When your growing season is coming to a close, it's always a great exercise to reflect on how the season went, what you learned, and what you would change next year.
It doesn't need to be a formal project - just take some time and think about the season from the beginning. Think about each crop. Jot down a few notes to yourself for next year.
Review your notes for the season in your garden journal, if you have one. (This is why why you need a garden journal!) It will trigger your memory about everything that happened.
As an example, here's my review of one crop for my 2021 community garden plot. I don't usually write it out like this - mostly I just make mental notes.
This year I attempted to grow a crop of peas, which was new for me. My husband and I like peas and I remember how delicious fresh peas from the garden were when I was a child. I wanted to grow enough to eat fresh and to freeze for later. I knew I'd need a lot of pea plants to reach this goal, so I planned to grow 128 plants. Even though I'd planted a few peas over the years, I didn't have experience growing them in significant numbers.
We like traditional shelling peas and I selected a variety from a seed catalog that was well rated. "Shelling peas" are varieties where you can't eat the pod, only the peas within.
It did OK - meaning it wasn't what I hoped for, but I still got enough to enjoy.
Pea Germination 2021
Problem: The seeds didn't germinate well. I planted 128 plants and approximately 40-50 plants made it to maturity. I am not sure why they didn't germinate well, but I have some idea of possible factors:
Success: It wasn't all mistakes! Some aspects of growing this crop were successful:
No, due to the poor germination, I didn't get as many peas as I'd planned for.
The plants that made it thrived, and they produced pods chock full of peas. We ate all of the harvest fresh since we didn't have an abundance, and they had extraordinary flavor! We harvested about 6 generous servings of peas and enjoyed them so much.
Yes, I do. It was fun to harvest peas, and the fresh flavor was worth the work.
Some gardeners complain about shelling so many pea pods, that it's a lot of work for a small return. I didn't mind the work of shelling the peas for only 2 people. I might have a different opinion if I was trying to feed a crowd though.
I weighed my crop as I shelled the peas. I found I got 40% peas from the harvested pods, by weight. For example, if I harvested 16 oz of pea pods, I got 6.4 oz of fresh peas. Not a very efficient return! This is probably why many people prefer peas with edible pods.
Perhaps I will try a different variety next year. See below, also.
Were there things you couldn't control during the season that impacted your success?
In our area, it was a cold and wet spring. While I got the seeds into the ground on schedule, it took a lot longer than I expected for the plants to really thrive. Because I don't have experience growing peas, I'm not sure if the long seed-to-harvest was expected or if it was unusual.
Because they flourished later in the season, I didn't clear them out until early July. I had planned to plant cucumber in the spot in my plot after the peas. It ended up being later than I would have liked to plant the cucumbers.
I built the trellises using coated metal poles and clips called C-Bite Garden Clips. I clipped together the poles and strung trellis over the structure. My original plan for the trellis created a weak structure and wouldn't hold up the plants, so I had to reinforce it with more poles and more clips. I ended up spending more on clips and poles than I intended!
It was more difficult than I expected to attach the clips to some of the poles. My fingers slipped at one point and I ended up with a gouged cut on my thumb while building the trellis. That was frustrating.
However, the trellis worked very well supporting my pea plants. When the peas were done producing, it was easy to collapse the whole trellis and store all of the parts.
I planted my peas in rows along 4 trellises as shown below:
It was difficult to get a hold of the mature pea pods in the section shaded in yellow. It was a long reach and I had to weave my hands through the other trellis to get to the pods. It was not easy to harvest.
I think next year I'll try a different layout of the trellis, and thanks to the flexible C-Bites Garden Clip construction, I absolutely can build a different configuration for the trellis!
This is also the "takeaway" from the experience, or my plan for next year.
I will change the following:
This thought process helps you become a better gardener year after year. If you gardened with a partner (spouse, family, friend) you might take an hour over coffee or a meal and have this conversation. You may find you'll need to research some topics to find out what went wrong and how you can do better.
This is how you make progress and become the confident gardener you want to be!