It’s Time for Another Round of What I’ve Learned

I really like to use the blog as kind of a journal to document the things that do work and the things I should probably never try to attempt again. As a bonus maybe someone somewhere will also learn from my occasional triumph and common failures. Of course it seems more and more that a lot of my failures are weather based and the weather hasn’t acted “normal” for years now. There’s really no way of telling anymore what Mother Nature has in store for us. But here goes some lessons I’ve learned this year.

1. Don’t trust the average frost dates anymore. Seriously. My last average frost date is supposed to be February 20th. I’m glad I didn’t start planting then because we continued to have frosts up until April 8th.

2. Do not, under any circumstances plant out cucumber starts. I thought this would be a brilliant idea. I grew these amazing cuke starts. They were big and healthy and they weren’t root bound. Once in the ground – and we were super careful not to disturb their roots when planting –  they pretty much flipped me the bird and refused to grow anything but flowers. It was way too early for flowers. I have since pulled them out and direct seeded.

3. Speaking of direct seeding – don’t do it until the very end of April. I don’t know why I can’t seem to get this through my skull. Last year I had the same problem. The year before that wasn’t any different either. Maybe I thought putting down the black plastic would give me warmer soil sooner. Only problem was that it was warmer but also wetter. The seeds just rotted where they sat before they could germinate.

4. Don’t even attempt to plant anything out if you don’t have anything to deal with slugs (and snails to a lesser degree) on hand. Overnight the slugs came in and wiped out almost everything I had planted including the tomatoes, which I’ve never had slugs attack before. Also, make sure that you never run out of slug bait (we use Sluggo which is safe around kids, pets and wildlife and is organic – be careful of Sluggo Plus though because it is toxic to bees and other pollinators).

5. Don’t forget to spray for peach leaf curl. Boy am I regretting not doing that. It’s a really bad year for it too. Usually I’ll just pull all the affected leaves but this year ALL of the leaves are affected. One hint I was given though was to give the tree a lot of nitrogen so it can more readily produce a new crop of leaves.

6. Citrus trees love chickens. Trees that have been too young to even bloom are now blooming like crazy. Of course that could be because of their age, but I’ve never seen young trees that have never bloomed before bloom like they are now – completely covered in flowers. We had one “rescue” Meyer lemon that we put in that was just twigs and some yellow leaves that is healthy and dark green and has it’s first blooms. They love the chicken manure and the chickens love the shade and cover they provide. Here is a good pictorial example of the power of chicken manure on a citrus tree. The chickens also keep them weeded and pest free as a bonus.

7. Squirrels don’t wait for almonds to ripen. Unlike the other fruit in the garden almonds are fair game the second they are big enough to be worth a meal. Our almond tree was COVERED in almonds this spring. Right now there’s not a single one left on the tree. The split hulls are strewn about the ground beneath the tree.

8. From our observations we don’t have the normal climate one would think. Our summer is actually May and June where it’s really warm and sunny. Once the 4th of July passes it’s cool and foggy up until mid-September. Then it’s hot for two weeks and fall rolls in. This means the early row covers have to come off early and then go back on in July to keep the heat lovers going.

9. Don’t let the chickens get into the garden right after you plant corn. You’ll get no corn even if you think you planted them deep enough.

10. Burlap sacks really suck at weed control even with 3″ of mulch on top of them. Sure, they work for a couple of weeks but after that all bets are off. We’re going to try cardboard next. In other news, burlap bags have 1,001 other uses around here including insulating the animal housing on cold nights and adding privacy for brooding hens.

What have you learned this season?

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