Blog, Farm

“First Year Garden Update: September 2021”

Our garden beds.

What We Planted:

  • Tomatoes plants 
  • Yellow Onions (bag of started, baby onions)
  • Pickling Cucumbers (planted from seed)
  • Garlic (cloves, not seeds)
  • Carrots (planted from seed and starts)
  • Lettuce (planted from starts, and seed)
  • Spinach (planted from seed)
  • Swiss Chard (planted from seed)
  • Strawberry plants
  • Bell Peppers plants
  • Cayenne Pepper plants
  • Jalapeno pepper plants

What Thrived vs What Didn’t:

Our lovely Tomatoes.

Our tomatoes did great! We have had a consistent small harvest every day which worked perfectly for our little family of three. I was even able to make a good amount of freezer pizza sauce! We planted the peppers next to the tomatoes and they had it rough with the weird heat waves, and I did not pinch them at first, at all, so we have got a few tiny bell peppers from it, but not really any useable ones, and the small rodents ate them before we could anyways. Unfortunately, the slugs took out the other pepper varieties earlier in the season as well, and they just never grew back, fully. So, sadly we didn’t get to use any spicy peppers.

our Peppers. Pinched all the newer buds off, hope it helps grow this little guy.

Our cucumbers never did too well either, we might have planted them at the wrong time. They had a very slow start, and produced very small fruits so I never got to do pickles this year, although it did grow a couple tiny ones. They also just looked yellow, and sickly. We planted the garlic pretty late in the summer, so we understand why that didn’t do too good. It was a quick decision, that we didn’t think too much about, we just had it lying around and planted it, as we had never done garlic before, but we should have done the research.

Our sad onions. They were deeper in dirt, but this was after I pulled and checked them.

We bought a bag of onions to put in a planting bin, they were the yellow onions and i’m not quite sure what type exactly, but they did not grow at all, sadly some just bolted asap, and others didn’t grow at all. We planted carrots from seed, and also planted “little finger” carrot starts, but none of them grew. I think it was because they did not have enough dirt to root down into and needed more room, potentially.

The Cucumbers. I didn’t even get to make a trellis, they never really grew. it only had just a couple tiny curled pickles.

The Strawberry plant, did great, at first! Then the heat wave came and slowed it down, with some burnt leaves. It then, grew a bunch of runners and I think that is why the fruit became so small and few, to none, as I did not clip the runners off. Our lettuce, we planted from seed— “black seeded” lettuce and we also got starts of “salad bowl” lettuce, those got eaten by slugs at first, but then after that, they grew back and did pretty okay. We were able to harvest some baby lettuce for a little bit! The spinach we planted grew, but it bolted asap, so we couldn’t use it. We also planted Swiss Chard, but once again, the slugs ate it. Unfortunately, we had to take out that whole bed due to a nest of Yellow jackets, so we don’t have pictures of the lettuce/spinach/chard and couldn’t replant any of them.

Our Strawberries. I pinched most of the runners, but should’ve sooner. We started with 2 plants.

Next Season’s Tactics:

For our Carrots, I will give them more dirt, to grow deep into, and try to thin them more properly, once they’re big enough. 

The Peppers, I will pinch them for the first 2-3 weeks so they grow and get a better root system going, before making any peppers, as well as try to watch how I water them.

For our Strawberries, I will pinch off the runners and focus on keeping it from trailing away so it does not use up it’s energy. 

The Cucumbers,  I will try to give them more fertilizer and maybe check them for bugs more frequently. They kept turning yellow and sickly, with curled little cucumbers, so I don’t know if it was bugs, or some kind of nitrogen or potassium deficiency. I will also pay attention to how much I water them.

For Our Garlic I will plant that at the correct time next season, early spring maybe this fall, and see how it goes.

We have this book, it has very helpful info!

The Lettuce did pretty good besides the slugs, and it needed a little bit more space, so I will prevent the slugs and give them more room next time! The Spinach I think just was effected by the extreme heat we had– it grew right before and bolted right after.

For our Onions I will start them by seed this year, and in the house at first, to see if that helps. Then I will plant them outside around our other plants as a sort of barrier, to see if they like that better. I’ve heard others say the bag of started onions, sometimes just bolt and stay small, which is what ours did.

Oh and I will also find a way to get rid of slugs, before it’s too late and my plants are gone. We will probably plant a few patches of French Marigolds here and there, to prevent our crops from being eaten and remove them from the general area. They are the worst during our rainy seasons, where we live!

What We Are Planting Next:

For reference, our garden zone is 8b. Click Here to see an informative planting calendar for this zone!

The List for our next Garden season (this coming spring):

  • Carrots (from seeds)
  • Onions (Green onions, and yellow onions; from seeds)
  • Lettuce (from seeds, and started plant)
  • Spinach (from seeds)
  • Swiss Chard (from seeds)
  • Zucchini  (from seeds)
  • Cucumbers (from seeds)
  • Corn (from seeds)
  • Strawberry plants (and seeds I saved from this year)
  • Garlic (from cloves)
  • Tomatoes plants (and seeds I saved from this year)
  • Bell Peppers plants (and Jalapeno peppers, just to try one more time without a green house).
On our book shelf. A great read also!

Herbs and Such:

  • Rosemary (from a start)
  • Basil (from a start)
  • Chives (from seeds)
  • Peppermint (from a start)
  • Comfrey (from a start)
  • Lemon Balm (from a start)
  • Lavender plants

All the herbs will be in pots or potting boxes, the cucumbers and corn will be along our fence, and the rest of the garden will be done in a Concrete block, raised bed type of garden.  I can’t wait to show that design, and what we plan to do! Currently, I am just planting in spring, and I stop around September, so I don’t deal with the fall/winter garden. Overall, for our first time we did pretty good, and i’m happy with the outcome! We still got to harvest things and use them in our meals, so it was great- even if half the garden didn’t do the best.

How was your Garden this year? Do you plant through the fall/winter?

Leave a comment! I’d love to hear how your garden is doing!

Farm

“Straw Bale Garden. How it Worked and Total Cost.”

If you’ve read my introduction post, you know that this is our first year of a full garden. We were starting with a complete blank space. Originally, when deciding on a type of raised bed we really wanted cost-efficient, raised beds that did the job and also that looked decent enough. After running across a Pinterest board idea of raised beds using straw bales, we gave it some pricing thought, then went out and bought everything we needed!

 Obviously depending on size of yard and layout you want, it can be any shape really. Keep in mind how many straw bales you need for each design as for where you are located, might have different sized bales (we have two-string bales, about 3.5ft x 1.5ft). We went with three rectangle beds for the design, pretty simple. two of them consisted of one bale on the ends, and three bales on the sides. The last bed had only two bales on the sides, so it was a little smaller.

garden design pic
The design we made and took reference from.

After setting up the bales, we finished by laying down the dirt and planting everything. It turned out pretty well and honestly after we finished setting it up, I thought it looked pretty nice! Total cost for us after the bales, dirt, netting, and seeds/plants was around $500 dollars. If you already have netting and don’t need the two planting bins, then that would cut the cost down by around $70 bucks.

small bed picture
Our Small raised bed. The after picture.

The actual sizes; big ones were 6.5ft x 11.5ft, and little one 5ft x 8.5ft. Pretty decent, since after the season is done you can break apart those bales and use them for mulch, compost, etc. They hold up pretty nicely (strings kept on), and for a “beginners” first garden, I think its a great way to go! I do have a couple things to review, but please note it might not be the same in different climates and zones, (our zone is, WA Zone 8a). 

side by side bale beds
First done, and Now.

With our weather here, the constant water/sun exposure the bales grew a type of cup fungus— harmless, and nonpoisonous, but annoying to keep cleaned out due to crowding our plants. It also grew quickly at first, but eventually went away after consistent cleaning and maybe warmer weather, perhaps. I don’t have picture of those unfortunately. They stopped popping up by the time I thought of it. Here is a picture from online that matched ours. click here

 If you live in the PNW, you too probably struggled through the big heat wave we had just before the Fourth of July. Well, with our bales they again, grew another type of fungus— a type of slime mold. This was also harmless, and nonpoisonous. I’m fairly certain it was only due to the extreme heat, and wasn’t that hard to deal with anyways because it grew on the tops of the bales, and not in with our plants. However, its pretty gross to look at and made me think our cats were having some serious stomach problems at first.

fungi pic
Quick, overnight growth of the “yellow slime” and a different patch that dried up, to show its next step.

 

After the season is over, and the bales need to be taken apart, as long as the fungi are removed, the bales are still fine to use in your mulch, compost, or whatever you choose to use them for. Where we live, our backyard for some reason was appealing to some yellow jackets who made a nest in the smaller raised bed, which we dealt with. A tip I read somewhere that prevents that, if you also have an appealing set up to yellow jackets while using the bales, try to keep a gap between each bale of around 3” inches. If the bales aren’t touching, it seems to help people with deterring those mean guys.

heat damage and strawberry
Heat damage on strawberries, and salvaged bale from the small bed Yellow jacket takeover.

When we cleaned the jacket’s nest out of our smaller bed, we noticed that the dirt held up its shape just fine after the bales had been removed, carefully. So, fear not if you have to dismantle a bale, it shouldn’t disrupt your dirt or your plants! We actually had to get rid of that whole smaller bed, because its location wasn’t the best for our lettuce and spinach.

 It all worked out in the end even with that surprise nest. We salvaged what we could and we are going to add some of those bales to cover our flower bushes, and then the rest will be shoveled and raked at the end of summer, to prepare for winter and next season’s raised beds. 

 The straw bales were cost-efficient, and multi-purposeful. I would definitely still recommend them for a beginners first garden set up, so long as you remember to keep an eye out for those fungi. This next garden season we are doing concrete block raised beds, along with something DIY and fun for our garden area. It will be fun to do something my little one can be participating in, even now while 9 months old. It involves beaches, and searching. Any guesses? Can’t wait to share!