Backyard garden month in review: August – September 2018

garden session update 2018

Welcome to the first of hopefully many monthly updates on the progress of my backyard garden.  The goal of this series is to document two things: lessons learned and yield from the garden.

What did I learn from the garden this month?

I’m an absolute beginner when it comes to outdoor box gardening so I wanted to provide some of the problems I’ve run into in the garden.  I hope documenting these issues helps solve them in the long term.

Here are some of the problems I plan to work through in the coming months.

Staking plants

My cherry tomato plant has gotten absolutely massive.  This behemoth has dominated one of my garden boxes and has output quite a few cherry tomatoes over the past few months.  However, in doing so it has completely monopolized the space in one of my boxes.

tomato plant huge
Definitely needs a trim!

One of my goals going forward is to look into trimming / pruning up some of the branches to encourage better growth.  The vines are starting to get scraggly in places and I’ve had to re-stake the plant multiple times.   It has gotten way too heavy for the original tomato stake I put in.

Similarly, my bell pepper plant has finally started putting out peppers.  This is a major milestone for me, since this was the vegetable that inspired me to setup a backyard garden.  It’s hard to find any bell peppers in my area for less than a dollar a pop.  I’ve loved the ease of grabbing these and throwing them in dishes whenever I need.

On the other hand, I may have forgotten that bell peppers have some heft to them, and had to re-stake the plants.

Trying to keep the bugs away

I’ve tried to keep things cheap with my pest control by using a combination of neem oil and diatomaceous earth (DE).  I spray neem oil every few days using my sprayer and apply DE in between when the plants are dry.

Considering I’ve lost pepper plants in a mater of days in the past, the DE does seem to be doing a good job at keeping the caterpillars at bay.  The downside being that my application process makes it look like I spilled a box of cake mix all over my backyard.

I’m not sold on the neem oil yet.  On the plus side, it definitely seems to be helping with the aphids that seem to love my plants.  This is a big step away from the kale I grew earlier this year that got absolutely infested.

aphid overload
These aphids absolutely wrecked my kale earlier this year. Hopefully neem will help going forward

That said, I’m still dealing with some other infestations.

My pepper plants in particular are performing well, but their leaves are looking rough.  This could possibly be disease or pests.  Some of the white lines in the leaves could be leaf miners, so I need to keep an eye on things there.

Seeding in the soil is rough

Throughout the summer I tried to directly seed in some lettuce and mixed greens.  These plants can output a ton of leafy greens surprisingly quickly and save a boatload at the grocery store.  A single small head of lettuce goes for over a dollar at nearly every grocery store near me!  Considering the output i saw earlier in the year for lettuce in my backyard, this could be a huge savings!

early 2018 garden
Pic from earlier this year when I did my first experimental seeding!

However, I haven’t lucked out with direct seeding lettuce.  It has been crazy hot out over the past few months, but I am less inclined to think that this is the issue.  I am more thinking it could be a combination of soil nutrients and my existing drip system (more on that in a second).  I might try some additional fertilizer on the next go-around or try a seeding starter kit and go from there.

Need to upgrade my drip system

I’m coming to terms with the fact that my drip system may not be providing enough water to every part of my garden boxes.  The system is almost TOO efficient for the specific plants it hits, however it doesn’t get to all the nooks and cranny’s.  This is preventing me from growing more, and I think is part of the reason my seeding system and corner plants haven’t done as well.

While I still am absolutely going to be using a drip setup, I think I need to rearrange the system and change out the emitters.  I might try and go with a slightly suspended system just using drip line, or I might just run more drip lines using some of the empty manifolds that I have.

 

How much money did my backyard garden save?

Almost all my plants have been champions.  My jalapeno plant has put out some great tasting peppers that I have been able to share with friends and family.  The sheer quantity of peppers my jalapeno plant has put out has required me to freeze some of the peppers!  You can see my documentation of the process here! (coming soon!)

frozen peppers
Frozen peppers last a long time and can be easily defrosted or processed for cooking!

As I mentioned earlier in this post, I’ve also been able to harvest some bell peppers and plenty of cherry tomatoes.  Considering how expensive both those items are to purchase in the grocery store, it’s been fun to tally the results.

Additionally, my herb garden has been performing extremely well.  I’ve used a ton of rosemary, green onions, and basil in the last month.  These items are crazy expensive to buy in individual packs and tend to go bad really quickly.  Having a steady supply to grab for whatever is fantastic!

If you want to see my methodology for calculating my grocery savings (especially when it comes to herbs), check out this post!

August Garden Savings: $13.76

Plant Using Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 in lbs  Price/lbs  Total
Tomato (Cherry) oz 7.2 3.6 0.8 2.3 0.86875  $         3.48  $       3.02
Jalapeno pepper oz 16.9 3.4 10.6 3.3 2.1375  $         0.99  $       2.12
Tabasco pepper oz 0.4 1 0.2 0.9 0.15625  $         3.99  $       0.62
Herbs flat  –  $       8.00

 

September Garden Savings: $14.50

Plant Using Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 in lbs  Price/lbs  Total
Tomato (Cherry) oz 6.2 2.4 2 3 0.85  $         3.48  $       2.96
Jalapeno pepper oz 1 3.4 1.7 1.2 0.45625  $         0.99  $       0.45
Tabasco pepper oz 0.1 0 0.2 0.2 0.03125  $         3.99  $       0.12
Bell pepper oz 13.3 4 7 7.5 1.9875  $         1.49  $       2.96
Herbs flat  –  $       8.00

 

So for two months of low maintenance gardening, my boxes have yielded $28.26 worth of vegetables!  Considering that this is coming from only four plants and an herb garden, I am pleased with the results.

Unsurprisingly, right now most of my “profit” is coming from herbs.  I laid this out in more detail in my calculation post, but in general single herbs are expensive!  If i can get some lettuce growing in the next few months, I expect to see a similar boost to grocery savings.

Additionally, I really want to fix some of the problems with my bell pepper plant.  I tend to use a lot of bell pepper, so if I can get more consistent growth, I think the savings there will increase rapidly!

Onward to October!

That closes up August and September!  Be sure to check back for more updates on my garden progress next month.  Want to get updates?  Be sure to join our RSS feed or subscribe to our mailing list for updates.

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