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

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

November Tips and Tasks

  • Mulch your perennials after the first hard freeze. This helps to protect them from frost heaving caused by the freezing and thawing of the soil. Mulch helps moderate temperature fluctuations, reducing this problem. Mulch should be no more than 2-3″ deep.
  • Be on the lookout for Spotted Lanternfly adults and egg masses. Report any finds to the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
  • Save the time and effort of raking, blowing, and picking up leaves. Leaves are a valuable source of organic matter to improve the soil in a lawn and garden. Leaves that fall onto the lawn can be shredded with a lawnmower and left to decompose naturally in place. Fallen leaves also make an excellent mulch for garden beds. Shred them first by running over them with a mulching mower or a leaf shredder.

Shredded leaves on home lawn
Shredded leaves on home lawn

  • Rosemary topiaries are popular indoor plants. They can be tricky to grow and have trouble adapting to indoor growing conditions. Watch our video for tips.

Refer to the Home and Garden Information Center website for more gardening tips and tasks.

Lawn and Garden Tips and Tricks for November

mowed fallen leaves left on lawnLawns

  • Typically, November is too late to broadcast lawn seed and expect it to survive the winter. Consider waiting until early spring.
  • This is still a good time to control wild garlic, clover, ground ivy, chickweed, and other difficult weeds with an herbicide if daytime temperatures remain in the sixties. Do not spray herbicides around ponds or on breezy days. Always read and closely follow all label instructions.
  • According to Maryland’s Lawn Fertilizer Law (PDF), the last application of fall fertilizer needs to be applied before November 15th.
  • Lawn info on HGIC

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