To say my outdoor garden failed this past year is a bit of an understatement. Other than a small handful of cherry tomatoes and an equally small handful of super sweet strawberries no larger than my thumbnail, I wasn’t able to get anything edible. I was able to get a bunch of different types of flowers to bloom pretty much from late Spring through early Fall. That’s great for the bees and certainly looked pretty, but doesn’t exactly help put food on the table.
Before I get into what I think happened, and my plans for 2023, let’s take a look at what I tried planting.
What was planted?
In addition to the previously mentioned cherry tomatoes and strawberries, I had also planted white onions, carrots, bok choy, spinach, sweet peppers, thai peppers, and green beans. Other than the marigolds, cosmos, and miracles of peru, I’m not entirely sure what other flowers I had planted. We were also gifted some flaming katy and sweet william in the spring which survived throughout the season. There were about a half-dozen other flowers that came in a mixed sachet of seeds. There was a sunflower, but it blossomed and died early in the summer.
Everything failed, so what happened?
Well, that’s hard to say really. We had zero rain during the spring, which only lasted a month. Then we were hit with really high temperatures late May & early June, effectively frying the spinach, carrots, peppers, and strawberries which need cooler weather to grow.
Then, just as the tomatoes & thai peppers were starting to thrive in the heat, it disappeared and we had several weeks of rain. Even with some diligence in trying to keep the pots from overflowing with water, the sweet onions rotted in the ground and filled with bugs. A lot of the tomato plants withered and died off, likely due to their roots rotting out.
We managed a single green bean, which was tasty but doesn’t exactly make a meal. The bok choy barely sprouted before dying from all the excess water.
Failed – Summary
Basically, the uncharacteristic weather was a major contributor to my failed attempt at gardening this summer. It was hot when it should have been cool, wet when it should have been dry, and it was cool (cold, even) when it was supposed to be hot. Combine that with improper drainage for the carrots & tomatoes, and I had little chance of growing anything.
This year I also didn’t have a greenhouse like I did in 2021, so that may have contributed.
As I don’t want to repeat my failures, I’ve already made some changes for next year.
First, I drilled holes in the bottom of one of my big pots so excess water could drain. Then I drilled a hole in either side of the other big pot, whose bottom I lined with rocks. I’ll put the one pot in the other, allowing me to water it from below. The holes on the side will allow for overflow to drain. This will allow me to avoid the excess water issue my tomatoes, carrots & onions had this past season.
I’ve also transferred the soil from some of my other big pots to a potting tower. Again, this should help with drainage. It also allows me to better separate my sprouts and control the amount of sun they’ll receive as I can turn the tower to place them in shade. If I keep some “wet” plants in the bottom of the stack,they can drink from below while also benefiting from any dripped water/nutrients from the levels above.
2022 may have failed, but I’m really hoping 2023 can be a success. I’m looking into setting up a small greenhouse, but I’m not sure if my landlord will allow it. We get a lot of wind (and apparently rain), so some sort of shelter will definitely be needed.
I’m also hoping to change what I grow. Still trying for tomatoes and bell peppers, but I’m going to try potatoes instead of onions, and more lettuce, spinach, and bok choy. I’m not sure if I want to try some yellow beans, but strawberries are definitely not happening.
I’m also hoping to seed them indoors first. This didn’t really get to happen last year because of the move. Space is pretty limited (especially with my highly successful hydroponics setup). But, if they’re a little further along before I move them outside I think there’s less chance of failure.
Not every year is going to be a success, especially when the only gardening possible is in pots. 2022 was particularly bad due to strange weather and a few errors on my part. Hopefully I’ve corrected what I can and the weather will cooperate more in 2023.
In addition to my potted garden, I’m hoping to get involved in a community garden in the Spring. That should help me learn a little more and provide me with some produce that I don’t have room for in my apartment, like zucchini and cucumbers. In the meantime, I’m going to keep focusing on my hydroponic setup. It’s done very well.