Gardening Year-In-Review: 2014.

So after about a week of bitter cold temperatures, it’s safe to say that the gardening season is over for me.   I like to take some time at the end of the year and reflect on the things that went right and wrong.   Overall, this year was better than the past two years but some things could’ve been better.

I put in several dwarf trees in the ground, as opposed to trying to grow them in containers.   This year I added a plum, nectarine, apricot, two apples, a crabapple and a cherry in addition to the cherry and peach I already have established.   I’m working on creating dense guild systems with vines growing up the trees, which will be surrounded by shrubs.   So far, so good.   I put in a few more aronia bushes, currants, gooseberries, serviceberries, gojis, sea buckthorn and probably something else I’m forgetting.     This is something that I hope to round the edges off over the next couple of years to build a sweet food forest.   So far, so good.   I filled in spaces this year with annuals like tomatoes and pumpkins.   The pumpkins did great and it was kind of cool to have our own instead of buying them from where ever.  I think I ended up with seven or so rouge d’vif pumpkins.

I would *like* to put a brick path through the yard around these trees.   We’ll see…   I’d also like a water feature but I don’t know about that.      Either way, I think the food forest is off to a good start.

I harvested quite a bit of aronia, which was pretty cool.   Got my first kiwi too.   Hopefully next year my vines will be loaded with them – they really took off this year.   I’m a little worried that they’re too wound up in themselves because I had a hard time keeping them trained.   No blackberries or raspberries this year, which was kind of odd.   I have no idea why.

I didn’t do too hot over the winter, but I was able to establish stuff very early on and had enough spinach, arugula, cilantro and lettuce in the spring.   Beets and turnips did ok.  I had enough tomatoes to eat fresh and have the occasional marinara, salsa or chili.   Pretty weak showing on the peppers, but probably enough jalapenos to last the year.

I grew a “three sisters” bed, which was alright.  I got some corn and sunflowers out of it.   Even if I don’t use the sunflower seeds, that stuff is still cool to look out and see.   I didn’t do so hot with squash and cucumbers, but I’d get the occasional one.

Green beans did great.  I harvested a ton of them and even developed a mild case of tendinitis snapping them and missed about a week of work.   I saved a bunch of Kentucky Wonder, Sultan’s Crescent and purple beans to plant next year.      Tomatillos did really well too, but they’re kind of a pain in the ass because there’s only one thing I know how to do with them (salsa).   I think sometimes it’s hard to tell if they’re *really* ripe too so green salsa can be hit or miss.

Something new to me that panned out well were jerusalem artichokes.   I planted a 4′ x 4′ square of them and probably dug up 50lbs of them.   I’ve been frying them in bacon grease, which is pretty damn tasty.    Like sunflowers, they look cool growing and I ended up getting spaghetti squash growing up them (and got a good crop of that).

I acquired a shit load of wood chips this year…because the city decided to cut down my ash tree before the ash borers got to it.   They threw the branches in the chipper and I had the guys dump about a quarter of the truck in my driveway.   Someone a few houses down got a huge load from their tree too, so I took about 10 wheelbarrows full from their pile too.   I have everything mulched real well and was able to throw a lot of chips down around my garden beds.   This should help keep things neat and tidy…and less muddy in the spring.

I couldn’t get much established for the fall, even though the weather was decent.   I’ll chalk this up to being busy with other stuff at key times.   Lots of little projects happening due to the upcoming baby, merging families, etc.    I’ll just try to get an early start on things next year.

Next year I’d like to have more herbs and I suppose I should cater to the kids’ tastes on what I plant so what I grow can be used instead of it being pretty much just me that eats everything.

I figured I’d take the year off from bees since they died and see where I’m at in the spring to see if I want new ones.   As of right now I’ll pass.   It seemed easier when there weren’t kids to worry about.   Plus I think I went into it a little half-cocked.   Sometimes that’s not a bad thing, but last year I figured I’d learn as I went but ended up getting sidetracked by life.    I’d like chickens, as I have more or less everything in place for them.

I say this every year, but I’d like to do a better job remembering what I planted where.   I think if I did some planning I would be able to better manage things and do a better job.   Although it wasn’t a bad year, it could’ve been a lot better.

So we’ll see what next year brings…   I’d like to have my backyard production account for a bigger percentage of my diet so hopefully it’s the best year yet.

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