2022 Garden In Review

It’s just a few days before Thanksgiving and Old Man Winter is making his presence known here in central Massachusetts. The trees are bare. The ground is starting to freeze. We had our first snowfall this week. I just had to take a moment to reflect on this year’s garden before the 2023 seed catalogs hit the mailbox.

The big challenge this year was the weather. It was a very dry summer in the north-eastern USA. I had hoped to get second crops of carrots and string beans, but I simply could not justify growing such moister-craving crops. My first planting of each was successful, though. I had also hoped to try canning a pickled three-bean-salad this year. I’ve had the recipe for a while, now. My whole string bean crop ripened as the first heatwave hit, however. I had concerns regarding the safety of running a steamy canning bath when the thermometer was pushing 100F and the humidity was around 80%.

The herb garden was very happy in the spring. I grew edible chrysanthemums for the first time and found the flowers are a delicious addition to mint tea. Everything slowed down in the hot dry summer, and I had given up on having any significant harvest to dry and store for the winter. However, a mild and damp September and October revived the herbs just enough for a good crop. As you can see, D0ttMatrix approves of this herb harvest. All that sage, mint, and parsley is currently hanging up to dry in our cellar.

I did not pick any oregano to dry, even though my plants were beautiful this year. The oregano plants I have are a few years old, and have become rather bland in flavor. I will replace them in the spring. I did not dig them up earlier as oregano is one of the last flowers to fade in the autumn. I wanted to make sure the bees had snacks.

I need to talk about my strawberries. I love strawberries. I especially love home-grown strawberries. The strawberry beds were loaded with fruit this year, but also poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) and Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). Both cause contact dermatitis (itchy ouchy rash) in sensitive individuals. I am a very sensitive individual when it comes to these weeds.

I abandoned the fruits to the birds, for the most part. After a 12 day steroid treatment, I looked for ways to get rid of the itchy stuff while keeping my precious strawberries. There is no soft way to say it, I used glyphosate. Yes, that is the herbicide also known as Round-Up. I tried the friendlier concoctions of vinegar, dish soap, salt, magnesium chloride, unicorn saliva, borax, and boiling water. None of them worked. The glyphosate, properly diluted and sprayed only exactly where needed did the trick. I have no regrets. This is what herbicides are meant for- removing hardy, harmful plants from the places where they are causing harm.

Next spring, the best-looking strawberry plants will be moved to new beds and the rest will be dug up. I have not decided if I will replace them with mulch beds or some kind of ground cover. I am open to suggestions. Drop your ideas in the comments, please!

We harvested exactly zero cherries. It was quite cold while the trees were blooming. The flowers were gorgeous for a full two weeks, but almost none got pollinated. The fruit that did develop was monopolized by birds. Hopefully, next year will have a better yield.

It was a very exciting year for our other fruits in the Food It Yourself garden. We got a respectable first harvest of Asian pears from our mixed-variety pear tree. I also learned that, for the best quality and shelf life, pears of any variety should be picked when slightly under-ripe. I learned this after picking most of our crop at the perfectly-ripe stage, and then wondering why they were a bit mealy and dry. It was a lesson learned.

We also got one plum from our fruit salad tree, which was a total surprise. The tree was only planted in 2021, so I stripped the blossoms to let the tree focus on growing good roots. I missed one flower, it seems.

I was very pleased with the ground cherries (Physalis angulata). Although I started the plants early, they did not start peak berry production until September. Just like their tomato cousins, after the vernal equinox, they did not have enough daily sun exposure to ripen. The early fruits we picked were delicious, though. I would definitely grow them again, but would plant them in pots and place them along the driveway where they can get maximum sun for a maximized season. If you have a very sunny spot in your garden, I highly recommend giving ground cherries (also called physalis or husk cherries) a try.

As for our tomatoes, we had an adequate crop. which was a pleasant surprise. The plants took a while to get going, with our cool spring. They did just fine through the drought, and of course they loved the heat. We even have several quarts put up for the winter.

The rhubarb did just fine, despite the drought conditions. Rhubarb is reliably resilient. I gave away several pounds throughout the season, and I have several more pounds in the freezer. I made rhubarb chutney and rhubarb-orange marmalade for holiday gifts. I added a delicious savory recipe- chicken stewed with rhubarb to our dinner rotation. If you are in a chicken-for-dinner rut, definitely try this.

Every year is different in a garden. That is what makes gardening both frustrating and exciting. Despite the challenges, I will always choose to have a garden rather than not have one. Every year I learn more and more about plants, about climate, and about myself. How was the gardening season where you are? If you are in the southern hemisphere, what are you planning for the season? Share in the comments section.