In my 3rd season of gardening, I've just given in to drawing out what will be planted where. I also had no idea that planning fall vegetables takes place in mid-summer. Jebus! I'm late! I think the single best thing to do is draw and write out everything. Farmer's at the farmer's markets are always helpful. I also checked out a dozen gardening books, and made sure to properly bookmark useful web sites. I could list out the many amazing books I found, but honestly just head to your library and see what you have available. I was mostly interested in when to plan what. The NC Piedmont falls in Zone 7; NC Cooperative Extension was useful in it's fall planning guide.
Since I have space for containers, I checked out some container gardening books. Needless to say, they were more creative and logical than I had intended they would be. I wrote down everything that I could glean from the pages in pursuit of better fruit next time, and hopefully a better and more abundant yield. I didn't have a gardening notebook/journal, but
I sure do now.
I think the raised bed did well enough after most of the plants matured. Things grew slowly and it was difficult in comparison to last year where things took off. The biggest differences were that I used the same potting soil but mixed in home compost and commerical compost and fertilizer that I had from the previous year. Last year I had bought those amazing 9 dollar bags of miracle soil and I think that probably had something to do with the speed and growth. In my feedings, I used compost and some plant foods, but next year I will test the soil, and adjust as needed with other organic soil amendments. We had a mild and rainy June-July with a much hotter and drier mid-July through August.
These things survived and did well enough:
Tomatoes: the bush variety in the raised bed, did well. I planted yellow pear tomatoes in the wooden barrel (without drainage holes) and they grew poorly. I had some roma grapes(?) in the raised bed, and they wouldn't grow at all. Finally, I had planted a tomato plant in early July and it was attacked by deer and has suffered from either shock or something else. When I dumped out everything from the compost bin, miraculously (to a new gardener) a grape tomato or some other cherry varietal survived and was growing outside of the raised bed. I mostly ignored it because I thought it would produce weird fruit or no fruit, until one day I realized the vines were collapsing under the weight of MANY little grape tomatoes. This plant is doing the best.
Basil: so much basil. I planted it 2 weeks apart over 6 weeks, and it has been the gift that keeps giving.
Mint: Cut from my friend Courtney, it was a straggler and has grown into a wonderful plant.
Flower pots: all have done wonderful (zinnias, marigolds, dwarf zinnias, purple lantana, medusa pepper and nasturtiums (with few flowers) nasturtiums did best in the raised bed, and worst in containers.
Carrots: the deer spared them, and they have grown in their pot almost all summer.
Swiss Chard: the deer wolfed them down. The bright lights did well in June-July if kept watered. I had some heirloom variety of swiss chard (given from me from a girl at Heifer Int.) that was heat tolerant, that survived the winter last year and is doing lovely in the raised bed.
Peas: Courtney shared some pea seeds with me, and these did awesome. They gave up in the heat, but my did they look lovely in June.
Cucumbers: Planted in early July and is a constant deer target. Grows almost 1/2 foot a day. Lots of flowers, 2 fruits. I look at it longingly day after day to will the plant to produce more fruit.
Canteloupe: Planted in early July and has survived the deer and borers. No fruit, tons of blooms. The plant is in a pot that is low to the ground so I stuck some old badminton rackets to support the weight of the vines. COME ON MELONS!
Here's what didn't grow well:
Eggplant: Deer took bites out of this plant, the marigolds took over because they were planted in the same pot. So it's either the deer, or too much in the pot. Last year, the eggplants did the best. Next year, I will plant 4 or more just in case. Every garden should have eggplant.
Jalapenos: Did poorly. They are in the wood barrel and this may be due to the soil being too wet. I have gotten a few jalapenos.
Peppers: All have done remarkably poorly. I planted 3 in hopes that one would survive, and they are now flowering. It may have been too hot for them earlier, but they have a dozen buds, so I'm hopeful they will get some catch-up growth.
Squash: both the crookneck and the zucchini got knocked out by borers. Next year I will cover with foil or cloth until large enough to fight them off.
For fall, I set out many seeds from spring. I tried to plant them according to my local area's suggested time frames.
Here's what I set out:
Carrots and radishes
Spring bunching onions