Cushaw White Squash - the squash that kept on growing!

Many of us who garden are perpetual experimenters and DIYers. We seek to improve and try new things, even at the risk of straying away from the “conventional” methods. Now that we have a global web to inform ourselves and others, we are bound to increase the range and degree of our experimental successes and, yes, share in our failures (or “mehs”) as well.

Gardeners are no strangers to testing new and sometimes old methods of growing. We grow we learn, we grow we learn. It’s in our DNA. And like DNA, our experiments keep evolving in an infinite spiral of testing and tweaking.

Plant DNA-Gardener's DNA is all about testing, tweaking and experimenting and
Plant DNA – (Image origin unknown. If you know the artist or source, please contact us).

In the spirit of pioneering, plowing new ground, and sharing the experience, here’s our short list of what worked and what didn’t in 2016.

As usual, we’ll gladly receive comments from you, our fellow gardeners, on how your experiments fared. Please, comment below or post on our Facebook site. And stay tuned this winter for new articles that continue to delight and inform on how to grow and live better on this amazing garden planet!



Hugelkultur                           B+     Year 1 So far so good

Hugelkultur raised garden bed experiment at
Hugelkultur makes up in production what it lacks in aesthetics.


Straw Bale Gardening          B+      Would give an A but the bales sagged a lot.

Our Upper Garden in June
Our Upper Straw Bale Garden in June

Potato Towers                      D-       Potatoes were small and few

Chimney Flues                     C        Saved some space w/ trellis but not as robust

Cattle Panels                       A        Used for caging tomatoes and trellising-very versatile!

Containers                           B         Just OK for sweet potatoes, bags did great with                                                              tomatoes.


Jet-Spray Scarecrow           B-        Kept deer away, squirrels still got in under the “radar”

Water-timer/soaker hose    A          Well worth the cost and set up time. A real winner!

Infrared Thermometer        A          So useful for germination and checking soil temps

Tunnel Covers                    A          Very useful for frost protection-extending the season

Spiralizer                           A           A mandolin-like kitchen device. Renders long                                                                  “spaghetti”

Compost Tea Maker Kit       A           Easy to make a 5 gal batch in just 12 hours.


Our tomato collection (plus a few extras)
Our tomato collection (plus a few extras)

Lemon squash (Heirloom) – Ask our friends, relatives, and neighbors who were frequent recipients

Heirloom tomatoes – Cherokee Purple and Hillbilly Flame

Cucumbers (Slicing variety)

Peppers (Hot) – Bumper crop on our upper garden…producing for three months and still going!

Cushaw White Squash – Had to brag about this 35 pounder. Tasted great too!IMG_2803


Carrots (Danvers heirloom) – nada

Broccoli (Spring planting) – no florets. Fall planting looks a lot better so far

Potato Towers – very little size and quantity

Golden Sunshine Runner Beans – all flowers no beans! 🙁


Smart Tools

Garden Pro garden planning app

The Garden Planner – Awesome interactive on-line program that plans and tracks-plus a timely   newsletter. It also has links to major seed vendors according to the variety of veggie which saves a lot of time paging through catalogues.1)

Smart phone – Allows us to take notes, photos, do reminders, id pests and diseases, and work in the garden while still “connected”. Can also exercise the option to leave it in the house when we want to be disconnected and left alone in the garden. ?

The WWW. –  Thinking how this expands the universe of gardening knowledge, networks others with common interests, alerts us to real-time weather conditions, and serves as a wonderful platform for communication that builds communities like

Trail Cam – Set up at our remote “upper” garden location to identify browsers and to see how protective measures performed.

We love our trail cams! We're using the Cuddle Back Trail Cam and have caught some interesting wildlife pictures.
Trail cams are a great way to capture images of the local wildlife passing by.

Your Turn

While we could extend this review for pages… (and probably will continue to add to it over time… because we haven’t even touched on the fruits yet), it’s obvious that every garden patch is different as is every gardener. We’re in Zone 7(a) and had a hard freeze in our lower (Southmost) garden on November 12th that took a toll on all our peppers.  Some 25 miles to the north and at a higher elevation, we are still growing peppers and tomatoes – go figure, right?

So we’d really enjoy seeing how your “experiments” worked out and please don’t be shy to include your misses as well as your hits. Like any enterprise, we often fail our way forward. And we are so looking forward to sharing more and more as the seasons come and go, learning and growing together.

Image from Pixabay

References   [ + ]

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Coleman Alderson is author of the Mountain Whispers series and frequent blogger on "I see myself as an outlier, a free-market entrepreneur, an eclectic reader and devout learner, a devoted family guy, a plantsman, a home designer-builder-remodeler, a conscious environmentalist, and a friend to humanity." He holds an MS from Penn State where his thesis centered on horticulture, park planning, design, and maintenance. "But nothing surpasses my 40 years of lessons from the field and garden. And the beauty of gardening is that those lessons never end!"