier to give away (or sell?)  As mentioned before, cayennes love it here.  It's too humid to completely dry without a dehydrator, but they can start off drying in the sun, and then be whisked into the dehydrator to finish off.
  • Mulch more - duh!
  •  Plant more sunflowers - the flowers face East when they mature - so a perfect screen for our suburban neighbors - lots of cherry sunflowers facing them!  Maybe I don't need a new perimeter fence next year.  Maybe I can fill some vases full of flowers for some of those neighbors.
  • Pay more attention to variety isolation for seed saving purposes.  i.e. instead of planting two kinds of cow peas around a tree, limit each tree to its own kind.  I know most cow peas will self pollinate before an insect has brought them a neighbor's pollen; however, in a garden with as much diversity as I have, in the middle of a diverse pasture, pollinator pressure is high here.  Honey bees may not be as prolific as may have been here before, but all kinds of other solitary bees, wasps, hornets, and flies love to buzz buzz around the flowers.
  • Save more seeds.
  • Pick and freeze more "shelly beans" and ripe, but not dried, cow peas.
  • Take more photos that might be more commercially viable.
  • Add 1,000 photos to my stock photo site.
  • Continue trialing things, but start ramping up production for things that worked well last year - maybe enough to share.  Maybe enough to sell a bit?  TN Yellow Cherry tomatoes, Roma VF tomatoes, Mexico Midget cherry tomatoes, Mayo Colima cowpeas, Mammoth sunflowers...
  • Continue to weigh harvest - but maybe get a different type of scale - the one I have is pretty impractical to weigh 20 or even 10 pounds of something.
  • Keep keeping good records.  Especially of things one is breeding for seed.
  • Keep improving the soil and switch to significantly more regenerative practices
Been feeling like Autumn these last few weeks
- a reminder that winter will get here.

New for 2016
  • Chickens! Need I say more?
  • Ducks - maybe not, but you know, I'm not good at starting small.
  • Fencing for the garden area - something deer will respect?
  • Expand the garden area by 50%
  • Make a formal herb garden
  • Grow herbs in pots on the back porch
  • Establish strawberries on the edge of the little woods (this may require some major critter protection for a while)
  • Haul out my All American cast aluminum canner and use it
  • Water bath can small batches in my pressure cooker
  • Beat the squash bug team!

1 comment:

  1. I am re-reading this and realized I just put the last of the 2015 cayenne peppers into Jambalya today. The starts for 2017 are just getting a hint of their first true leaves.


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