We had a cool, wet spring, which delayed everything by at least a week. There was no shortage of rain throughout the spring, with the flip-side being a lack of sun during critical times (tomato foliage stayed wet at night, wet soil was detrimental to some direct seeded crops). Though it seemed like a (typically) warm summer, we had few if any days at 100 degrees or over, and far fewer in the 90s than recent summers. More moderate temperatures should be good for fruit set of tomatoes, but the high humidity blunted the benefit somewhat.
Due to the abundance of moisture, diseases were a far more significant issue for me than critter attacks; I don't think I saw a single tomato horn worm, and no more than a few tomato fruit worms; there were few stink bugs, no white fly, no deer attacks until late in the season (when I got a bit lazy keeping the water scarecrows with fresh batteries).
But....disease. It just happened to be a season when I needed to fully plant out both side dirt garden and driveway garden to get pictures for the book. I learned that the side garden, which produced such great results when we first installed it in 1992, is now just awful for tomatoes. Surrounding trees are now much taller and leading to reduced direct sun exposure. And the soil seems not only nutritionally tired, but sufficiently infected with Fusarium wilt that planting it wasn't worth the effort.
As for the driveway garden, my plants were just too close together to allow for air circulation and good drying; in a wet season, this meant a pretty heavy attack of early blight, with some septoria, ending with significant Fusarium wilt. For the quantity of tomato plants, the yield was very disappointing - though the flavors were just delicious for the most part. Hot peppers thrived, sweet peppers and eggplant did well. The other problem - and this happens every recent season - the 5 gallon grow bags are wonderful for Dwarf tomatoes, but when grown in the center of the driveway, end up toppling over. I don't have the driveway garden rigged to provide robust vertical support for those particular plants (the eggplant and peppers, which don't grow as tall and heavy, do fine). The bags that are placed against the edge tomato pots work, since I can tie them to a stake placed in front of the large pots.
Side (dirt) garden issues:
Planted too late
Too much rain - water often pooled
Garden location has degraded over the years - no longer sufficient sun, soil fertility falling, diseases increasing
Wasn't vigilant with Water Scarecrow battery refresh; hungry deer found me late in the season
Fair (lettuce, Sungold) to poor (beets, many other tomatoes) to no (squash, beans, many other tomatoes) yields
Planted too closely; insufficient air circulation/sun exposure to dry foliage
Weather brought on disease
Center tomato grow bags toppled
Fair yields for most tomatoes, but those that were harvested had excellent flavor
Sweet and hot peppers and eggplant did well
Very few insect or worm pests noted
Deer found the driveway late in the season due to a few instances of dead batteries in the Water Scarecrows
In my next blog, I will talk about some ideas for the coming season, and those things that will be done differently in effort to achieve better results.