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2012 Garden Evaluation

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Autumn Maple
No doubting we are in the midst of autumn.  The mornings are lovely and chilly, the leaves are turning, our maple tree is looking on fire and gorgeous, pumpkins and mums are out front, and preparations for Tabitha’s birthday and Halloween are in place. Last year I wrote a garden wrap up post and I actually found it really helpful to refer to this year. I’ve been meaning to do it for a few weeks now, and especially since Saturday when we had our first frost, which truly signaled the end of the garden (since I have no cold crops planted.) (Hey, just noticed last year’s post was only 5 days earlier than this one, so I won’t feel bad anymore about having put this off!) So here’s the evaluation and recommendations:

Butterfly & Bird Garden: This continued to thrive and be a real peaceful and beautiful haven for me.
The Butterfly Garden
I added a couple more perennials which I hope will become larger next year. The catmint that was growing sideways last year resolved itself and became a large straight bush. The butterfly bush-phew, thank goodness I took some early spring advice to hack that baby down in a massive pruning. I did and it grew back pretty huge and full. It may literally be the only thing I’ve ever planted (along with the catmint) that fulfilled it’s tag’s height and width description.
I remulched the area in the late spring and I predict that is something I’ll need to do annually. The chickens just get too nutty going in there and scratching around. I was very happy to see that the slowly coming back hydrangea bloomed for a very long time in beautiful shades of pink/purple.
Pink Hydrangea
Had I know that it would ever bloom and grow again I would not have planted the large butterfly bush in front of it, so it’s kind of a hidden treasure. The real highlight this year was that it finally attracted hummingbirds!
Hummingbirds in the Garden!
We saw a hummingbird several times out there using not only the hummingbird feeder, but also visiting the butterfly bush. It was very exciting.
Recommendation for 2013: Remulch, keep hummingbird feeder filled, don’t get bored keeping it tidy and weeded!

Front Flower Beds: Following last fall’s big cleanout the front porch area looked very nice. In the spring new tulip bulbs came up and they did look a bit scattered.
What the front looks like now
Then the three hostas came up and they did pretty well, but are not very large. Which means that it’s just not a very full or colorful area. However, it does look neat and the rock border is good. On the other side the usual peonies were wonderful and I did add in a couple of perennials that I hope will flourish next year. This area still doesn’t have the colorful cottage garden look I wish it did. It may be that the peony foliage is just too big and most of the summer is just green. That said, in spring, the peonies totally rocked.
colorful scene
And, apparently, I didn’t take any great pictures of the whole row of peonies, just close ups of blossoms. Either that or I didn’t put them in Flickr and now I can’t find them, so my representative photo is a hen with peonies behind her.
Also great were the gladiolas. Last fall I planted a big container of mixed glad bulbs all over the place and they were a joy to see blooming in all their various colors, including right by the front steps.
mosaic gladiola
Recommendation for 2013: Plant bulbs in the fall. Next spring look for a low to medium height colorful full sun perennial for the front porch area. Another big plan to take place is that Paul is going to build a raised bed in a narrow rectangle which will be placed at the edge of the grass right out in front. I decided what I miss are blowsy colorful annuals from seed-cosmos, zinnias, and the like. I can’t plant them in the ground so we’re doing a long narrow raised bed that I’ll plant and we’ll wrap with fencing to prevent the chickens from going in it. He’ll also be making a small, around the mailbox, raised square to put bulbs in now.

Raised Bed Vegetable Garden:I did follow most of the recommendations from last year. I planted few cucumber seeds…but it was still too many. Insanely too many. Curiously, I didn’t plant any zucchini-why not?! I also had a note to not forget to plant butternut squash, and I didn’t, however only one little squash yielded from the entire bed. That was disappointing.  The asparagus did very well this year.  The peas grew very well, but I honestly didn’t think they yielded a very tasty pea, which was kind of disappointing.  I also had good lettuce in the spring, but, as usual, didn’t do so great with that “sow new seeds every two weeks so you always have salad greens” plan.  I planted red cabbage which seemed to be doing well and then totally fizzled.  The beets, on the other hand, were delicious.
In fact, when roasted with fennel and rosemary it was one of my favorite from the garden dishes this summer.  Carrots also fizzled.  The real winners in the garden were tomatoes and peppers. And every one of those plants came from our friends who had started them from seed and lovingly cared for them.  The many varieties of peppers just grew beautifully and the cherry tomatoes were insane.
cherry tomatoes

Fall morning final harvest
The bed with the squash in it was ultimately completely overtaken by the morning glories. I planted dill and then when it was mostly done pulled it out. But I wish I hadn’t because we were thrilled to find the plants covered in swallowtail butterfly caterpillars! That was the main reason for planting it and it was so cool to see. Unfortunately we believe birds ate the caterpillars after several days.
In profile

After the plants were all established and going well I pulled out as best I could the insane weeds already taking over and put mulch down. This did really help. Also mulch and hay on the paths made the garden 10x more manageable this year. I’m still troubled by how weedy our raised beds are and feel very betrayed oh, every single garden thing ever, since, according to everyone else, you just shouldn’t even fill your raised beds with soil, but only put full on leaf compost in it. I would like every picture book rewritten to say that. Because we really have weed issues like you wouldn’t believe.
There is lettuce and spinach in here.

Recommendations for 2013: No more cucumbers! But yes to zucchini. Yes to accepting any plants from Liz and Eleanor 🙂 Find another place for the morning glories.  I can’t give them up but they need a different structure to grow on.  Plant pumpkins and decorative gourds (Paul wants to do this right in the yard next to the garden.) Plant many more beets. Don’t yank out the dill.

Pond: The big news in the pond this year was the hacking out of a substantial amount of day lilies and hosta. It left what appeared to be a gaping hole alongside one half, but provided some much needed breathing room for this area. I filled in the hole with soil and mulch and planted three little yellow annuals for some cheerful color. Well, what do you know-those annuals grew beautifully and were a bushy cheerful yellow spot all summer long. A downside of all that was the disappearance of our dear Big Green Froggie. Although he still had protected areas to be that section was where he liked to be and I believe we spoiled his habitat. However, about a month later he did reappear, so I guess he got over it. I also hacked apart another hosta and it apparently made no difference.
I'm so glad i hacked this hosta apart
We added some new fish and they thrived. And gladiolas around the pond also added some color.
Recommendation for 2013: Be sure to do a winterization clean up this fall and now allow leaves to accumulate. Keeping tucking in a few colorful plants.

Fruit Trees: the apple tree next to the vegetable garden really should be pulled out. It blooms attractively, but will never bear fruit due to some blight/disease (I forget what it is.) We watched the plum tree with baited breath this summer. It bloomed beautifully and then was loaded with many many little green proto-plums. They did seem to ripen beautifully, but almost all of them ended up with a sticky rotten spot. We’re not exactly sure (and should find out) what that was and if it’s likely to happen again if left untreated. That said, although I didn’t make plum jam, we were still able to eat many delicious sweet plums right from our own tree.
NOT all rotten!
Recommendation for 2013: Find out what happened to the plums, take appropriate steps. Protect the new pear tree Paul just planted.

And here’s a chicken and duck update as well. Over the summer the chicks grew into lovely pullets and roosters. Our two lady ducks vanished at the end of the summer. Whether they found new adventures to have or were eaten we don’t know. Last week our dear Tom also left us. However, I’m convinced that he did not get eaten. You see, he did not spend his nights here. Instead he would take off at night and arrive back in the morning in time for breakfast with the chickens. One day last week he did not show up, but the next day he did. And then the day after that he was gone again. This makes me think that he found some other ducks to be with. I sure hope that’s the case and that as much as he enjoyed his time with us and Pippin and the chickens, I’m sure he’d be happy to have some other ducks to be with. Godspeed, Tom!
A Handsome Portrait of Tom

And thus ends the garden. The frost killed the morning glories and I yanked them all out. Which, by the way, morning glory vines appear to be made of steel. They ripped out a bunch of the chicken wire I painstakingly staple gunned in on one of the hottest days of the summer, they ripped off some pieces of my nice pea fencing, and I hurt my wrist. Good grief!!
Overall, I think it was a pretty good garden year. My family enjoyed good healthy fresh foods from it, my freezer and pantry have foods put by to enjoy in the winter months, and the beauty of the flowers and plants, and the birds, bees, and chickens visiting them, was a joy to behold. I just wrote something very cheesy and then backspaced thinking “I can’t write that in public.” But I’m going to. It is a balm to my soul. And truly, it is. Whether you have a big yard, a small patio, or a sunny windowsill, it’s so worth it to have living plants nearby. Working in a garden may not always be peaceful, but watching a bee with bright orange pollen visiting from flower to flower oblivious to you or seeing summer evening sunlight shine through the petals of a tulip certainly is. And for me, too, being able to take nice garden pictures is equally satisfying.
And speaking of bees… Paul just completed a beekeeping course and we will be getting bees in the spring and setting up hives!
Happy Gardening, to you!
Purple and Yellow


About Sarah

I'm a librarian living with my lovely family in a gorgeous spot of New Jersey, where we raise chickens and love the outdoors. I try to find enough time to indulge all my hobbies-cooking, photography, gardening, sewing, and I write about it all on my book blog & personal blog.

8 responses »

  1. I love your year-end garden posts — it’s so very Martha to have your next-year notes to self! And I completely agree about gardening being a balm to the soul. You’re so spot-on that it’s not always fun, but it’s tremendously rewarding. And it was a wholly triumphant year for your yard, too!

    Oh, and I’m so sorry that Tom has finally gone to join the ladies in the duck wild. I never got to try duck eggs. 😦 Um, not that it’s all about me…

    And I’m especially glad to know that we will always have a good home for our extra seedlings!

    (As an aside, morning glories really are the worst. I mean, they’re so pretty, but man are they destructive. Our first summer at Maple Hoo we planted some seeds around the base of the lamppost at the base of our driveway. You might be wondering, “There’s no lamppost at the base of their driveway…” and that’s because the morning glory actually overgrew it so vehemently that it literally pulled it completely out of the ground. No more morning glories for us!)

    • The first year I planted morning glories they climbed over the structure and made it be like a giant ball. It was so pretty. Interestingly-they were in a spot behind the Japanese maple. I believe that the maple is now so big that that spot wouldn’t get enough sun!

  2. I agree with what Schnookie said! And I totally hear you on the “balm for the soul” thing. I never, ever, ever expected I’d turn into the kind of person who feels that way, but there have been so many times when I’ve been so thankful for the peace the garden provides. I swear that the sounds of the neighborhood are quieter on the garden side of the fence than on the yard side.

    Also, I’m so glad that the lovingly tended-to seedling had such a fabulous home! As long as we have seeds started, you know you’ve got plants earmarked for your garden. 😀

  3. Thanks you guys! I knew I could count on you to read this whole thing 🙂 And I’m thrilled to know that future seedlings can have a home here.

  4. Oh, this is wonderful! I really let the garden go this year – it was just so damn hot and I was distracted with working too much and I just didn’t have it in me to do a better job with it. Reading your blog has been a way for me to live vicariously, and I love this wrap-up post! In future years I will aim for something like this. Thank you again for sharing your gardens with us!

  5. You are wonderfully disciplined with keeping track of your garden and all of its inhabitants. It’s always a joy to see what you are up to. Here’s an idea when you have so much honey you don’t know what to do with it .. make Mead!

    • Thank you so much! And mead-what a great idea! I understand it will be quite a while before we’re actually harvesting our first honey, but my head is already filled with daydreams of honey in cute little jars and all the things to do with it.


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