Post Hoc: Our Garden Project Review for the Year

Below you will find a summary of our garden project this year! 

We provide pictures of our harvested veggies below, a rating from 1-10 of how well we did on each, and then areas for improvement for next year. We definitely had a successful garden year, providing us with whole, nutritious foods to eat!

Onions

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    Rating: 8/10

    Our onions grew well overall. However, the bulbs were small. As mentioned in an earlier post, we started our garden late because of a weird season this year with tons of rain most of May and then the weather turned hot and humid.

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    Areas for Improvement

    Onions need to be planted at a pH of 6.0 to 6.8 with lots of sun and a good spot for draining water. Next year, we need to check our soil pH, and we need to plant in early spring with organic fertilizer/compost. Hopefully this will improve bulb size.

Carrots

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    Rating: 6/10

    Our carrots are definitely a work in progress. Overall, they were pretty successful. We harvested beautiful orange and purple carrots (shown above). However, they were pretty small overall besides a few at the very end of harvest in early October.

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    Areas for Improvement

    Next year, we need to thin them out regularly so that they can have more space between each other to grow bigger. We need to use compost (with earthworm castings) and ensure they have the right amount of nutrients (not too much nitrogen). Carrots also do well in cool soil, so next time, we need to keep them in the shade.

Beets

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    Rating: 7/10

    We planted red and spiral beets that turned out well for us first-timers. However, again there is room for improvement! Our beets were tiny and as seen at Farmer’s Markets, they can get a lot bigger! We successfully preserved 5 cans of red beets to save for winter.

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    Areas for Improvement

    We need to thin them out regularly for space to grow bigger. As we researched, thinning is absolutely necessary! Thin when they reach about 2 inches high by pinching them off. Established beets need to be thinned to 3–4 inches between plants (which we did not stay on top of sadly!). We also need to mulch and constantly provide them with water. We think that our hot, dry summer this year could have stunted their growth. Next year we will do a soil and pH test as well. Beets require an ample amount of phosphorus to produce large, healthy roots. Soil pH affects the availability of phosphorus. Phosphorus is most accessible to plant roots when the pH is between 6.0 and 7.0, the favored pH range for beets. If a soil test notes a lack of phosphorus, during the early spring, we need to add in phosphate using bone meal or rock phosphate.

Greens

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    Rating: 9/10

    Overall our greens grew amazing! We had plenty to eat from what we planted.

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    Areas for Improvement

    Next time, more variety of greens and planting more throughout the season. Our collard greens did not work, and we need to delve more into why.

Pumpkins

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    Rating: 6/10

    Our pumpkin yield seemed quite low. The rating is 6/10 because as we mentioned in an earlier post, the pumpkin area was way too small! The pumpkins literally took over our garden and even wrapped themselves around our other plants.

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    Areas for Improvement

    We learned that we need to separate the pumpkins in their own area, so that they do not take over and start wrapping (maybe killing?) other plants!! Yikes! Maybe separating them will also yield more pumpkins.

Side Note: The taste of our pumpkin was different than canned pumpkin. At first, we thought it was our gardening mistake. Thinking that maybe we did not give the pumpkins enough space to become nutrient-dense and flavorful, but after reading, we realized this was actually what fresh pumpkin should taste like! It is something to definitely get used to, but totally worth it for growing your own pumpkins! We found a great blog post comparing the taste between fresh pumpkin and canned pumpkin here by Fifteen Spatulas. Check it out!

Peppers

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    Rating: 10/10

    Worked out phenomenally grew all the way until the end of October! We preserved so many of these! It was definitely a hot dry summer, so we think this is why they did so well. We literally had bushels of peppers this year.

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    Areas for Improvement

    The only thing to improve for next year is separating these away from the tomato plants and also the pumpkins. Otherwise, we could not have asked for a better growing season for our peppers.

Tomatoes

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    Rating: 8/10

    Our big beef tomato plants were BEASTS! We harvested so many of these and used a lot of them. They were definitely delicious and worked out well. We even made salsa from them (recipe on blog soon)! We heard others this year were having issues with their tomato plants due to the odd weather, so we were lucky.

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    Areas for Improvement

    Next year, we need to scale down on the tomato plants and maybe try different varieties. We also need to space them out more and put up stakes for them earlier on (wood stakes instead of the cages we first used). Our heirlooms did not do as well. We harvested a decent amount, but they went rotten right away and scarred easily (like they had been immersed in boiling water). A lot of them we had to throw out. Maybe it was because of the heat and the dry weather? We were not sure. More research to be conducted!

Zucchini

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    Rating: 10/10

    Our zucchini did amazing and we harvested TONS!

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    Areas for Improvement

    Next year, again we need to space them out more and keep them away from other plants (especially the pumpkins)!

Sweet Potatoes

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    Rating: 8/10

    Chris grew these from a sweet potato that we bought at our local market by sprouting the sweet potato suspended in water. And then he took the sprouts (called slips) and planted them in our garden. They turned out very well. We had 6 plants of them and we harvested a full box of sweet potatoes before the frost. Chris dug them up out of the ground. It was a definite chore to dig them out, but totally worth it!

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    Areas for Improvement

    Next time, we want to plant them earlier in the season to see if we get more yield. Also, we would like to try a bush variety versus a vine variety (what we used this year). Using the bush variety, we would not have to dig them out of the dirt, which would save a lot of effort (not saying this wasn’t fun to do and a lot of exercise!).

Side Note: Here is link on how to grow your own sweet potatoes like we did from ONE sweet potato! Also, check out our video on Instagram showing Chris digging the sweet potato out of the ground!

Butternut Squash

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    Rating: 7/10

    Our butternut squash was delicious! We only were able to harvest 3 of them, but we made amazing butternut squash soup with them immediately (recipe on the blog soon).

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    Areas for Improvement

    Next year, we want to plant more and space them out from the other plants because they too like pumpkins need their space otherwise they take over! We think they may have been too overcrowded and did not produce as much as they could have.

Last Notes:

We also grew beautiful cucumbers that were very successful (and delicious).

We tried to grow herbs (such as parsley as companion plants with tomatoes), but they did not come up at all. Next year, we definitely need to space out our garden because this may have been why they did not grow.

We also attempted growing watermelons. They did produce melons, but the melons did not ripen. We speculate that the pumpkins, zucchini, and squashes took up too much room for them to fully ripen. Our weird weather also may have left them more sensitive, but we are not sure.

Our cabbage family completely failed too including collard greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. We think that a pest may have destroyed them.

In the meantime, we planted garlic for the fall/winter and are excited to see what happens!

Our lesson from this first garden project is that we are constantly learning, experimenting, and researching to improve! For our first time trying our hand at gardening, this has gone very well, especially as we completely disregarded any soil testing or fertilizer use. That will be next year’s goal/project. It was definitely a rewarding experience this year, and we grew a lot of amazing food! We also really loved spending time in nature and being outside! The work was totally worth it! From our progress, we hope that you are encouraged to start growing your own food as well!

“The art of healing comes from nature and not from the physician. Therefore, the physician must start from nature with an open mind.”
Paracelsus

Thanks for staying tuned on our first journey growing our own food!

About the Author

Sarah Ferrante, Ph.D.

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