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.
Here, we are looking at growing stuff that was new to us. When I was a kid, my mother did grow cucumbers here, but she never grew peppers or eggplants. Our own experience with growing peppers goes back to before our move, when the co-op we lived in built accessible garden beds, and we signed up for one of them. We tried growing a hot variety of pepper, and we were getting one that was developing really well – then it got stolen. I don’t know if I feel sorry for whomever took it and tried to eat it, thinking it was a bell pepper, not a hot pepper! We ended up potting it up and bringing it inside for the winter, and got many peppers from it, that we dehydrated.
I am not able to eat fresh tomatoes. They make me gag, and I’ve since learned this is a thing similar to how some people find cilantro tastes like soap. There’s something in fresh tomatoes that I react to, but not when they are processed.
Peppers is a bit different. It doesn’t matter if they’re fresh or processed. They make me gag if I can taste them. I’ve eaten things with peppers in them as an ingredient, without reacting to it, so it’s not an allergy, but if there is enough that they can be tasted, I can’t eat it. Oddly, I can eat jalapeno stuffed peppers just fine! As for fresh peppers, I love how they smell, and the crispness as I cut them up, but when I try to eat them, I just want to puke! However, my husband and one of my daughters both love peppers, so we gave it a try.
Eggplant is something that most of us like, but we rarely buy, so we decided to try growing them to see if we liked them enough to make it worthwhile to grow them every year. Peppers and eggplant are both heat loving plants, but as long as their growing season is short enough and they are started indoors, they can be grown in our zone 3. Our summers can get extreme heat as much as our winters get extreme cold!
I’ll start with the cucumbers, though.
We chose a variety that was supposed to be good for both fresh eating and for pickling. They were started indoors, and were transplanted at one of the A frame trellises.
In a word, frustrating.
As with so many other things, the cucumbers did not reach their full potential. However, they did grow and bloom and produce. We would even have had enough to do a few jars of pickles, but we mostly ate them fresh.
For the amount of cucumbers we planted, we had enough for our own use.
The frustrating thing?
My sister had a very productive year for cucumbers, and she dumped bags of them with us.
We made up a dozen jars of pickles, but she gave us so many, they started to mold before we could use them all, and ended up composting a lot of them. With so many cucumbers given to us, it made it harder to use up our own cucumbers, too.
As for the pickles we made, we used a garlic pickle recipe. They’re good, but we’ll have to try different recipes, and different varieties of pickling cucumbers, to find what we like best.
Yes, we will be growing cucumbers again. Hopefully, we’ll have a better growing year, with bigger, stronger and more productive plants. We’ll be trying different varieties and, as we grow more herbs and continue to grow garlic, we’ll hopefully be making tastier pickles, in the future.
I’m also going to have to tell my sister that, if she has another bumper crop of cucumbers, to please not pass on any to us! We like cucumbers and pickles, but we don’t like them that much!
With the peppers, we got one variety of purple bell peppers (Purple Beauty) that were supposed to be so dark, they were nearly black when ripe. They were started indoors and germinated quite well. They were transplanted into one of the low raised beds, surrounded by spinach on one side, turnips on the other (both of which failed) and onions (which did well). We also had them under netting for most of the growing year, to protect them from critters.
These were definitely a fail.
We did get tiny little peppers that ripened to the dark colour they were supposed to become, but the plants never thrived. I think they would have benefited from being mulched properly earlier, but we just didn’t have the material to do it until it was probably too late. How much of a difference the mulch would have made, I can’t actually say, but I would guess it would have at least improved things a bit.
We simply had a really bad growing year, even aside from the flooding. The low raised beds were enough to protect what was in them, for the most part, even when there was standing water in the paths, but it’s likely the flooding was still too much for the roots. The peppers were in the bed under the mosquito netting, on the left of the above photo. It wouldn’t have taken much for the roots to be hitting saturated soil and starting to rot.
What’s amazing about that standing water is, our top soil is only about 6-8 inches deep in this area. Under that is rocks and gravel. Which would normally mean, really good drainage. We had so much water this spring, however, there was nowhere for the water to drain!
While the peppers may have been a fail, we’re going to try again. Hopefully, we’ll have better conditions in 2023.
My daughter had mentioned she thought we’d be trying more than one variety of pepper in 2022, so for 2023, we’re going to try several different varieties, including one hot variety. We’ll be looking at what we can do to improve soil conditions – perhaps using a higher raised bed, and making plastic domes to cover them, for extra heat. And, of course, mulching them very well, much earlier!
In the process, if we have a good growing year, we’ll figure out what varieties are enjoyed the most, and eventually work our way down to just one or two varieties to grow every year.
Assuming we’re able to grow them at all! We shall see.
Last of all, are the eggplants.
We chose the Little Finger variety, because I liked their shape and, from all I’d been able to find, they were described as quite delicious. I got them from a seed source that is even further north than we are, so we could be quite sure that they would grow here.
Well, not quite.
In the above photo with the flooded paths, the eggplants were transplanted into the middle bed, where the front half is planted with garlic. The eggplants were planted in the middle, with spinach surrounding them (which failed) and onions around the outer edge (which did okay). We had hoops to hold up mosquito netting to protect them but, like many other things, we were not able to mulch them properly until late in the season.
As we were doing the last of the transplants, we found a couple of eggplants that were missed, so those got planted into a dollar store “raised bed garden” that was made of black felt. This was set up quite a ways away from the low raised bed, which turned out to be slightly elevated, and not affected by the flooding.
These were mostly a fail.
The eggplants in the low raised bed did not thrive at all. It wasn’t until very late in the season that one of them finally started to bloom, and develop a tiny little eggplant. Covering them did not seem to help them at all. The lack of a good mulching for so long probably didn’t help, either.
The ones in the black felt bed did better. I suspect the black fabric warmed up the soil more, and that they preferred that. They still took a long time before starting to bloom and develop fruit, however. One plant did noticeably better than the other.
That handful was our entire harvest.
We left them to grow as long as possible. We didn’t get frost until quite a lot later than average and, when we did, we covered them to protect them and squeeze out as much growing time as we could.
The few eggplants we did get, however, where quite tasty!
We are definitely going to grow the Little Finger variety again, plus we will be trying some “regular” eggplant – the size and shape we would typically find in any grocery store.
With what we learned in 2022, I think that we will perhaps try growing them in pots or grow bags, or higher beds. If we can do black fabric grow bags, that would be even better. With two varieties to try, we’ll see which ones we like better, and see if we use them enough to keep growing them, year after year.
In the future, we hope to have some sort of greenhouse or polytunnel to help extend our growing season, and provide better growing conditions for heat loving plants, such as peppers and eggplants. Once we have a really good growing season for them, we’ll finally be able to determine if we actually like them enough to be worth growing annually, or if these are things we would continue to buy only once in a while at the grocery store.