6 Garden Successes – Tips from What I Learned

Garden Planning · Gardening Tips & How-to's · In the Garden

Walking out to my garden can get discouraging at the end of the season. The most vibrant plants have begun to fade. Areas of weeds where I didn’t get mulch spread have outsmarted my efforts to control them.

Late summer is usually this time of year when I consider whether gardening is worth it. But in the back of my mind, I know it is. Since I talked about my garden failures in the 2016 season, I figured now would be a good time to give myself a pep talk by evaluating my biggest garden successes of the year.

6 Garden Successes and Tips


Finally! After several seasons of meager results, I finally harvested my best onion crop. With a 4 foot by 8 foot raised bed and one 10-foot row in the garden, I pulled up more onions than we could use. I froze 10 quarts of them — chopped, sliced, and kabob-ready — with the goal of lasting through the winter. (I have to say, scooping out a cup of chopped onions saves so much time in cooking!)

Onion Harvest | Journey with Jill

What I’ll Do Again: The onions in my raised bed grew more quickly and produced larger bulbs, so I’ll earmark one raised bed for them again. The ones in my garden grew more slowly but matured a good month or more later than the others, which gave me a second harvest. I have since learned that onions depend a lot on predictable spring weather patterns, but planting them a full month before my last frost, which allowed them more time to mature before hot weather would cause them to bolt, seemed to work great.

Tomatoes & Peppers Grown from Seed

I didn’t plan on not buying tomato or pepper transplants this year, but when all of my tomatoes and peppers I grew from seed sprouted and transplanted well, I had no need to purchase any.

Amish Paste and Hungarian Heart Tomato Seeds | Journey with Jill

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What I’ll Do Again: I started my tomato seeds indoors from seed two months before my last frost, and I used a heat mat for the first time. For the second year I used a grow light, which made a huge difference in growth compared to sitting the seedlings in a window. I did have to transplant the seedlings into larger containers once before they were ready to go in the garden. I will continue to use Roma and Amish Paste tomato varieties, but the Hungarian Heart tomatoes — though large — didn’t grow well for me.

Update 2017: Though the Tao Tronics Grow light worked very well for me, its range of light limited the number of plants it could realistically sustain. I’ve since tried this lamp, which gives light to three times the amount of plants for a similar price.

Good Potato Harvest

Potatoes are one of my favorite crops, though their success has been somewhat unpredictable in my garden. One spring, heavy rains caused most of my potatoes to rot before they formed good spuds. But this year Mother Nature was kind. I planted them in the middle of February (six weeks before my average last frost) during an uncharacteristic dry spell. This gave them the time to emerge before the spring rains came. I also mulched the potato hills with hay, which seemed to prevent the plants from rotting even in the spring downpours.

Potato Harvest | Journey with Jill

What I’ll Do Again: They key to a good crop I’ve noticed lies in the timing. Potatoes can’t be planted in wet soil. I’ll watch the weather and keep an eye on the soil carefully to choose the best time for planting. I’ll also plan to mulch with hay again.

Finally! A Good Corn Harvest!

My first year trying corn proved a devastating one, due to my inexperience in knowing when to pick the ears. This almost caused me to give up on corn. I’m so glad I didn’t. Thanks to a more careful eye, I harvested corn cobs to eat fresh, freeze, and can. Nothing sounded better to my ears than my 9-year-old son saying, “Mom, can we have corn on the cob tonight? Your corn on the cob is better than the ones at Chili’s!”

Corn Harvest | Journey with Jill

What I’ll Do Again: My best harvest came from planting in rows, instead of the Three Sisters Method, so I’ll earmark patches of my garden for that purpose. This year I planted two different plantings, which matured at different times. This was perfect for a longer harvest and more dinners with corn on the cob. I may try to plant three plantings next year to extend the harvest even further. As long as corn is watered well and fertilized at planting time, I’ve found them to be a pretty easy crop to grow (although I will get more proactive about the corn earworm).

“Please Come Pick My Blueberries!”

We had such a great blueberry harvest this year that I begged my friends to come and pick, please! I told them they could take home whatever they picked. Hey, it was a win-win, right? My blueberries got picked and my friends went home with organic, delicious, home-grown blueberries. This was all, of course, after I tucked plenty away in my refrigerator and freezer to last us all year, not to mention no telling how many cups my kids and I ate straight off the bush!

Blueberry Harvest | Journey with Jill

What I’ll Do Again: Blueberry bushes are pretty self-sufficient after they get started right. The only thing I’ll have to do is spread another layer of mulch (I use wood chips) and sprinkle some organic fertilizer at their roots as they start to bud next year. It’s nice to have that harvest you can pretty much depend on year after year.

Click here to listen to my podcast episode: Growing Blueberries: Tips for Beginners

More Peas Please!

Although I didn’t get to can as many peas as I had hoped, the crops I grew did remarkably well. I planted two varieties — Green Arrow and Wando — for shelling. The Green Arrow variety didn’t grow as tall, but their long pods produced more peas than the Wando, whose vines grew much taller and produced smaller pods.


What I’ll Do Again:  I saved peas from both varieties and I’m sure I’ll use them both next year, but I plan to plant more Green Arrows and hope to get an even larger harvest.

What were your biggest garden successes this year?

6 Garden Successes & What I'll Do Next Year

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  1. I enjoyed the pea video. I grew sugar snaps for the first time this year. We actually like them in the ‘middle’ stage you described, even with the pod (string removed of course!). I will have to try picking them earlier with the fall crop I recently planted. Thanks for the advice on when to choose to pick for seed for the next crop.
    I have had a good garden this year. I tried ‘lasagna’ gardening, and it worked very well for me. Got all my seeds from Baker Creek, and had 100% germination, so will definitely use and recommend them. Have not been really impressed with the yield from the Rutgers, but my yellow pears and orange tomatoes have been prolific. I also tried a new to me breed, Brad’s Atomic Grape tomatoes, and I can’t brag enough about them. They are larger than a traditional grape, very colorful, and one of the sweetest tomatoes I have ever tasted.
    I have had my share of garden fails in past years, but intend to expand my garden next year, using the ‘lasagna’ method. It didn’t cost me much more than I would have spent doing a ‘traditional’ tilled garden, plus no fighting to till our hard clay soil. Mulching was DEFINITELY a key this year. It allowed for less frequent watering (but I intend to look into drip watering next year for sure), minimal weeding (YAY, who would complain about that!), and this years bed won’t require quite as much amending since the mulch will decompose and add to the soil health.
    My key takeaway from this year’s success, is starting planning in the fall and preparing your area. The other was finding a good place for heirloom seeds with a good reputation for reliability. There are many out there, do your due diligence.

    1. Thanks for sharing what you learned! I’ve heard about the Atomic Grape tomato and I wondered about it. Great lessons you’ve learned this season! Sounds like you’ve had a great year.

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