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Gardening Wins and Losses – 2016 Garden Report

Tips and Lessons from the Garden

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. From gardening tools to bamboo tomato supports, and twist ties for securing tomato cages, most gardeners like tips, tricks hacks and tools that help us make better gardens.

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.


TECHNIQUES: Hugelkultur  B+
Year 2 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
  • Potatoes in large tubs           D-       Potatoes were small and few
  • Potatoes in Straw bales        D       Minimal harvest, yet the tops grew wildly
  • 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; great for tomatoes
  • Cattle Panel Arches              A        Great effect, squash and beans especially



  • Jet-Spray Scarecrow           B-        Kept deer away, squirrels still got in under the “radar”
  • Water-timer/drip lines       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 fairy eggplant.
  • Lemon squash (Heirloom) – We loved it, had boku and plenty for friends, relatives, and neighbors too!
  • Heirloom tomatoes – Cherokee Purple and Hillbilly Flame and several “blacks” -“Krim” and “Black Beauty” All delicious! Definitely a repeat.
  • Cucumbers (Slicing variety and homemade pickle) Kinda went overboard-but they were good if picked early.
  • Peppers (Hot) – Bumper crop on our upper garden…producing for three months and still going! Marconi and Poblano did the best of the sweeter peppers.
  • Cushaw White Squash (2016) – Had to brag about this 35 pounder again. Tasted great too!
  • IMG_2803


Carrots (Atomic and Purple) – planted in Mid Fall and they are looking great having over wintered in their carrot box.

Broccoli (Spring planting) – Fall planting performed a lot better through



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

Coleman Alderson

G. Coleman Alderson is an entrepreneur, land manager, investor, gardener, and author of the novel, Mountain Whispers: Days Without Sun. Coleman holds an MS from Penn State where his thesis centered on horticulture, park planning, design, and maintenance. He’s a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and a licensed building contractor for 27 years. “But nothing surpasses my 40 years of lessons from the field and garden. And in the garden, as in life, it’s always interesting because those lessons never end!” Coleman Alderson

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