Aphids were notably annoying in 2017. (Ryan Hodnett/Flickr)

Aphids were notably annoying in 2017. (Ryan Hodnett/Flickr)

Deer Gardener: Taking stock of a challenging garden year

By Elaine Nyeholt

The folks who love winter are in their element, and it’s good for us to be happy! Rejoice no matter what. For me winter is for cozying up with a blanket and writing, reading or cuddling with whoever will sit with me… usually a cat. The great hibernation has begun.

Garden magazines have arrived already, which provide endless hours of dreaming, pondering what varieties to use and opportunities to procrastinate.

A journal of the year’s successes and exceptions was really difficult this fall. With so little warmth it could not be deemed a “good” year for produce. Seed germination was deplorable in my yard. One strip of carrots (the kind in the tape) netted one carrot — which was very tasty, it’s true. Early sowing was not worthwhile at all, and I will avoid it in 2018. Why waste the pricey seeds? I think I removed the black plastic from our soil too early; it warms the raised beds if left in place and prevents leaching of nutrients in the excessive rain.

It took until August to get some usable leaf lettuce, but it was still growing strong until the heavy frosts. Lettuce should be the simplest of seeds to sprout. Surprisingly, after the deer were out-foxed my beans did yield a few meals for us, but overall it was a pathetic year.

My volunteer potatoes were very nice, however minimal. “As ye sow, so shall ye reap… sow not, reap not!”

The notable frustration this year was aphids in the greenhouse. They showed up on the petunias in hanging baskets first — I bought the petunias, so I may have imported them. The aphids moved to the cucumbers and delighted in sucking the life out of the leaves. At least they do not attack the fruit of the vines, but they are a pest to reckon with for sure.

I am considering what could be sprayed on the plants that would repel aphids before they even set up house… Rhubarb leaf tea with garlic or cayenne pepper? Any insight would be appreciated, as we have all “winter” to figure this out. I would love to hear your ideas at enyeholt@gmail.com. We are in this together my friends. It’s a battle of epic proportions with this evil insect. Ladybugs just do not eat fast enough to handle this plague.

The raspberry plants did very well, so that is one area of “happy” for me. They love to be wet, and boy did that happen! The grandgirls and friends were allowed to ravage them after the first few pickings proved plentiful enough for some freezer berries.

My strawberry bed was a waste of energy, but the plants grew stronger, and when thinned out will probably do okay if we have a warmer summer. I will not give up on them yet.

Blueberries were also very large, although less plentiful than some years. Pollination (lack of warm weather for bees) is likely at fault for this change. Large berries are nice… I am okay with that!

So, on to contemplating the next spring and summer. Enough garden journalling from my house. Enjoy your garden books and magazines. There is so much valuable information in the seed catalogues, I just love them.

Deer Gardener