In our busy days, we missed posting the usual seasonal garden update at the end of summer, and decided to wait on and share a summer and autumn combo. They’re the main growing seasons here in the Green in Real Life home garden, when things are usually blooming, fruiting, and filling the kitchen with fresh homegrown goodness. This year was a mixture of successes and failures, with unusual weather bringing unusual results, both bad and surprisingly good, and a few firsts, too!
Frosty Spring Crop Flops
Unfortunately, our late spring super cold snap did more than just burn tips and blossoms. The damage and entry points for disease it created in some branches lead to the loss of part of our Belgian fence. We may lose more after we get a good look at the winter bare branches to see what can be salvaged, what needs more hard pruning, or worse. It’s always a shame to loose a maturing plant, but it hurts even more when they’re part of a bigger living structure like the espalier.
As expected, most of our usual tree fruit crops were a total loss. Most of the blossoms or young fruit were lost in the cold snap. What plums survived were attacked by birds before ripening, although I don’t begrudge the birds too much this time around since their usual food sources would have been hard hit as well. We did have a small crop of nashi and pears on parts of the espalier. And a special shout out to the feijoas who produced yet another stellar crop despite all sorts of terrible weather.
Our surprise top crops of the season were melons. For the first time ever, we had an assortment of very happy rockmelon, honeydew, and watermelons. The melons were planted in very large fabric planter bags and allowed to sprawl across the mulched areas under the trees bordering our yard.
The ground is well-rooted with the trees and border hedges, leaving the surface as a mostly blank space. The big planter bags let us add plants without competing with roots or dealing with the other dramas of the clay soil below. The mulched areas proved to be a happy ground for the heat-loving melon vines, as long as we kept up with watering the planters during dry spells. Everything grew and produced well until cyclone storm winds brough fungal diseases to many of our plants and ended the growing season. We used the same method with pumpkins and spaghetti squash in another area. They were a little less happy, perhaps due to the semi-shade in that location, but still productive.
Our First Dragonfruit Flowers and Fruit
We were’t sure whether our glasshouse dragonfuit cacti would ever produce, but something enciting happened this year. We saw buds! Slowly, they fattened and grew into huge buds and night-blossomed. Instagram followers may have seen me in our stories out hand pollinating. I wasn’t sure how we would go, but we had a surprising 100% pollination rate and successful fruiting through to harvest from all of the first flush of blossoms. We also got a surprise second flush of flowers much later. Those fruit are still on the cactus, hopefully still getting enough heat as we head into winter.
The Veggie Patch
The no-so-summery summer weather made for mixed results in the main edible garden beds, too. Tomatoes were blighty for the first time ever, keeping me busy with contingency pruning and care, but still produced a decent crop. Storm winds decimated our cucumber vines and brought rust to our peas and beans, fortunately after most were harvested so we only lost the bumper crop there. The zucchini grew rampant until the cyclone, and then leaf diseases set in there as well. Tough growing.
The capsicums, chilis, and other peppers were the happiest I’ve ever seen them. Our neighbours said they had similar surprise results this year. Perhaps it was the heavy rains keeping their moisture levels up in the raised beds without letting things stay too soggy? In any case, it was a pleasure to have so many of one of my summer garden favourites.
Humphrey isn’t a fan of rain, but appreciated the cooler weather of our unusal summer and autumn. And, of course, helping me with quality control duties in the garden. He and his foraging pals ensured that we didn’t get to enjoy many strawberries (although they sure did). Carrots remain his home garden favourite. Outwardly, Humphrey is doing great and enjoying plenty of fun with furfriends. On the inside, routine vet checks picked up an issue with his heart that we’re monitoring closely. Please send good thoughts his way and keep your fingers crossed for good news at his next check-up.
Seedlings are sprouting in the glasshouse and garden beds for winter veggies, while the rest of the garden slides into our grey and wet winter season. I’ll be doing microgreens and winter potatoes again in the glasshouse after last year’s winter gardening experiments. Kumara were a no-go for tubers last winter. Instead, I’ll keep a few as houseplants for the winter and start again in the spring. Drop by our Instagram to check in on how things are growing in the months ahead, and I hope to see you again here on the blog sometime soon.