10 Lessons Learned – 2020

At the end of every season I look back on my gardening journey and create a list of what worked and what didn’t.  It’s really helped me improve my methods and it’s fun to strategize about how to do better next year.  Curious about what I learned in 2019? Check out this post.

Here are my top 10 lessons learned along my gardening journey of 2020. What a year it was!

#1 Seed Starting

Like many other gardeners, I get spring fever starting around February. This year I purchased this grow light and a heat mat so I could start seeds early.  The seeds did great initially but when they were ready to be transferred to real pots I dropped the ball.  I think they ran out of nutrients in their little seed pods even though I was fertilizing with this seaweed fertilizer.  I’ve never really been successful starting seeds indoors.  I still have a lot to learn.

#2 Handling Spring Fever

One of the best ways to mitigate spring fever is by getting cold weather plants in early.  I planted this spinach last fall so it overwintered and then exploded in early March.  The Bok Choy also did great overwintering so we had fresh greens very early in the year.  I want to get better about my timing so we can have greens all year.  I find eating lots of leafy greens reduces sugar cravings, clears my mind and makes me feel happier overall.

#3 Aphids

I struggled with some plants this year that normally don’t give me any problems. My kale was hit pretty hard by aphids, for example.  I thought I had control over it when they first started. I was blasting them with water, spraying with peppermint soap, cutting off the bad pieces and squishing the aphids.  But as the summer heated up and the sky turned orange with smoke from the terrible wildfires we had, I just couldn’t stay on top of them.  Eventually they got so bad they started migrating to my carrots. That’s when I drew the line in the sand and pulled the kale out. It was heartbreaking because we normally eat LOT of kale and I hate spending $3 a bunch at the store when I normally have so much I have to give it away.  I may have to go a year without brassicas to really get rid of them. That will be really hard so no promises yet.

#4 Root Maggots

My turnips and radishes also struggled with root maggots so I didn’t count any of those harvests in my 2020 harvest tallies so my counts are low for those. I need to do some research on these critters so I can prevent them next year.  It’s so disappointing to pull a big, bright radish or turnip out of the soil and not be able to eat it. These were an early harvest that turned out great.

#5 Tomato Trellises

I think I’ve found my preferred method of trellising tomatoes. Finally!  I used cattle panel attached to my A-frame wood supports.  I trained the tomatoes up the panel by clipping the stems to the metal frame with these clips.  The cattle panel was strong enough to hold the entire structure even when fully weighed down with fruit.  The plants still grew taller than the panel but they’ll grow over the roof if I let them.  At least this way I was able to snip the tops off and force growth outward on the branches and had supports for each branch.  I will definitely stick with this method going forward.

May 17th planting day

June 20th

July 18th

August 8th

#6 Flowers!

I absolutely love mixing flowers in with the vegetables! They added so much color and whimsy to the garden this year.  They also attracted bees and hummingbirds which is always a goal of mine. These Cosmo flowers are from Territorial Seed Company.  I planted some as starts in the house in March and others I sowed directly into the garden as seeds.  There was no benefit to starting them inside.  They did just as well directly sown, so I will definitely be doing that again next year.

#7 Figs

Figs won’t fruit if you repot them.  We bought a second fig this year which I transferred into a larger pot than it came in. We didn’t get any fruit off of it. We also didn’t get any fruit off of our older fig and I’m not sure why.  I’m going to blame the wildfires and ash that covered everything.  I think it made it hard for leaves to breathe.  You can see the haze in this photo and the kale photo above.

#8 Hope

Even during the most challenging times, growing a garden gives one hope for the future. Audrey Hepburn said “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”  It’s so true!  This beautiful harvest certainly helped get me through this challenging year.

#9 Sharing

It’s ok to plant more than you can eat and preserve!

#10 Finding Happiness

The true meaning of happiness can be found in a sun-warmed, vine-ripened, organic, heirloom tomato.

Conclusion

Of course, there’s always so much to learn from the garden. Each day is different than the last. The plants grow and change so quickly and each year I try to improve upon the last. These are my top 10 lessons learned for 2020.  Here’s what I learned in 2018, in case you’re curious.  How did your garden do during this difficult year?

 

2 Comments

  1. I’m sorry your starts didn’t work out the way you hoped. There’s always next year, right? Those Japanese Black Trifele tomatoes look amazing. Our tomatoes did great and I really like the sunflowers we planted, too.

  2. Wonderful post as always. It’s great to see how much you are learning and that you are paying such attention to what you can improve upon. As long as you are researching root maggots, I do remember from years ago that we worked our brewed coffee grounds into the soil before planting the carrots. Look it up. Maybe that might be a potential remedy. Although we always recognized that we shared a certain amount of the garden with the insects, when it comes to having to pull and discard all the kale or not being able to eat the root veggies, it is very disheartening. I hope you find a solution! I used neem oil on the roses this year, but I think you told me you can’t use it on edible plants. Again, great post, awesome photographs and wonderful to read about your progress.

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