Gardening · Homesteading

The Garden Roundup: What Grew, What Failed

Summer 2020 was interesting to say the least. Spring was as I have talked about it before….long, cold, dreary and wet.

I came into January feeling disillusioned, and I waited till March this year to start my seedlings. I was consumed with watching the news from outside the US and wondering what would happen. I waited to see if I should plant for market sales, or just for us. I felt so disjointed about the future.

I also battled a bigger issue: the compost I was using was too hot, and I didn’t realize it until the damage was done. I should have known better, but I was distracted in late winter/early spring dealing with the shut down in Washington State, and dealing with schooling my boys. Normally I grow seedlings in a custom mix I make but I sloppily used far too much compost. It led to seeds burning, and hampered growth. I learned my lesson, had to redo seeding in some cases, and kept going.

Finally, things started growing!

As the end of March came into play, and we were shut down I changed our focus from a farm to a homestead farm. Instead of plants for sale, and then produce for sale, it would be for us to use. But, due to the weather, we couldn’t even get the main bed tilled and beds formed till late April, and then the beds were topped with…too hot compost (notice this frustrating theme). We were 1 to 2 months behind normal schedule and I was feeling very frustrated. But at least I knew we wouldn’t do farmer markets this year at that point. When the main market we used to do finally opened, it was so tightly restricted by the state I passed on it. I could only sell plants, produce and soap. No touching, no conversations with customers. It wasn’t for me.

We did hold a couple open days on the farm, to sell plants. Because as usual, we had a lot! The sales went well, and people were happy to come visit, if just to get out of the house.

With the cool weather (it was in the 50’s until July!) and the many overcast days in spring and early summer it felt like the gardens would never take off. Everything was so …. low to the ground. I’d look and yes, the tomato plants were growing, but just barely.

The spinach however grew well in the fields, and it kept the boys busy picking it to sell.

While lettuce grew insanely this year as well. No matter the bed it was in, it grew quickly. Add in kale to that list. If it was greens, it grew and didn’t go to seed for once. Although peas were slow to take off, but matured in July this year, even the dwarf varieties.

The one glaring thing was Bok Choy. It kept going to seed. Constantly. Even as seedling starts, I had it go to seed with only 2 sets of leaves.

The main bed, looking very sad and forlorn….in June! It got so bad we wrapped the fences in plastic to insulate it more.

By third week of June it was at least a bit higher and more filled in.

The berry bed was also quite sad. You can barely see the blueberry plants as they only started leafing out in June (in warmer years we often pick the first berries by the 4th of July). This was from May.

Early June things started growing finally. It’s frustrating when you miss a spring crop due to the weather cycle. We didn’t get much in spring strawberries or raspberries.

However, potatoes grew well (and continue to grow well)

By July 12th we got our first tomatoes, the small gold ones we are growing. I had ended up due to not going to market with a lot of extra plants. Turns out…they were our best plants for this summer. I don’t overall like just eating them, but they make great salsa that I can.

I am barely keeping up with those plants production these days.

Middle of August. 3 chicken coops with 10 hens fills the areas, and 5 duck hens live in the greenhouse (for now).

After a couple losses due to the cool weather, we finally hit it right with beans and they took off in August.

Great production on them. I am growing F1 hybrids though, mostly bush style, to make up for the lost time.

However, a positive was the Walla Walla onion crop this year. I grew them from seed, they did great.

For the weird choice, I did quinoa this year. It grew. It’s nearly ready to harvest as well.

Our grape plants decided to produce this year, and most of them might have some by end of summer. They are behind though.

Summer squash was late, and we haven’t had as much as normal, but with me not selling, that is OK.

The raspberry bushes did grow, and actually grew well, once July came and warmed up. The dual crop red canes are 8 feet and higher now, and are starting to produce a late summer crop that was worth the wait. However, the alpine strawberry plants growing in the front have not done well this year, and at 3 years old, I am considering pulling them this fall. We shall see.

~September 4th~ The berries are tall, the grapes are loaded.

It was a good thing in many ways this year, however fingers crossed that we get more ripe big tomatoes before the rains come in late September. We are having a hot week so a lot is ripening at once. Of which I am not complaining about! Just a lot of dehydrating and canning this coming week.

It wasn’t the best year for growing. But we got food, and that is what matters. I learned some lessons, as always. And to that….here is to fall, fall crops and winter dreaming.