What You Leave Behind: Planning Next Season

Here in Oklahoma, we are in the last few weeks of the season. Soon my days will consist of pulling plants, hauling compost and laying out mulch, to put the beds into sleepy time mode. Before that happens, there is still much picking and plucking to do in the garden. However, it is time to start thinking of the next season. I need to digest what I have learned this year. The mix of plants needs to change to fit my goals and tastes. Most of all, it is time to think of expansion. Oh the joys of planning for the next season. It is like Spring Training for gardeners!

What I learned this Year?

Before I can get into the mechanics of expanding the garden, I need to understand what I did right and wrong this year.

My first lesson was the biggest screw up of the year. Keep my seedlings straight. Everything was going well when I planted my Beefsteak, Yellow Pear and Blue Cream tomatoes. Then, I transplanted them. They all got mixed up and I only vaguely knew which family of tomatoes were what. The result? My Blue Cream and Beefsteaks which were suppose to be in my new bed parallel to the old, became domain of the Yellow Pear. My remaining Yellow Pear took the south side of the tomato planting, the Beefsteaks in the middle and Blue Cream on the north side. It was a very Carolingian situation. Regardless, it is important to keep my bloody labels straight this next year.

Bowl of Tomatoes
No mixing them up in this stage.

Next, is related to my first screw up. I didn’t single stem my tomatoes. Honestly, I don’t think that hurt my tomato harvests and I did not want to damage my Beefsteaks by pruning them. I did that last year when I screwup which tomatoes where which. What it did hurt was my eggplant, tomatillos and Corno Di Toro peppers. I did not get the return that I would have hoped. Thankfully, I am not that big of an eggplant fan so I got enough for the eggplant parmesan and ratatouille to eat with some mustard crusted, roasted chicken. I did get two quarts of salsa verde, which should take me through the year and I have many peppers in the garden to offset an disappointing pepper harvest from a few of my pepper plants. It was dumb luck but that is generally the best kind.


I can get celery and onions to grow here but I still need work on improving the harvest. My onions were not bulbing as fast or as big as I want nor was the celery stalks as big and luscious as I wanted. I will say that celery had good flavor. It was not bad tasting, which can happen to celery that gets too much sun. Both those areas are going to be research topics for the off season. Hopefully, I can improve my result.

My Grande Onion

My potato yields were lighter than I wanted. I think it was a combination of a lack of water and potassium so I will be trying to improve on that next year. The yield was ok but I want better.

Vines were my next issue. I’ve always had some issue with vines in my garden. The infrastructure to grow massive vines just is not there but somehow I manage most years. I use my tomato cage walls pretty well but most outgrow then and require training. I need a better solution. My cucumbers did not seem to mind but playing with Jelly Melon made me decide to reevaluate my trellising system. They are spiny devils.

With a trellis on the mind, I have to think of the cucamelon. I love this little plant that could. When I transplanted it, I would have never thought it would create a 10 foot wall of vegetation. A shocker, since I was not expect any of the plants to survive.

8′ of Cucamelon Wall

Then there is my corn. It was a failed crop with some good results mixed into it. I was reasonably happy with the germination. It could improve but the germination was there. That was the goal this year. I really need to quit conserving seed as the replacement for lost corn plants was not as effective as it is with most plants. In regards to the quantity, I still need a bit more.

I had about 65 plants. With a full 72, I could get great germination but next year, I really need to look at 100 plants to actually get a bumper crop, I want. The real question I will have to decide is if I want to grow that much corn. That is 100 and something ears. What really did my corn in was picking too late and under watering. I need a more effective calendar so I don’t forget the crop hidden behind the cucamelons.

Another major screw up that killed my yields was not placing my ground cherries in a good place. Because of the cucamelons and the 4 foot wide beds, I struggled to get all the ground cherries. Most got lost as my faith in sticking my hand deep in dense vegetation is fairly low. I know what lives in and around my land. You don’t want to do that.

On the positive, I learned that my pimento peppers are absolutely amazing. I have had better luck with them than with bell peppers and they make a great replacement pepper. I intend to try and overwinter both my existing ones and try to see if they were isolated enough to breed true with some additional babies from seed I have saved.

Doux D’Espagne peppers have been a really mixed bag. I just can’t keep them from drying out, no matter how much water I give them. I suspect it is a fantastic variety if your climate will let it grow. They flower and produce peppers like a small plant and produce peppers like a big pepper plant. I have always struggled to get good yields from big peppers. I was hoping this was the magic sweet pepper but I will have to keep looking.

Baby Bok Choi is a fantastic green for Oklahoma. Because it is finished so fast, I think it can take more heat than the average cabbage. My test pot I grew after my main harvest did great despite the increasing heat.

Baby Bok Choy

If I was starting a garden over from scratch, I think I would only to 3 feet wide beds. After spending a year working on a 3 foot wide bed, it was much nicer. A 4 footer is manageable but 3 is much more pleasant.

Finally, I did notice that the plants I put the eggs under before planting came out a bunch stronger than the ones planted with a bit of worm compost only. I know the 5 yellow pear tomatoes with it, outperformed the 5 in the other bed that didn’t. The other bed also had my best soil. It was thoroughly broken down and black as night. It was so gorgeous, I was feeling guilty to mix the compost into it because it looked so much better without it.

Plant Mix

Because of the length of this post, I think I will save this for a topic of its own. I will say that the Baby Bok Choy. Pimento Pepper, Yellow Pear Tomato and Dragon Egg Cucumber will be back in the garden. They have all produced with gusto.

Tomatoes in back. the cucumbers in the middle and the habanada peppers in from of that then the pumpkin and spaghetti squash babies in front.

I do have to worry about my Pimento peppers because they where store bought. They could be F1 hybrids that won’t breed true. It is a risk to raise their babies. None of the documentation that came with them indicates that they are anything but a heirloom so I am running on faith.

A Pimento Pepper

I will also be trying to start stabilizing the genetics of my Chinese peppers as they have been amazing. This is a multiple year thing. I will have to study it to see what I am signing myself up for and what the odds are for success.

Look at that gorgeous pepper.

The Main Focus of Planning for Next Season, the Expansion

Rough Approximation of the garden

The biggest change will be revamping the fruit beds. Currently, my blackberries are in the ground. I was kind of hoping they would become an annoyance but they never did. Originally, they where a Navajo and Arapaho varieties. That was more than 10 years and I have no idea which is which now. Everything has moved and both where very similar to each other. I want to put a 4×3 raised bed and dig them up. One of the issues I am having is the grass keeps winning against my berries so I think moving them would be a bonus for a good harvest. Then I want to add two more beds next to them. One for the goji berry and another for some sort of fruit to be named later.

I also want to expand my east west beds an extra 4×3. Finally, I want to add a 4×4 that will house my carrots and parsnips.

My minor upgrades appear to be as bad as last year in terms of work. To be fair, I wanted three 4×4’s that never got built so it is still technically a smaller upgrade if you just include that as part of my garden. Don’t think too hard on this, I am trying to trick myself into thinking it will be less work than it is.

Wrapping up all this, is a goal of trying to create trellises for all my vine crops. Because these are going on the east, west beds. there will not be a shade side to have to deal with except in the early spring, when there will be very little on the trellis and late Fall. Even then, I am not sure our sun is not high enough in the sky to compensate for any potential blocking.

Currently, I am only 50/50 if I will do all the expansions. Quite frankly, I could just do the carrot/parsnip bed and blackberry and goji berry beds. I guess dream big and trim back with reality. I still have to hump a bunch of compost into the existing garden of the fall. Never count out my laziness, especially after hauling a few hundred pounds of compost.

Why Amazon, why? The total size of all my packages would fit in one of these boxes with plenty of room to spare. I can’t even get all the boxes into one picture.

Because I am expanding the garden, I have a big old list of things the buy for next year. The beds are purchased and in my grubby little hands. Then there is more gerbil bedding. I will likely need two big bags. Next, I will get to build some new soil. This is always a bunch of work. There is a twisted part of me that just wants to buy it. I won’t but still. Then I need to figure out my trellising system. God knows that can’t turn out bad for me!

Expansion Plans in Red X are where I want to install a trellis system.

What You Leave Behind

There is a part of me that does not want to let this garden go. By planning for the next season, I feel like I’m cheating on my garden. It is not technically dead yet.

It has been the best year I have ever had and I don’t really want it to end. Unfortunately, all things come to an end and so will this. I will miss this year where I had the hubris to try to grow Jelly Melons and Dragon Fruit. Tried all the thou shall not’s and experimented with my corn, potatoes, onions and so much more.

As I write this we re enjoying a 70mpg straight line winds with the highs of 80mph gusts so not sure what drama is going to happen tomorrow for cleanup. It might solve all my problems. Assuming the garden is still there in the morning. That would certainly mess up any planning for next season. 😛

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