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Rundle's Urban Farm

Spokane, WA

This Post Needs a better title

Apparently, there aren’t a lot of SEO friendly ways to say here are the crop successes and failures from 2022. So anyway, this post needs a better title, but I bring you lessons, successes and failures from our 2022 gardening season.

Failures

I guess I’ll start with the failures to get them out of the way and hopefully encourage you in trying again when at first you don’t succeed…well unless it’s melons that is.

Squash – to crowded

Our squash performance was abysmal in 2022. We crammed 26 hills into a 10×6 foot area of our garden and spaced the hills 18 inches apart. It turns out, we shouldn’t have had any more than 6 hills in this amount of space if that. So, needless to say, our squash performed very poorly. The season was dry enough that the plants didn’t quite succumb to powdery mildew, but they were so crowded they didn’t get enough light or air-flow to produce healthy fruits. Next year, we will be drastically reducing the number of squash plants 😢. While I hate to cut back on all the varieties I want to grow, I know we’ll actually get a harvest if we do so.

Cucumbers – too shady

In 2021, we had great success with cucumbers. Then in 2022, I tried to get a little too cute with them. I made my own felt grow bags to create dedicated cucumber raised beds and stuck a cattle panel trellis between the beds. Unfortunately, the location was a bit shadier than the cucumbers appreciated and they really failed to thrive. No matter how many times I re-planted them, they just didn’t appreciate their environment. This year, we’ll be moving them back to the front yard where they can soak up the sun and enjoy their little corner of the garlic beds.

Melons – just throw in the towel already

I probably should’ve given up on melons long ago. Unfortunately, I can be a bit stubborn when it comes to my ideas and dreams. Thus…my third year in a row of utterly failing with any type of melons. No matter how small or short season the melon varieties I choose, I just can’t succeed with them. In 2021, the deer ate my starts and last year they just weren’t keen on their growing space in the greenhouse. So, I think I will give melons a rest this year and at least until we have more space for them to sprawl.

Too Many colors

Another instance in which I wound up being a little too cute was tomato colors. I tried to grow 1-2 varieties of each different color of tomatoes. Red tomatoes and blue (well more like purple) tomatoes, brown tomatoes and white tomatoes, pink tomatoes and yellow ones, orange ones and green, and also purple and striped. I ended up sacrificing the production I hoped for for the novelty of the unique. While it was fun to try a green-when-ripe tomato, I’m going to keep things a little more production oriented in 2023.

Victories

Beans – FINALLY!

Yes! In 2022 we finally succeeded with beans. It took perseverance, but it was worth it. I realized that planting extra seeds isn’t wasteful if it means I will actually get a return for my efforts. When it came to beans this year, I was so determined to get a good harvest that I just kept planting seeds and planting seeds. Eventually, they got the idea and started to thrive. Most people will tell you not to start your beans inside. But whether it’s critters or cold, my direct sown beans have failed every time.

The beans I finally succeeded with this year were planted in the greenhouse, a much more controlled environment. We planted them out when they got their first true leaves. They were only in pots for 2-3 weeks, but it was definitely worth the extra effort. We were bean rich at the end of the summer. And, though I hadn’t even planned on canning beans, I had enough for multiple canner loads in October (well after it should have frosted in fact).

Peppers – loving the heat in the greenhouse

This year, my amazing husband built me a greenhouse! It is pretty much the bomb! Anyway, we grew almost all of our peppers in 2 gallon pots in the greenhouse. The peppers flowered in May and produced steadily though a bit slowly for most of the summer. Towards the end of the summer we really started to get lots of peppers. For the first time ever, we actually produced most of the peppers that I used for canning salsa.

The Purple Beauty Bell pepper did especially well and was constantly loaded with 2-3 inch bells. We also really enjoyed trying pimento peppers for the first time. Another stand-out was an Italian frying pepper called Jimmy Nardello. These guys are funky looking spirally things, but they taste SO good! When ripe, the Jimmy Nardellos made excellent faux Jalapeno Poppers.

Garlic

The 2022 Garlic harvest was quite a success. We planted the crop early enough in the fall of 2021 that it had enough time to get established before the cold weather hit. This year, I don’t think we’ll have the same results as we didn’t plant till the ground was mostly frozen, but we’ll see.

The Lone Tomato Plant

One of the few greenhouse casualties we suffered last year was a tomato plant that got it’s main stem broken off. I stuck the stem in a glass of water on the counter for a few weeks till it grew new roots and then on a whim (well after all the other tomatoes were in the ground) stuck it by itself in one of the front garden beds and ignored it for most of the season. It was definitely a bit late to the party, but when we did finally harvest the tomatoes off of that plant we got far more than off any of our other plant.

The variety was called Anna Banana Russian and it definitely appreciated the extra space compared to the rest of my plants. This is a paste variety that tasted as good if not better than most of our slicers and will definitely be a standby in future years.

Lessons Learned

Cabbage – Floating Row Cover is mandatory

We successfully grew three head of cabbage in 2022. That was a first for me and I was beyond thrilled to actually get heads on my plants. However, I was equally disappointed to discover that cabbage worms had taken a liking to my cabbages. It was a hard fought battle to actually get the cabbages through till they produced a head. I tried to plant a fall crop of cabbage but my starts were decimated within days by the caterpillars. Thus, in 2023 we will definitely be using a row cover to protect our cabbage and hopefully we can keep the little pests at bay.

Seeds planted are more likely to produce than seeds in my stash

In past years, I’ve been careful not to ‘waste’ extra seeds when planting the garden. I’ve carefully stored extra bean and cucumber seeds only planting exactly what I think I will need. This past year, I did not succumb to scrimping on seeds. I planted beans till I finally succeeded in getting them to grow. I may have gone through a whole pack of bean seeds just to get a harvest…but it’s more than I would have gotten if those seeds were still in the packet.

More breathing room = better production

Somehow, I thought that more plants would equal more production. Turns out, that is not true. Fewer plants in a larger space actually produce more than more plants in an equivalent space. Breathing room is important. Plants need airflow. They also need space to spread their roots and draw up nutrients and water from the soil. Space above and below ground is critical.

Say you plant 20 plants where you should’ve only had 5. Sure you’ll get some squash, but they will be tiny due to battling for resources and competing for sunshine. If you had planted 5 squash in the same space though, you would’ve had healthy plants that produced normal sized fruit. The same is true of strawberries, tomatoes, and most other plants.

Patience – I can’t plant all the things yet

Someday, we hope to have more space to grow a bigger garden. Right now, we don’t have that luxury. It seems I need to be patient with how much I grow and learn to grow smaller quantities well in my smaller space. Then someday, when we’re blessed with more space I can take that knowledge and turn it into a bigger garden. I guess it reminds me of the passage in Luke 16:10-12 that says if we want the opportunity to be faithful with the more grand things, we need to be faithful with the little things first.

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?”

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