2014 Gardening Lessons Learned – Part 2

2014 Gardening Lessons Learned - Part 2

In my post titled 2014 Gardening Lessons Learned Part 1, I focused on planning gardens and starting seeds.  In this post, I am going to focus on 2014 Gardening Lessons Learned from building garden infrastructure and dealing with pests and blight.

Building Garden Infrastructure

14-foot long x 18-inch wide Grow Box - May 2014

14-foot long x 18-inch wide Grow Box – May 2014

Building garden infrastructure includes Grow Boxes, Beds, Gardens and Trellises, and there are a lot of lessons learned from last year, especially since I was building the infrastructure from scratch.  I will have a separate article about Hybrid Rain Gutter Grow Systems in the near future.

  • Once you have your garden planning completed, you need to start building your grow boxes, beds and garden. With the snow disappearing and end of frost approaching, you can plant your seedlings in the grow boxes, beds and gardens.
  • Building the infrastructure does take some time. Plan and build accordingly!
  • I use simple wooden frame boxes for my raised beds.  I call them “grow boxes” as a nod to the raised beds described in the Mittleider Method of gardening.  I have adopted the 18 inch wide box, which is one of the two widths of boxes in the Mittleider Method.
  • I built the box so it would be level from one end to the other and width-wise.  When I water the plants, water is less likely to pool around low spots.
  • The boxes do not have a bottom.  Instead, I used a double layer of cardboard followed by a layer of landscape fabric to prevent weeds from coming through.  So far, it has worked well.
  • I prefer building a trellis compared to tomato cages for tomatoes. Last year, I had tomatoes grow over 10 feet tall, and a tomato cage simply can’t handle one of those plants.
  • I like to support my peppers with a trellis (shown below) as well. I will post a video on how I made this particular trellis.  It is similar to all of my grow boxes.
  • Build trellises before peppers and tomatoes get more than a couple feet tall.  High winds and storms can damage your plants!
Trellis System - July 2014

Trellis System – July 2014


Dealing with Pests and Blight

Slugs on a Celery Plant. This Plant had 14 Slugs on it One Night - August 2014

Slugs on a celery plant. This plant had 14 slugs on it one night – August 2014

In Illinois, I only dealt with ravenous Japanese Beetles.  Last year, I came up against many other pests and blight that caught me off guard.  I will be better prepared in 2015.  Here are some of my garden lessons learned about dealing with pests and blight.  NOTE: I did not include a discussion about aphids in this post.  My battle with aphids is documented here.

  • Slugs were prevalent in the 8-foot box in 2014. This is due to the milkweed and other plants that grew in that area prior to putting a grow box in the area. I did notice that the slug count decreased as the hastas and milkweed were cleared away from the grow boxes (I had some hastas that were pretty close to my 8-foot box).
  • For slugs, beer traps were not successful. I need to use different methods.  Prevention will be critical this year as I expand and improve my garden this year.
  • I am going to try to prevent slugs by using woodchips, egg shells and diatomaceous earth. I will use the woodchips around the garden boxes, and I will use egg shells and diatomaceous earth around the plants.

    Squash plant with powdery mildew. Also would be attacked by slugs at night - September 2014

    Squash Plant with Powdery Mildew – September 2014

  • Powdery Mildew was a problem in 2014. The mildew came from peonies that grow around the driveway and along a line of trees west of the garden.
  • Powdery mildew really affected the squash and pumpkin plants, and I lost all of the squash and pumpkins that I tried growing in 2014. I need to aggressively attack powdery mildew early in the season when I notice it on the peonies, squash and pumpkins.  There are organic powdery mildew sprays that I can mix and others that are available.  I will have to explore this topic more in 2015.
  • Rabbits and squirrels continue to be a problem in the garden area. Rabbits are completely preventable; squirrels not so much. I procrastinated in 2014 and did not build chicken wire fences like I had in Illinois.  I need to be aggressive with my fencing strategy in 2015 and place fences around each of the grow boxes.   I will be looking at removable PVC pipe and chicken wire fencing.
  • Illinois Square Foot Gardens in 2011

    Illinois Square Foot Gardens in 2011

  • For the first time, I had caterpillars in the garden in 2014. I physically picked some off the broccoli and dill plants. I might consider adding a covering or hoop hood around the Hybrid Rain Gutter Grow System in 2015. That might keep these pests down to a minimum.

Of course, I talked about some of these issues on the Small Scale Gardening YouTube Channel.  Here is a video that summarized how the 2014 Garden Campaign finished up and some of the other lessons learned about the infrastructure and pest/blight.  I will post that video on how I made the trellis, and I will have another video on making a grow bed in the near future!

Your Turn

What infrastructure are you building for your garden in 2015?  How are you going to prevent pests and blight?

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