The garden did not play out how I wanted it to. So far the only thing I’ve been able to harvest was the arugula. I have a few sunflowers too, but that’s pretty much it! I think my pumpkins knew that Halloween happened, because right before they started to look sad and have just gone downhill from there. All in all, this fall was not a success. But! I did learn a lot. I researched all the problems we had and have developed some solutions for the spring.
Problem 1: Caterpillars
We had a huge caterpillar issue! The were eating us out of house and home. It’s really impressive the damage something so small can have! It took me a while to figure out that it was caterpillars ruining my crops. They’re small, only about an inch and bright green (so camouflage well)! They’re normally on the underside of leaves, so it’s easy to not realize they’re there. I did notice what I thought was mold all over the garden. As it turns out, it was caterpillar feces! I had no idea! Here’s what it looks like in case you’re having this problem too and don’t know it.
The solution: Caterpillar Dust
Fortunately, there’s some powder that you can put on the leaves of your plants that when the little critters eat, they die. Normally I’m more of a ‘save the animals’ kind of person, but these fellas ate all my spinach, lettuce, half my arugula, and snacked on literally everything else in the garden except the carrots. And they don’t even turn into butterflies! They turn into moths. Super lame.
Problem 2: Soil
The soil I purchased does not breathe enough. What I mean is water doesn’t drain or soak into the soil, it pools on the top. Obviously this is a problem. My plants aren’t getting the water they need! And in spots I’ve started to have mold because of the water!
The Solution: Add material to loosen the soil
Once this harvest is over, I’ll add mulch, leaves, coffee grounds, and other materials that will make the soil less dense. Hopefully, after mixing these in, the soil is more loose and next spring water seeps into the ground like it should!
Problem 3: The Sun
This was definitely not a problem I anticipated. The half of my garden closer to the fence did well, the half further away from the fence seemed to be getting fried by the sun! Here I was thinking this was a great spot to put the garden because of all the sun, I was even a little worried about the fence blocking those plants from the extra light! And as it turns out, that’s exactly what they needed!
The Solution: Shade
This is a pretty obvious solution. If the plants are getting too much sun, I need to create more shade. The plan to do this is to get a meshing and put it over the garden, kinda like some children’s playgrounds. I’ll put a post up in each corner of the garden and and secure the meshing tall enough so I can easily walk under it. The extra shade to shield the plants from the harsh afternoon sun should solve this problem!
Overall, this crop was a good trial run. I learned a lot about how this area and soil work and was able to identify the problems and (hopefully) fix them for in the spring! I think that the spring will be a much better attempt for us. Maybe we’ll actually get some food out of it!