Tomatoville® Gardening Forums


Share your favorite photos with us here. Instructions on how to post them can be found in the first post within.

Thread Tools Display Modes
Prev Previous Post   Next Post Next
Old February 18, 2019   #1
Join Date: Jan 2018
Location: Philly 7A
Posts: 727
Default "SQWIBS Urban Garden Adventure 2019"

"SQWIBS Urban Garden Adventure 2019"

Welcome to my SUGA 2019 page.

I am back for another year of gardening.
(If you don't like a lot of jibberish, scroll down to February 16th)
Let's start with a quick breakdown of this page. Like in my SUGA 2018 page , the first part of this page is an intro of my thoughts.

The 2nd part of this page is a recap of my 2018 garden strategy, what worked and what did not.

Part 3 will detail my upcoming 2019 garden strategy. I consider my gardening year to start last harvest and fall cleanup but for the sake of keeping things organized, I'll just start this page as of January and recap the winter prep.

Part 4 of this page I'll be posting daily updates with plenty of photos throughout the 2018-2019 year.
Let's start with my "Long Winded" intro! You can skip to part 4, if your eyes start to bleed, don't worry I won't mind!

Part 1

Before I go into another long winded intro of my upcoming gardening year, I'll answer a few questions that I am sure many of you have asked.

Why does he post everything he does?
Well for quite a few reasons, when I write in my blogs, taking notes and photos, it keeps me interested in gardening all year long, especially in the winter months. I take photos of the wildlife in the yard, label them and do some research on them.
I use it as a reference, referring to past years with what worked, what hasn't, timing of planting, starting seeds, pest problems, plant diseases etc... to sum it up, it keeps me, interested, organized and hopefully a better gardener.

But why not just keep notes? Why tell the whole world?
That's because I learn a lot from others that I chat with on forums, I see what other folks are doing, talk to them, ask for advice and do a ton of research. A forum is a great motivator, especially in the off season when making preparations for the upcoming year.
Sometimes I'll get some friendly advice on what I am doing wrong, kudos on what I am doing right, suggestions on what plants to grow from folks with first hand experience, and other great ideas.
Not only are we sharing knowledge but were also sharing plants, seeds, supplies and other things as well as making friends. I also like to think I may be helping others as well. It is also a great way to minimize the learning curve a bit. This is what keeps me interested year round.

OK now back to my long winded intro.

It's funny how your perspective changes over the years, I guess there really is something about the saying, "older and wiser".
For years I tried to keep a nice yard, this meant, a "somewhat" green lawn, some ornamental shrubs, arborvitaes hedges, trees, flowers, etc..., you get the picture. Through this, I always had a little vegetable garden in the back yard.
Over the years I have nibbled away at the yard, mainly because I can't grow grass.
I added a few patios, installed a few ponds. In more recent years I added more gardening space in the way of Hugelkultur beds, Raised beds, vertical spaces, trellises, planters and small section gardens.
I removed most of my Ornamental plants, shrubs and trees and replaced them with more Bio-diverse plants like edible perennials and fruit trees.

So how has my perspective actually changed? Well for one thing, in the past, I would purchase plants for the yard not giving thought to Bio-diversity, after all, what the hell is Bio-diversity? Sure I still have a couple flowers out front that aren't as beneficial, native or multi-functional as they could be, but I do need to keep up some curb appeal and keep the wife happy, with that said I am working on becoming even more biodiverse.

Here are a few more observations.

Bugs... Bugs are a PITA, but are they? For years I would be bothered by the amount of bees, bugs and other flying critters in the yard as their were just too many, it seemed no matter where I was, there were bugs in my face! Now I am worried about bugs in the yard as there are not enough. It also seems that the insects stay off of the living areas more when my plants are in bloom, go figure, more bugs but less nuisance. Hover flies, and flies are quite the pollinators. Wood lice are rampant and welcomed in the garden. I installed a ceiling fan on the patio and have one on the bar on the deck, and these were mainly installed to keep the bugs at bay without using pesticides.

Other Bugs... Bugs like earwigs seem to be OK, slugs were a pain a few years back and were treated with sluggo, now I just heavily mulch the garden. There are also beneficial slugs like the leopard slug that keep the smaller slugs at bay and are a good food source for the turtles that live in the yard.
My biggest problem are ants, they can be beneficial but once they start farming the aphids, I end up with a really hard to control Aphid problem. I really hate to knock these guys out but sometimes I have no choice. Mosquitoes seem to be less of a pain during the early summer but are unbearable in the late summer especially when we get a bit of rain. I installed a few bat houses to hopefully alleviate this nuisance.
Keeping the grass trimmed and having all the marigolds all over may be helping a bit but not much. The mosquito problem is one of my 2019 projects I have been working on since the fall.

Stinging insects... Years ago, Carpenter Bees, Bumble Bees, Honey Bees, Mason Bees, Hornets, would make me nervous when gardening, now I just brush past them and they dont seem to mind. I am however allergic to bee stings. Mud daubers look scary but aren't a nuisance, other than the occasional nest that makes its way into a door jam.
I do have to be careful of the Carpenter Bees as they love tearing up the deck.

Birds and Squirrels, I didn't care for the birds that pecked at my tomatoes, now I love seeing them because I know they keep a lot of my plants pest free, and to be honest they don't seem as destructive as they use to be, maybe it's the sunflowers I have planted everywhere. I have been seeing a lot more different species of birds, like Humming birds, finches and woodpeckers.

The squirrels used to be horrid but not so much anymore, every now and then one will grab a tomato that is growing over the fence and what's funny is the same squirrel will come back later and eat that same tomato. I now put "over ripe" tomatoes on the fence and they seem to leave everything else alone, somewhat, with the occasional pepper being a snack.
If I have to sacrifice a few tomatoes and a pepper every so often, so be it!

Weeds... guess what, I'm fine with weeds, on occasion I let them grow to just before they flower and chop and drop right in the beds. Last year I had a prickly lettuce weed 4 foot tall that I chopped and dropped as mulch, think about all the nutrients that thing pulled from deep in the soil that is now available to the plants. Even if it is not a true dynamic accumulator, it at the least aids in tillage and bio-mas that feeds the microbes and beneficial insects. So I consider weeds beneficial for no till and free mulch and compost.

One thing I am getting better at as a gardener is to become more cut throat with my gardening, I used to let volunteers grow in places they shouldn't, leave near dead plants still growing if there is any bit of life to them, I used to prune like I'm afraid to hurt the plants and I start my fall gardening and winter prep too late. This past season I got much better at that.

Part 2

This year I plan on adding a few more strategies to my gardening, but first let me touch on a few strategies that I outlined for the 2018 growing year and see how I did, followed by a few mistakes that hurt me this season.

  • Rules for Raised Bed Garden Strategy - Compost, Chop and Drop, No Dig, No till, No Fertilizers,No Bagged amendments,Accumulate Materials locally.
The Rules for the Raised Bed Garden strategy was pretty successful but I need to work on my chop and drop method, I inter planted too heavily and too soon resulting in a bit of competition between the vegetable plants and my chop and drop plants, mainly with peppers in the Hugelkultur beds, planting out the peppers too early only magnified the problem. Adhering to "No Till" was a success, my only digging was if I was "in situ" composting but even that was at a bare minimum because I would fill in sink holes with kitchen and yard waste.
Last years end of season prep was a success using cover crops followed by Bio-char, Leaves, mulch and compost without relying on bagged amendments and fertilizers. I should clarify the no fertilizers part, I do use my own fertilizers like potash and urea but nothing purchased in the raised beds.

  • Plant in way of Guild

This was a total success especially with my Maypop, Blueberry, Comfrey Guild. The blueberries however did not bear much fruit and what little they did bear, the birds got them, no problem. I harvested quite a bit of Comfrey during the early part of the growing season and added to the beds but they slowed down in growth once the Maypops started shading them out.

  • Add more edible perennials
I added Hardy Kiwi, Grapes, Artichokes, Maypops, Lovage, Perpetual spinach and Sunchokes

The sunchokes didn't make it, and I ditched the Artichokes, they take up too much space for what they produce. It's too soon to tell if the grapes and Hardy Kiwi were a success, but time will tell.

  • Stack Functions
This goes hand in hand with Guilds.

  • Increase Bio-diversity
Here are a few things I have done to increase Bio-diversity. I have put in a rain garden with flowering plants, some native, seeded the lawn with white clover, allowed some vegetable plants like kale and bok choy to flower to feed beneficial insects, allowed weeds to grow for tillage and chop and drop, initiated chop and drop, planted dynamic accumulators, started actively "in situ" composting, added more native plants throughout the yard, inter planted, etc...

  • Mistakes
Timing - In an effort to get a jump on the season I Planted my transplants out too soon, many plants were stressed and some stunted and a few just struggled until they died, seedlings will go in the ground later this year, especially the peppers.
Labeling - I need to be more diligent in labeling the plants when transplanting.
Support - I need to support my plants better.
Inter Planting/Cover crops - I planted some cover crops too soon and they competed with the vegetable plants, this season I will under-plant cover crops once the plants are established.

OK now that last years strategy recap is done lets take a look at the upcoming year,

Part 3
2019 strategy

I have a tendency to go into something full throttle. I generally go hog wild, tweak then reduce. What I mean by that is, my first several years I have been adding a lot to the garden, utilizing every nook and cranny I can. The hog wild part is almost over and I am nearing my Apex so to speak, and have been transitioning into the tweaking stage. What that means for me is, I am at the point now where I will slowly start reducing/tweaking the garden until a point that I am comfortable with. A few of the things that I will be doing this year are removing the Air Pots, the vertical towers and the irrigation lines that feed them.

For this years garden, I'm going to try growing more Disease and crack resistant Hybrid tomatoes. I had a lot of my Heirlooms split the last two seasons especially with all the rain, I have gotten better at picking them a bit earlier to ripen off the vine but sometimes they're split and were still half green.

Every year, I experiment with a new fruit or veggie then tweak the garden keeping the stuff I like and ditching the stuff I don't, this has worked out pretty good but it is getting harder and harder to find space as I decide to keep more and more plants that do well, however, this is a good thing.
I decided to give up on Spaghetti squash, Table Dainty and Zucchini but will try cantaloupe and Butternut Squash this year. Zucchini has always been a fail because of SVB's, I will never grow it again, spaghetti squash was OK but I also get SVB's in the actual squash. I may go back to Spaghetti Squash some day.

Snow peas never get consumed but I usually do have great results growing these, I may be growing these again.
The yard long beans done great but no one cares for them, I'll be replacing them with Scarlet Runner Beans to dry at the end of the season and the plant is supposedly great for Hummingbirds.

I'm planning on growing more diversely, what we like and things that I can preserve by Drying, Canning and Pickling and will alternate different varieties each season, for instance I'm going to increase my tomato plants this year, for sauces, stewed tomatoes, salsas and such. I'll cut back on my peppers, mainly the hots. The last two years I canned and dehydrated plenty of Poblanos and made plenty of hot sauces.
I will be changing up my sweet peppers replacing the "Corno di Toro Giallo" and "Corno di Toro Rosso's with "Red Marconis".

The "Corno's" are very prolific but I like the Marconi's better.

Continuing with last seasons strategy I will also,

Extend my Growing Season
Take advantage of Early spring and fall planting like cabbage, beets, lettuces etc...

Continue working on Bio-diversity
Add more native plants, especially to the front yard. Install more habitats for beneficial wildlife, like a few bat houses.

Become Cutthroat
Eliminate plants that are diseased, or dying. Eliminate volunteers.

Grow with food preservation in mind and foods we like.
Grow items that can be canned, dried and pickled. I started a mini-orchard with dwarf fruiting trees, like peaches, pears, apples and figs. Adding Sweet Potatoes.

Space plants more efficiently. Secure cages in the Hugelkultur beds better this season.

Plant out seedlings later in the season. Inter plant smarter! Add living mulches later in the year.

Get cheap
Keep spending at a minimum. Use what I have, become a bit more thrifty.

Since I have had good success with "in situ" composting, I will continue with with this method as long as there is no issues. I will still use my compost bin.

Wildlife - Identify and learn more about insects and other wildlife that are beneficial and non-beneficial and how to control destructive pests naturally/safely. Learn how to attract more beneficial insects/wildlife to the garden. I started ID'ing and documenting insects last season, what I do is photograph an insect and research it and make notes of the insect in my log.
Diseases - Learn how to identify, control, work around, various diseases naturally/safely.
Plant Care - Learn to trim plants better. I let my Beebalm and Sunchokes get too leggy this year and the plants just flopped over.

Install Rainwater Catchment
I already started working on this last year.

Axed things
Do not grow zucchini or table dainty EVER!!! Spaghetti squash is still a possibility
Do not grow yard long beans, snow peas, sugar snap peas, spinach, artichokes and Cape Gooseberry.

Plant Smarter
Plant Different Squash, SVB resistant
Plant more disease resistant varieties of tomatoes
Plant more items we like to eat.
Plant with preserving the harvest in mind.
Plant to utilize three seasons, trying this year.
Plant to utilize more space.

Part 4

My garden year starts at last harvest and when the cover crops are planted, so technically it is a 2018-2019 garden season, but for the sake of simplifying I'm referring to this as SUGA 2019 that will start with my seed starting but with a recap of fall/winter prep.

Lets look at whats new this year;

  • Added to my "Mini orchard". So what is in the Mini Orchard? 2 Apple Trees, 2 Peach Trees, a Fig Tree, a Pear Tree, an Apricot Tree, Hardy Kiwis, Passion Flower, Reliance Grapes, Concord Grapes, Blackberries, Raspberries, Blueberries and Strawberries.

February 16th, 2019

  • Seedlings
Time to ready the grow table and start the seedlings.This is the official start of my SUGA 2019 garden!

Fall mums cleanup

SQWIBB is offline   Reply With Quote

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -4. The time now is 02:22 PM.

★ Tomatoville® is a registered trademark of Commerce Holdings, LLC ★ All Content ©2019 Commerce Holdings, LLC ★