Semi-novice Gardener – Raised Bed Vegetable Garden Adventure (vol. 5)

Current garden shot

And thus concludes my most ambitious growing season yet. I learned a lot, got a decent amount of vegetables to eat, got some exercise and building experience, and had a few challenges. For this final post, I will do a quick recap of what I learned and how I might approach my gardening next year.

Read previous updates: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

The final state of the garden

Since my last post, we basically became lazy and gave up on the garden. No more maintenance was done, certain plants were being eaten by critters that can hop our fence (deer, likely), weeds were growing, and we mostly didn’t even water it. Our tomato plants began looking pretty unruly and sad but somehow were still producing quite a few fruits (albeit with cracks in them).

We did find some curious mushrooms in the garden at some point a few weeks ago.

Several mushrooms popped up

Even though our tomatoes were still producing, we had had our fill and were ready to be done with the garden. I pulled up all the plants, took down the supports, and disassembled our fence, as we will likely revise our garden defenses next year.

To protect our raised bed soil for the winter, I threw a layer of mulched leaves into the raised beds. I just raked some piles of leaves, drove my mower over them a couple of times, and scrooped them into the beds. According to this Maryland Grows blog post,

We can improve soil health in gardens and on farms by:

  1. limiting soil disturbance (tillage)
  2. planting a diversity of plant species
  3. keeping soil covered throughout the year

These practices reduce erosion and nutrient run-off, build organic matter, and increase carbon storage in soils which helps mitigate the effects of climate change.

We had considered growing a living cover of crimson clover, but we would have had to plant it much earlier and our garden hadn’t quit producing yet.

Things we learned or will try to do differently next time

Squash vine borer larvae in zucchini plant

We want to be more vigilant in protecting squash from vine borers. We’ll likely follow these tips from our blog post:

You can prevent flying adults from laying eggs on your plants in May and June one of three ways. Wrap a collar of aluminum foil around the lower stems. Dust or spray with spinosad or pyrethrum. Or, cover your plants with floating row covers until they flower.  

I need to both provide better support for my tomatoes earlier and work harder at pruning them regularly. My plants became way too voluminous and flopped over often before (and after) I had sufficient support built. I had some basic cages and then makeshift boards with twine strung across them, but I will likely build something more ambitious next year, and earlier.

Overgrown tomato plants
Overgrown tomato plants

We wanted to make sure we had flowers near our crops to attract pollinators, so we planted ornamentals in the raised beds. However, some plants crowded others, and since we now have the rest of our garden path and enclosure, next year we will just plant some flowers in pots nearby.

Pollinators

We are going to increase our garden defenses next year. I believe our short fence worked well for short animals, but eventually deer got the memo about the tasty stuff in the garden and easily hopped the fence. We are going to consider augmenting our short fence with tall fishing line fencing, or perhaps just create PVC frame row covers just for certain vulnerable plants.

low tunnel covers

Low tunnel covered with floating row cover

Final thoughts

I had a lot of fun sharing these updates with the blog, and it also pushed me to do better and stay focused. I’m looking forward to using these experiences to do a better job next year! I also found a ton of useful information on the HGIC website and hope that I was able to point out the breadth of information at your fingertips available on our site.

I’m looking forward vegetable gardening next year and possibly sharing the process again!

Dan Adler
HGIC Web and Communications Manager

4 Comments on “Semi-novice Gardener – Raised Bed Vegetable Garden Adventure (vol. 5)

  1. Hi Regarding tomato cages, I use 4ft. stock fencing and rool it into 3 ft. diameter circles.
    cut off some squares leaving a single wire to bend around to hold it together and the same at the bottom to stick it into the ground. I also secure them with 4 ft. metal posts. The tomatoes still grow over the top. but they are more secure and you can get your hand through to pick them.

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  2. Dan, you had a pretty successful first year veggie garden! Take pride in that. I like reading your plans for improvements next year – your challenges didn’t discourage you, which is great. Keep that attitude and you will find more rewards every year! It’s a process…

    Like

  3. I tried aluminum foil around the squash stems this year and it didn’t work. The borers just entered further along the plant, either in the main stem or through leaf stems. Next year I’m going to keep the squash under row cover and hand-pollinate the flowers.

    Like

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