Analysing our 2022 garden: final thoughts

Okay, it’s that time! I’ll be working on a serious of posts, going over how our 2022 garden went, what worked, what didn’t, and what didn’t even happen at all. This is help give us an idea of what we want to do in the future, what we don’t want to do in the future, and what changes need to be made.

Okay, so I’ve gone over how things went for our 2022 gardening year. We expanded our garden so much this year – and it was still less than we intended – I decided I need to do one last post to wrap it all together.

In a nutshell, though, I could probably just say this.

It was a terrible growing year.

In 2021, we got hit with drought and heat waves. For the longest time, we were out there watering the garden twice a day, just to keep it alive. With all that, things produced way better than I excepted, even when much of it did not thrive, or got eaten by groundhogs repeatedly, or got chomped on by deer.

I never thought that this year would be worse!

A lot of the failures can be attributed to things outside of our control. Winter dragged on long, as we got walloped with blizzards and large amounts of snow. I couldn’t complain about the snow, since we needed that moisture badly. Unfortunately, snow melts faster than ground thaws, and when the temperatures rose, the ground just couldn’t absorb it fast enough.

Even growing up here as a kid, I don’t remember ever having standing water in these areas!

The sad thing is, even with all this water, it would not have been enough to replenish the water table after years of drought.

Where, last year, we had things produce far better than expected, this year, it was the other way around. It turns out our garden handles drought and heat waves better than flooding and average temperatures.

Gotta look for that silver lining, though. We’ve had the two extremes, which gave us a lot of information to help us decide on our next steps.

The goal is to grow and produce as much of our own food, and be as self sufficient as possible. When we get animals, we want to grow their food as much as possible, too. How we get to that point can be changed or modified as much as it needs to be!

A lot of what we grew this year will be grown again in 2023, though not necessarily the same varieties.

As we expand our main garden area, we’ll be moving away from the distant garden beds, where we are now starting to build up our food forest. That’s what those beds where there to help prepare the soil for.

Which means that 2023 will have pretty much all the garden beds closer to the house, and we will be building more permanent structures. The temporary trellises have come down and, in the spring, we will be taking down the trellis tunnel, saving the wire to be reused.

We plan to start building permanent trellis tunnels where some of the newest, deep mulched garden beds were started. We will also focus on building more high raised beds – the challenge is to safely harvest the dead spruces to build them with, since we don’t have the funds to hire a company to take them down for us. I don’t begrudge them the cost at all; it would be worth every penny. We just have too many other things pulling at those pennies that are a higher priority, when we can do most of this work ourselves.

The low raised beds were enough to keep some things from getting drowned out, but in other areas, it still wasn’t enough. So while I do want to keep some beds low, the majority of our beds will be high raised beds.

The one high raised bed that is complete, filled hügelkultur style, did very well. By the end of the season, it had settled quite a bit and needed a top up, which was to be expected. At this point, I think the bed’s “topsoil” is deep enough that it could be used to grow longer root vegetables now. This is definitely the way we will continue to build and fill our high raised beds, though we might tweak a few details, such as finding better ways to join the logs in the walls. We have a few more and better tools to help us now, and will continue to acquire more.

Since a major component of building our permanent beds is accessibility and mobility, as we build the permanent structures, we will make sure that the paths will be at minimum 4 ft wide – wide enough for a walker or wheelchair to turn around in. That will include the trellis tunnels we will be building. Now that we are aware of how much water can accumulate where we plan to build them, we intend to build probably middle height beds on the outside of the tunnels. Those beds will be 2 ft wide, since they will be accessible from only one side. I figure we should shoot for building at least three or four of these in the main garden area (not all in one year!), along with the 9′ x 4′ high raised beds we will be making. We will be sticking to 9′ x 4′ as much as possible, regardless of how tall the bed is, so that any covers we build for them can be interchangeable. Obviously, the narrower beds we plan to build at the trellis tunnels will be the exception, but the things planted in there would need different types of protection – if any at all.

Even aside from the trellis tunnels, we will want to built quite a few other trellises that can be moved around to wherever they are needed. Among the things that actually started to grow well (if too late), I noticed that the hulless pumpkins really, really wanted to climb. The melons we want to plant are also climbers, as are some of the gourds we want to grow. These would need support that can hold the weight of their fruit, so they will need the strength of the permanent tunnel trellises. Lighter climbers, like peas and pole beans, would be fine with portable trellises.

While we will be focusing on permanent structures in the main garden area, we are also needing to plan ahead to when we build permanent garden beds in the outer yard, where there is better sunlight. We are also working on plans for an outdoor, off-grid kitchen in that general area. That’s on top of the shed we need to dismantle, so that we can salvage the lumber for other projects, like the mobile chicken coop I want to build.

We’ve got a lot of building and heavy labour ahead of us, and none of us are quite able bodied, so it might take a while to get it done!

As terrible of a growing year it was in 2022, it provided us with much useful data, and will actually help us in planning our next steps.

Little by little, it’ll get done!

The Re-Farmer


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