Saturday, November 24, 2012

2012 Vegetable Garden Review - The Tragedies

Vegetable gardens consist of mainly annual plants which we harvest or pull out at the end of each season.  This is a fantastic opportunity to start fresh each year.  I learn from the previous years problems and plan on changes for the season ahead.

The weather is finally taking a turn for proper cold this week and it's time I took a look back at the 2012 gardening season.

Late frosts killed some early seedlings
Overall I really don't have any major complaints this year.  After 3 years of expansion the space I have cultivated is quite substantial and I'm able to grow most everything I want.  However, I'm still working on getting the soil to a point where it's nutrient rich enough to support heavy feeding vegetable crops.  In one particular bed I added bonemeal, bloodmeal, lime, manure and compost.  After a lot of work that bed finally produced a decent crop of spinach.  But that kind of work needs to be done to every bed.  Something I haven't yet accomplished.

This resulted in yet another poor year for beets and rutabagas.

Cuttings from a rutabaga with brown heart
My beets continually germinate and then refuse to grow.  I'm lucky to get more than 4 or 5 beets every year.  Rutabagas grew but were continually bothered by cabbage caterpillars and when I finally got a look at the roots they were riddled with brown heart.

Good soil promotes healthy plants so before anything else I need to keep working on that soil so that my plants are better able to fend off pest attacks.

Another issue this year has been weeds.  I have a real problem with sheep sorrel on my property.


This perennial weed spreads very aggressively via rhizomes and I have a really hard time keeping it out the veggie beds.  Even the raised beds are no match for this beast.  I really don't have an answer to how to deal with this.  Short of spraying all three acres with Round Up (which is not going to happen) perennial weeds are here to stay.

A big issue in spring was poor germination.  It seemed to be a combination of bad seed and bad conditions.  We had so little rain throughout the spring and summer and although I did water I don't think it was enough.  The result was a handful of stunted parsley plants, a dozen carrots, and a pretty gappy looking row of peas.  I will be throwing out a number of seed packets and starting fresh next season and remembering to water well those first weeks seeds get planted out.

There were supposed to be peas in that bed
My last big issue this season was onions.  Some days I question my sanity when it comes to onions.  I have never grown a satisfactory onion and yet every year I try to no avail.  If anyone out there has some advice with regard to onions I would be forever grateful.  I have tried seed and I have tried sets.  I have tried different varieties in raised beds and in the ground.  Each year the plants grow a few inches and then suddenly shrivel up and die.  Is this another issue with my soil or is there something else going on here?  One day I hope to solve the puzzle.

18 comments:

  1. I will send you some Egyptian Walking Onions, if you want them. I always have onions )))and so will you if you take my EWO's. Managed a small crop of red onions too..but don't know what I did right. Hope you have some advice given to you, so I can profit from it also. Good drainage I imagine, is important.

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    1. Brenda, I've never heard of these. Will need to do some investigating and find out what they are. Do they have any special requirements? If it's close to an onion but none of the issues they sound like a good deal!

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  2. Marguerite,
    You are right to be looking after your soil first. We usually have some manure from our local farmer delivered and hubby tills it in. I haven't put any bone meal or lime in, though we may put some lime in next year. We do water quite a bit and always at the same time of day if possible.
    The beet variety I usually buy is Rodina from Veseys and it's a long tubular type beet which is great for pickling and eating. They grow very long and deep into the soil. Onions we usually buy in sets but next year I'm going to hill them because they didn't dry very well. I think it was a drainage issue.
    Turnip I haven't planted but I remember them telling me you had to add something to the soil to stop that browning issue.
    Hope this helps but overall I think your garden and flower beds were beautiful. Can't wait till next years garden season is upon us.

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    1. hmmm, drainage seems to keep coming up with respect to onions. This could be why they seem to disintegrate, they're rotting in wet soil. I think it's Borax you're thinking of with the turnips. I'm not sure about putting that in my ground so hoping good old compost will do the trick instead.

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  3. Too bad about the rutabagas, I used to love mashed rutabaga but haven't had it in a while. Mashed turnip too, yum.

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    1. Jason, that's exactly our preferred method of eating them! fresh, mashed up with a bit of butter. so good. maybe next year it will work better for us.

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  4. It was a difficult year in the garden for both ornamentals and edibles.But as you said, every year's a new beginning with these annuals which is one of the reasons we all keep trying. You're so smart to feed your soil, especially with veggies.It all starts with the dirt!

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    1. Debbie, it's one thing I do like about the veggie garden. I get a fresh start each year and anything can happen. I found out quickly our dirt needs a helping hand, anything that needs lots of nutrients has a tough time here.

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  5. I have failed with onions, too. Maybe one day we'll figure out the secret! It has taken me a while to get fairly good with vegetable growing, and I don't know what's different, but I suspect it's just luck!

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    1. I think there's a lot of pressure when it comes to veggies. They have to grow from seed through to maturation in a short period of time, all their needs have to be met in a confined space all together. Perennial flowers are a much more relaxed way to garden I think.

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  6. Sorry everyone, that's me (Unknown = Marguerite) commenting back. Having some issues here.

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  7. hello Marguerite, I guessed unknown was you but was wondering why you had become 'unknown' ;o)

    the list you give of added nurients and minerals to your veg beds did you add them at the same time, as you probably have noticed in my posts and comments on my own blog soil improvement has became high on my gardening agenda and I have read a lot on it and listened carefully when the subject comes up in garden programmes.

    so this info is the result of above and what I have found made a difference, first you should not add lime with other soil improvements except your own compost, apparently if you do they can cancel each other out! lime is best added now in late autumn/early winter so it is in the soil by next spring, I've been doing this now the last 3 autumns and it has made a difference,
    next each nutrient/minteral does different things, bone, fish and blood are good for roots, I have only used onion sets and use a little bonemeal in the planting hole, like you I did not have success at first with onions as the birds took them but last autumn I bought some over wintering onions (also called japanese onions)sets, they get started with root growth in autumn and I am just coming to the end of using the ones planted last autumn, I would recommend them if you can get them,
    looking at your last photo 'supposed to be peas' from the angle of the photo the bed does not look very wide and they is a lot of grass around it, grass takes a lot of moisture from the ground if you have drier springs then perhaps think about something else for paths around beds that will conserve moisture rather than steal it from your veggies,
    cover seedlings with fleece at night until all sign of frost is over,
    I also have problems with sheeps sorrel, every bit of root has to be dug out, as the root is orange at least you can see it, smothering so it can't photosynthesis helps also cutting the leaves off frequently does the same thing, good luck, Frances

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    1. Hi Frances, interesting that lime would cancel another nutrient out. I've heard about applying it in fall so it has time to work its way into the soil. I made applications in both spring and fall so that's good. Normally I would just add compost to the soil but in this case I also added manure, bonemeal and bloodmeal in desperation. I figured at least one of those things had to work! I know what you mean about the sorrel roots being orange coloured. They're easy to spot but it's so prolific here. I have considered removing all the 'grass' out of the veg area just to get rid of the weeds but you maybe right and it would help to preserve water as well.

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  8. Marguerite girl .. I don't do veggies so I am of no help to you .. but I admire your tenacity and WORK !!
    If I had to do veggies with what I garden with now ? .. it just would not happen ! haha
    This past garden year was a bad one .. so you can lay some of the blame on weather .. does that help at all ? LOL
    Joy : )

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    1. Joy, the weather was to blame in some ways (always a ready excuse!). It was so dry here that I think it really was a problem for germination.

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  9. I used to grow beets in my veggie patch and never had the issue you showed. They were my favorite fresh vegetable too. Do you think weeds are more prolific in the past few years? I have been noticing they are getting harder to keep out of the beds. They seem tougher.

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    1. Donna, not sure if they were worse as I always have weedy beds! Since this garden is so new, and I'm still rather new to PEI, I'm really in the 'getting to know you' phase of my garden.

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  10. What is it with us gardeners that when we persistently fail with something we generally take it as a challenge!! Not that you have many failures other than your onions, you are really nicely set up now. I think fresh seed is a smart idea, I am planning a clear out, and I think I am going to try buying seed in smaller quantities so that I don't wind up with hundreds of packets of probably no longer viable seed...

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