I learned that planning is important, which we all knew anyway, but I learned to take that one step further and have a back-up plan. In this case, in case of unpredicted early frost. You might remember that we lost nearly everything to a frost no one predicted back in the spring. We had to start over with a combination of purchased plants and whatever we could start from seed. So the lesson there was always have a back up plan.
Second, fertile soil is of the utmost importance. Without fertile soil you won't get good fruiting, or good leaf production. Without good leaves, the plant starves because photosynthesis is hampered. In our case, we amended the soil with composted sheep fertilizer, peat moss and black earth, but we were starting with poor soil and it all wasn't enough. Which leads me to my next lesson learned.
Compost is king.
Compost is so full of nutrients it's silly. It's worth every minute learning how to make good compost. That means, no coffee filters (an ongoing struggle at our house), no animal by-products, turning, paying attention internal temperatures and so on. There are so many different ways of making your soil fertile, I won't get into it all here, but it all plays a huge part in the life of your soil. No life, no produce.
Another lesson I learned, be patient.
Not everything can be accomplished in one year. We had a good harvest of peas, an impressive 4-5 pounds of tomatoes so far with a lot more ready soon, we harvested approximately 6 cucumbers, we have a couple of watermelons that are coming along nicely, a good batch of onions, and perhaps 5-10 pounds of potatoes. I know it doesn't sound like much, but it's a much better yield than we had last year. That doesn't include the tomatillos I hope will come through for me or the tomatoes yet to ripen. Last year, our beets did well, but not the tomatoes and we hadn't planted enough peas. Our zucchinis flowered their little heads off this year but produced nothing else, our basil and cilantro however, produced beyond expectation. The rhubarb everyone said I couldn't start from seed grew and thrived and became part of a bigger patch out back. So every year is a learning experience and we can't expect to be a success right away.
That hasn't kept me from being frustrated that I got 1 pepper out of ten plants. As the edited saying goes, stuff happens when you least expect it, in my case a sprained ankle. So allow for some set-backs and failures and focus on the good that came out of your garden this year.
How did your garden do this year? Let me know in the comments!