2019 Garden highs and lows


Short version:  It seems odd to be doing an annual recap in September, but that’s how I’m rolling this year. 2019 was a great year for apples, lettuce, tomatoes, garlic raspberries, zucchinis, zucchini flowers, fava and green beans. I neglected my garden but plan to make up for lost time this fall.

Long version: We had an exceptionally beautiful and mild summer here in Vancouver. It rained more frequently than usual, so there were fewer wildfires and no smoke (yet…please keep your fingers crossed). We were busy with everything and I didn’t do much in the garden except pick fruit and berries. I didn’t even have my uber-garden friends over to see the garden this year as I was too embarrassed by how overgrown and dried out everything was (sorry Brian and Nancy).  I hardly took any photos this summer, but that may be more a function of me trying to break up with my phone than a lack of appreciation for the many beautiful things growing around me. 

The highs:

  • Our apple tree went crazy. The apples were smaller than usual and has fewer insects and imperfections. We ate A LOT of apples, and my son baked many pies. We have a freezer full frozen sliced apples and many jars of apple butter. My nephew and niece even got in on the apple-picking action.
  • Our fig tree produced two figs! This is the first year it has produced fruit.The tree is now about seven feet tall and fortunately has some decorative qualities.
  • It was a great raspberry year. Some days I ended up picking more than 3 litres of berries. I made lots of jam and froze lots for winter desserts. Late in the spring something ate many of the new canes as they sprouted, so I expect fewer mature canes next year, which will probably mean less berries.
  • Copper ribbon is the best. West Coast Seeds sells wide rolls of woven copper ribbon that slugs can’t cross. I used it to surround and protect my seedlings and they thrived.
  • I think I finally figured out how to sequence the planting. We had a pretty steady supply of veggies (which our neighbors loved), and I didn’t have more than one garden bed empty at one time. The herb bed has finally reached equilibrium. I am encouraging the parsley, dill and cilantro to re-seed itself.
  • The dogwoods are recovering. Both of our dogwoods in the back yard had some brown leaf disease last year. The arborist sprayed  them both several times with some kind of toxic chemical and they are doing much better.
  • The UBC Farm outproduced our garden. Every Saturday I picked up my weekly share of veggies from the UBC Farm CSA* and then spent the rest of the week trying to cook and eat everything before it went off. Some weeks it was just too much and I just chopped and froze the remains for winter soups. We ended up giving some of our garden veggies to our foodie neighbors, who graciously accepted bags of lettuce, overgrown zucchinis and Jan’s cherry tomatoes.  (*You can sign up for the UBC Farm CSA wait list for 2020. $680 = 20 weeks of veggies and 10 weeks of fresh eggs.)
  • The solar farm is producing. This is the second anniversary of having solar panels on our roof and the biggest change (apart from not paying for electricity) is how much cooler our house is in the summer. The panels insulate the house from the heat.

The lows:

  • The front yard experiment failed. The plan was to place a layer or two of corrugated cardboard cover over the entire front grassy area, and then cover it with dirt. For a year. This was supposed to kill all the grasses and weeds, leaving me with a clear, sunny area to grow more blueberries. Although most of the wild flowers are gone, the area is still full of grass and some kind of non-flowering woody plant that is covered with thorns. The plan now is to seed the area with poppies next spring. Who doesn’t love poppies?
  • Wasps or mosquitoes? Usually you get one or the other, depending on moisture, this year we had plenty of both. There is a wasp nest in the back, right-hand corner of my compost bin and every time I throw something on the pile, they get agitated. I haven’t been stung yet this year, which is a good thing. I am going to wait until it gets very cold (hopefully when things freeze) and will dig it out.
  • The end of the silvery glitter garden shoes. They were initially purchased for travelling as they were easy to slip on and off, but beinf totally waterproof, they created an evil foot microenvironment on the plane. But they were perfect for gardening and added some faux glamour to my horrible gardening wardrobe. They’ve served me well for four years but are falling to pieces.
  • The “F-you” boulevard. Since we live in a small Fiefdom outside the city of Vancouver, we have to ask permission when we want to do things like replace our boulevard with artificial turf. Our request was not only denied, but we were told that we would need to obtain a special watering permit if we wanted to lay down sod in that location. So this year, the husband planted barley or some other low-water grass crop and it is now about two feet tall and dried up. See how it contrasts with the emerald boulevards of our neighbors. Not one has said a thing about this to us, either because they don’t really care or because they are afraid to threaten their supply of organic veggies.


Okay that’s it. Good luck with being back at school/work and make sure you enjoy the rest of the summer weather. I will try to blog more frequently this fall/winter.

About Chrystal

This blog is my online journal to keep track of what is going on in different parts of the garden, different times of the year.
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13 Responses to 2019 Garden highs and lows

  1. Risa says:

    Enjoyable post, Chrystal, thank you!

  2. Pat says:

    Love this post and love how you broke it into highs and lows. The last 3 years have been odd, weather-wise so I can really appreciate your growing season and situation. It sounds like, all in all, you had a good year. And I LOVE the barley grass. Well done!

  3. patsquared2 says:

    I love your wrap up post – broken into highs and lows and what kind of year you had. It’s been another odd year weather-wise, our 3rd, and it has been tough to manage the extremes of 100 degrees during the day and 67 at night (the worst of it). It’s 67 degrees this morning but will be 88 today, I had a decent year but had to tap dance a couple of times to manage the heat, rain and cold air. LOVE the barley grass…an elegant solution to a less than pleasant situation.

    • Chrystal says:

      Pat, thank you for your kind words.

      I laughed when you described that you had to “tap dance” to manage everything that the client is throwing at you.

      I hope you have a great fall.

      PS: I’ve been meaning to tell you that I love the way you have repurposed items in your garden: your friend who made the comment has a narrow vision.

  4. tonytomeo says:

    Two figs? Is this the first year it fruited just because it is so young? They should not be expected to fruit will in their first year, and may not fruit in their second year of they are putting their energy into vegetative growth and root dispersion. A lack of fruit could be a good thing; although I would want more fruit and less growth. More growth means more pruning (for those of us who want the late figs more than the early figs.)

    • Chrystal says:

      Hi Tony,
      (Whoops, just realized that my reply was not to you)

      This is year three, and the first fruit that it has produced. I am fig-naïve so if you have any good tips for pruning figs, let me know! Thank you….Chrystal

      • tonytomeo says:

        Oh my! I don’t want to get started on that. It is not easy to be brief. . . . but to be brief . . . Minimal pruning (or only a bit of trimming to remove errant branches) allows more of the early figs to develop, but inhibits the late figs. Aggressive pruning (which, for me, is easier than letting figs grow wild) eliminates most or all of the early figs, but promotes more late figs. Therefore, the degree of pruning is determined by what figs are preferred. Some cultivars make better early figs, but inferior late figs. Others are just the opposite, with better late figs, but inferior earlier figs. One tree might make figs that are best for fresh eating in one season, and figs that are best or drying in another season. As the tree matures, and pruning is minimal, you can determine which figs are better, early or late, or if you prefer one type to dry. (It may be different from what you read about.) Most of us prune in such a way to get both early and late fruit.

      • Chrystal says:

        Thanks Tony! You are obviously a jedi-ninja pruner. Here in Canada, I don’t think our season is long enough for the late figs to mature, so I am going to favour the earlier ones. Thank you for your advice.

      • tonytomeo says:

        In some climates with cold winters, late fige are the only option, since new growth that would produce early figs gets frosted off. In realy cold climates, fig ‘trees’ can get frosted to the ground, only to come back with a vengeance to produce at the end of the season. Since yours does not get frosted back, you should probably just let it go and do what it wants. (I can’t believe I just said that.) As it matures, it will let you know what it needs. You will know if frosted bits need to be pruned out. Otherwise, you can let it go, and just prune it later if it gets too big. They are very accommodating trees.

      • Chrystal says:

        Thanks so much Tony! I love the “let it go and do what it wants”…great advice.

      • tonytomeo says:

        You are welcome. I don’t mean to suggest neglect. I just mean that you should be receptive to what the tree wants to do.

  5. Chrystal says:

    Hi Tony,
    This is year three, and the first fruit that it has produced. I am fig-naïve so if you have any good tips for pruning figs, let me know! Thank you….Chrystal

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