Making a list of gardening successes, failures, and neutral actions helps identify the activities that may lead to insanity. By noting what hasn't worked, you can avoid pointless repetition and the rubber room. By noting what works and replicating it, you'll be perceived as another Einstein.
- Buying seeds from heirloom seed companies online is cheaper than the little packets at box stores and provides many more choices.
- A meat thermometer works well as a soil temperature probe.
- Wall-o-water (and similar season extending products) really does work and gave a four-week head start on growing tomatoes.
- Starting seeds under a grow light isn't as hard as I thought it would be.
- Properly hardening off seedlings reduced my transplant loss rate to zero.
- Kale really grows well in my garden.
- An overhead sprinkler on a timer helped keep soil moist for seed germination.
- "Sweet 100" did better than any other tomatoes I planted.
- Of the many heirloom tomato varieties I tried, "Grace Lahman" did worst and "Caspian Pink" did best, but none of them produced much fruit before the first frost.
- Leeks do very well in my garden.
- Swiss chard does very well in my garden and doesn't taste bad at all.
- The germination of corn, squash, and green beans took almost four weeks.
- Butternut squash grew very well in my garden but needed a few more weeks to ripen when the frost hit.
- Deer found my garden and returned more than I expected.
- Even short-season melons didn't grow well in my garden.
- Every asparagus crown I planted grew; doing it right made a difference.
- Beets, carrots, and parsnips grow very well in my garden.
- Rabbit manure and used bedding take a long time to decompose.
- The wind was strong enough to rip the plastic on my mini-greenhouse hoops.
- Straw is an excellent mulch but drops seeds that require weeding of new straw plants.
- Hairy Vetch grows well as a green manure.
There are many more things I discovered this year. Some were confirmations of things I suspected, some were surprising results of experiments, some were serendipitous findings. I tried to make note of what I tried and what worked and what didn't. Most of it is documented for future articles.
My list of gardening lessons learned will influence my gardening next year and every other. I've tried to grow melons in the past and never had any success; it's time to abandon that crop. "Sweet 100" is a tomato to grow more. I'll spend time next year starting seeds indoors and will use more wall-o-water-like plastic coverings to plant early. I think I can have success with corn, beans, and, squash if I cover the soil with plastic to heat it up days before I sow the seeds (this is where the signs of insanity begin to enter the picture).
There are some big garden projects ahead if I want to take them on. A deer-proof fence is needed if I want to avoid the damage they inflicted this year. My mini-greenhouse design is ideal for most areas but it doesn't stand up well to the 50, 60, and 70 mile-per-hour winds we get in late spring; a better plastic retention system is needed. Gophers broached my vegetable garden borders so I need to bury a barrier to keep them out.
If you're at the end of your season and the weather is getting colder, spend some time on a cold day to create your lessons learned list. If you're at the beginning of your season as the days grow warmer, keep track of things you try and what you learn along the way. Repeating this activity year after year is a nice way to avoid gardening insanity.