Mixed results from the backyard garden this summer

Now that spring has sprung and fall has fell, it is time for our backyard garden update.

We sort of cut back this summer for several reasons. First, our daughter got married in August, so we anticipated marital activities might draw us away from a big garden.

We were right.

I planted three varieties of pumpkins: sugar pumpkins, Cinderella pumpkins and giant pumpkins. When we first planted pumpkins several years ago, we planted a variety of Cinderella pumpkins and they did quite well.

This year, we harvested only one Cinderella pumpkin. It was the first pumpkin to appear in our patch and it looks pretty good after we cured it inside for several weeks.

Pumpkins produce male and female flowers. There are a lot more male blossoms than female. We have a lot of bees and other pollinating insects   but it is still a good idea to artificially pollinate female pumpkin blossoms. We even have lady bugs and a preying mantis.

The six giant pumpkin vines produced only one pumpkin. What a disappointment. That one pumpkin didn’t get very big (about the size of football) and it never turned orange. Bugs or disease got to it and we had to toss it in the trash.

We did much better with the sugar pumpkins. We got three nice pumpkins (a little smaller than a volleyball) and one smaller sugar pumpkin. Although, we harvested a fifth sugar pumpkin that looked perfect but it had a boring insect in it that ruined it.

The sugar pumpkins produce a lot of pumpkin and so does the Cinderella pumpkin. We should have more than enough for several homemade pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas plus a good amount for my wife’s famous pumpkin and raisin bread.

Speaking of Susan, her tomatoes did not do well this summer. Maybe that was because they were planted too close to the pumpkins, which tend to spread all over the place even though they were planted under a trellis and the tomatoes were thought to be safe in our walk-in tomato cage. I think this is the first year that we haven’t had a good crop of tomatoes, which is a shame because they taste so much better than store-tomatoes.

The rainy August might be to blame but you would think it would be just the opposite.

Susan’s cucumbers did fairly well. She planted the big ones and we had a nice crop, although they didn’t produce into September like they sometimes do.

She didn’t plant the pickle-size cucumbers this year, once again because of the wedding and because it is a lot of work to put up pickles.

Our blackberry bushes didn’t do well but the mint and basil we planted in 2016 survived and flourished without much attention. We think that a mouse or mice got to our strawberries but the plants seemed to have survived.

The on/off switch on our cultivator broke in 2016 so we had to get the soil ready by hand this spring. Well, I got the cultivator fixed in last August, so we should be able to work the soil better next spring.

We did fertilize with cow manure this spring and I think it helped the pumpkins and cucumbers. And instead of bagging up grass clippings this year, I spread them on the idle part of our garden and worked them into soil a bit. I am hopeful that will act as a compost situation plus keep our soil – which is mostly clay – from being too compact.

By the way, the grass in our front and back yards has never looked so green in August as it did year. That is due to the abundant rainfall, which we were very glad to see.

We have a garden for a variety of reasons. It motivates us to go outside when it is hot in the summer. It teaches us how to grow things. It is a fun hobby. We grow things that we can actually eat.

It really is a lot of work. You have to prepare the soil, plant the seeds, fertilize and water. If you water too much, you have problems. If you water too little, plants die.

We learned our lessons, as we do every year. We won’t plant the giant pumpkins again but will stick to sugar pumpkins. I may not even plant pumpkins in 2018, just to give the garden a rest and to frustrate the bugs that seem to get worse every year.

We have to figure a way to keep varmints out of our strawberry plants and we need to be sure to water stuff over the winter.

And we have to solve the tomato problem.