I finally finished my garden clean up this past weekend. I don’t have perennial beds at our new home; my new garden space is a combination of containers on the balcony and a plot at the nearby community garden. Clean up was easy: I had no issues with diseases with my container plants so all the soil was dumped into a large covered tote and left on the balcony for use next season, and the pots were all scrubbed and put into indoor storage so they don’t freeze and crack. Clean up at the community garden was also a cinch: our garden committee encourages members to leave plants in place and chop and drop them in the spring. (I am a huge fan of this! Keeping the dried plants in place over winter helps prevent a bit of soil crusting, as the garden is fully exposed during chinook winds and freeze and thaw cycles. The plants may also provide a safe haven for beneficial insects such as ladybugs, and the sunflowers in some of the other plots may be useful for hungry birds). I did pull the pumpkin and zucchini plants, as they were beset with a vicious case of powdery mildew.
My garlic is planted at the community garden and mulched and hopefully snug for the winter, and I sunk a large container of alpine strawberries into the raised bed there in the hopes that they might survive. (I don’t have any in-ground spaces like I used to). I’ll winter sow some more strawberry seeds outside in early March as insurance.
I haven’t had a lot of time to review this year’s gardening season. It was a challenging one, as far as the weather was concerned. Spring wasn’t gradual and wet; instead, we were blasted out of the gate with mid-summer-like heat and no rain. Some direct-sown seeds refused to germinate, even with supplemental irrigation. Our summer was hot and filled with forest fire smoke, and we had a couple of severe hailstorms that handily trashed plants in mere seconds. Many gardeners I talked to fought multiple insect infestations, but aside from the cutworms early in the season, I was fortunate in that regard. And then, just as everyone was still hoping their pumpkins would ripen on the vine and they would get some tomatoes that were a colour other than green, we were hit with two weeks of snowfall and bitter cold in September.
One pleasant surprise in my garden (besides these) were the ‘Le Puy’ lentils I grew for the first time. The plants are pretty, resembling some of our common vetches so much that I thought perhaps I’d get in trouble for harbouring weeds. The deer find them attractive, as well, which definitely reduced the quantity I was able to harvest. Compared to some of my other plants, the lentils didn’t seem to require much care – a regular watering schedule was the most important thing, and they made it through the heat better than my sweet peas and sugar peas.
I quickly realized that the timing of harvest is critical with lentils. The pods must be picked when they are dry, but if you wait too long (a scant few minutes, it seems!), they shatter, blasting the seeds across the soil or the entire garden or into the parking lot in the street adjacent. I swear I could hear them pinging off the streetlights before I got to them. 😉 I still managed to collect enough to enjoy a decent snack (this recipe is easy to prepare and delicious!).
Were there any pleasant surprises in your garden this growing season? What about any old favourites that were once again reliable?