A video and photo tour of our fall vegetable garden in its forth full year at the end of the season. I'm sharing what worked this season in our low maintenance garden, what didn't, and some of the varieties that I'll grow again (including a stunning cut flower).
Hello and welcome to the vegetable garden tour for year 4!
Uh, a deer fence moved to the top of the garden to-do list.
Once that was finished, we made progress on the garden plan through the second and third years and what you see here is a fully planted, producing vegetable garden.
Though one change we made to the plan was to add a flower cutting garden so I can grow the flowers I love for vases that the deer also love.
So let's take a walk through - you can watch the video tour below as well as the photo tour with my comments - your choice or both!
Fall Vegetable Garden Tour
The front of the garden is what you see in the photo above - a couple of rock-lined beds in front of the deer fence with and arbor entrance.
In those beds I was originally going to grow deer resistant flowers and shrubs, but then I read that deer don't eat rhubarb, artichokes, onions, or asparagus, so I planted these things outside the deer fence.
Guess what our deer eat?
Yep, in the fall they eat the (poisonous) rhubarb leaves. I guess they aren't poisonous to them.
They've also eaten the stickery artichoke leaves and the tops off the onions I had planted out here.
Once the asparagus grows into ferns, they do leave it alone, but I will be covering the beds with netting when the new tender spring asparagus appears.
As you can see, they did eat all the leaves from the mini pumpkins, but left the little pumpkins. Not sure why, since they did eat them from our front porch. Maybe the leaves were tastier here?
I won't try to grow pumpkins out here next year - I think I dodged a bullet with them this year, choosing the leaves and leaving pumpkins for me to harvest!
Garden Patio and Long, Narrow Beds
This is the view above once you walk through the grape arbor. On the right is the broken concrete patio and the section of the garden that is made up of 4 narrow 2x12' raised beds with a round rock wall bed in the middle.
Right now the rock wall is covered by nasturtiums, but it's under all that foliage, I promise.
The long beds have permanent cattle panels in them to grow tomatoes and vining crops (pole beans, cucumbers, peas). I alternate the crops yearly.
This year's wins were:
- Snow peas that produced all through the hot summer months (major win!). It was on a panel that was shaded by bean plants some of the day after they had grown and I mulched the ground with straw.
- The beans produced after a slow start - my first TWO sowings were eaten by both birds and ground squirrels, but the third planting under bird netting survived.
- A celery plant stuck in the spot between the peas and cucumbers thrived and continues to give us stalks to cook with.
And the fail...
The poor cucumbers suffered the same fate as the beans, but I didn't have any more seeds to replant and time got away from me.
A sweet reader sent me some seeds after reading about the situation in my newsletter, which I planted, but it was hot for sprouting and now it's just a bit too late for them. I do have flowers and will probably get a baby cuke or two, but not enough for the pickles I crave.
Lesson learned - I need to invest in a LOT more bird netting. You'll see later that it's not just for birds on our property.
The Round Rock Wall Bed
This was glorious in early summer with a 6-foot tall clematis that was in full bloom, a few small sunflower volunteers, and gentle tendrils of nasturtiums starting to cascade over the rocks.
Fast forward to September with a browned-leaved clematis, overgrown sunflowers, out-of-control nasturtiums, and plants that didn't produce well because of them.
Namely the zucchini I've grown in this bed the last two years just didn't produce this year, I think because of less sun.
Also this sadness:
Those are the wimpiest looking basil I've ever grown! In this area the last few years, these plants would've been covered with huge, healthy, dark green leaves and I would be swimming in pesto for the year.
This year, I was lucky to get only two batches and a few leaves for cooking with.
I know the culprit is too much shade. I also think the nasturtium may have choked it a bit - and for sure the black aphids the nasturtiums attract transferred to the basil, which I've never had before.
What to do next year:
- The clematis will always be big, so I need to plant the basil on the other side of the round bed where there is more consistent sun.
- No nasturtiums planted (or let reseed) here again - irony is I tried for a couple years to grow them, lol.
- The two zucchini plants need to live in a regular bed where they will get more sun and not be crowded (they also got mildew earlier - even with our dry and hot summer - because of crowding).
- There were also a couple tomatillos near the zucchini and they flopped into them - they need to be planted on a cattle panel in the narrow beds next year.
The Metal Beds
Behind the patio are three taller metal beds. There are two new blueberry plants in the outside beds and everbearing strawberries in the middle bed.
The strawberries have done wonderfully and have produced all season - we're still getting handfuls every other day or so, which I love.
The blueberries suffered during our 110 degree days in July, but they started putting out new growth and should be fine - as long as I free them soon from all the nasturtiums and cosmos!
The Rectangle Beds
Along the far side of the fence are the main 4x8' raised garden beds. We made these from a composite deck we dismantled and they are holding up wonderfully.
Four of these beds are planted each spring and the other two hold permanent berry plants.
The beds are a part of our low-maintenance plan, along with the permanent cardboard-and-wood-chip paths (they were growing weeds in the area after two years, so I just layered on more - super easy), and the automatic DIY watering system.
We're really happy with the layout and the maintenance. After taking care of the paths and planting, the summer was spent taking care of plants and harvesting - NOT weeding!
The bed above held a spring sowing of carrots and beets with a few cabbages at the back.
The ground squirrels found it in July and ate all the carrot tops. Luckily we were still able to harvest quite a few carrots since they had already grown some.
It now has the fall sowing of carrot and beet seeds I started in flats (in the shade where I could more easily monitor the watering so they'd sprout).
To give them some protection from the ground squirrels, I used bird netting, which has worked wonderfully. The squirrels would just eat through row covers, but this netting is hard to walk through so it seems to be keeping them out.
This is the other reason I'm going to be getting more netting next year!
Another bed holds the fall sowing of lettuce, kale, chard, and spinach.
Fall sowing is always hit-and-miss for me. The chard and lettuce are taking off, but the spinach is lackluster and only three small plants remain of the 7 kale I planted.
I just view anything we get as a bonus.
I devote a bed each year to peppers. I cover them in a "pepper house" made from pvc pipe and either row cover or perforated plastic, depending on what I have.
The ends are closed all spring and when it heats up enough (and overnight lows stay above 50), I open them, but keep the cover on all season long.
The peppers LOVE it and I can consistently get a lot of big, ripe, peppers in our (usually) milder climate.
The Tomato Beds
Most of the tomatoes this year produced really well, too. I grew some favorites as well as a new variety I'll be growing again.
Tomatoes I'll grow again:
- Pineapple heirloom tomato produced a lot of HUGE fruit (I mistakenly call one a 'mortgage lifter' in the video - oops). Love the color and flavor, too.
- Cherokee Purple is a long-time fav and I'll always grow them.
- Brandywine, though it didn't produce very well for me this year.
- Early Girl hybrids are always consistent and prolific and don't have as many problems with blight like the heirlooms, so I always plant 1-2 to hedge my bets.
- San Marzano paste tomato - always fairly reliable. I'm always looking for a good paste tomato, though.
- Juliette grape tomato - the perfect, most prolific grape tomato, big enough to dry and use for sauces, too.
- Black Cherry - with its great flavor, it's a favorite.
- Chocolate Sprinkles cherry tomato - this was a new variety I tried this year and really liked. Good flavor like Black Cherry, but starts ripening earlier since it is smaller and grows in clusters.
Tomatoes I won't grow:
- Mortgage Lifter (the real one, lol) also only produced a handful of medium fruits.
If you're wondering, I grow six indeterminate tomatoes in each 2x12' bed. I grew 13 plants this year with the Juliette planted at the end of the pea and cucumber bed.
I used to grow 18-20 tomato plants in our previous larger garden, so this is downsizing for me!
Cut Flower Garden
I've always grown a cut flower garden in with vegetables - I feel much more free to cut as many as I want for indoors when I know it's not where people will see the plants.
In this garden, I also don't have to worry about deer resistant varieties which is nice.
Some of what I grew this year happen to be deer resistant, but since our deer tend to eat things on the deer resistant list (like the crape myrtle in the side flower garden) - it's nice not to have to worry.
This bed holds a couple of new hydrangea bushes and annuals started from seed last spring:
- Tall Cosmos
- Pink & white tall Zinnias
- Multicolored Snapdragons
- Giant Asters
The flower winner this year was the Giant Aster. I started the seeds from Baker Creek Seeds last May and it wasn't until about the end of August that the blooms started coming.
Not only are they a beautiful flower, they last a LONG time in a vase!
The official names if you want to grow these lovelies next year are:
- Blush-pink flowers are 'Salmon Janina' Aster
- The other colors are 'Giant Perfection Mix' Aster (they include light and dark pink, purple and white).
You will definitely see them in my garden again.
Above is one of the half-grown 'Jarrahdale' squash/pumpkins I grew (I also fit the mini 'baby boo' white pumpkins in where ever I can). It took this awhile to get established so it's not as big as it could get, but I grow it for decorating and this will work just fine for that.
It's growing at the end of the cutting flower bed - in smaller gardens, you have to try things in different places and be willing to let things look a little overgrown and messy sometimes!
I also think it looks great on the broken concrete raised bed wall - reusing things everywhere, not just in the kitchen, is one of my goals.
I hope you enjoyed this fall vegetable garden tour with me and that you got some ideas or varieties to try in your own garden. If you have a tip or variety that you'd think I'd like, let me know in the comments!