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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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In the Garden: Use lessons from harvest to plow into planning for next year’s garden

This is an ideal time of year to evaluate the performance of one’s vegetable garden so that next year’s garden will be even better. (Susan Mulvihill/For The Spokesman-Review)
This is an ideal time of year to evaluate the performance of one’s vegetable garden so that next year’s garden will be even better. (Susan Mulvihill/For The Spokesman-Review)

With the end of the garden season rapidly approaching, it’s time to reflect on how this year’s garden performed.

Two challenges were high temperatures and hazardous air quality from regional wildfires. While I feel the latter especially impacted the growth of many of our vegetable crops, there were plenty of high points worth sharing.

It was a hoot starting Green Arrow peas in a rain gutter this spring, which gave us a method for producing a large number of seedlings that were easy to transplant into a garden bed. We ended up with a bountiful harvest. The only challenge was keeping the quail from nibbling on the plants’ leaves.

New vegetable cultivars that I grew for the first time were pleasant surprises. Burpee’s Lunchbox cucumbers were productive, extra crunchy and very flavorful. Their Atlas hybrid tomatoes provided us with huge, tasty beefsteak-type fruits. Ed Hume’s Sweetness Bi-color corn was prolific and so delicious.

This was my first year of growing Cucamelons, which look like tiny watermelons and have a citrusy taste. The quail thought the seedlings were yummy so the plants didn’t get off to the best start. This means we didn’t have much of a harvest but I’m willing to try again next year and fully intend to protect the seedlings early on.

A friend who grew up in the South inspired me to try Cushaw winter squash. The fruits are white with green stripes and grew quite nicely in our Inland Northwest climate. I’ve heard they make the most delicious pies and am looking forward to verifying that claim soon.

Our two raised beds of melons – Tuscan Napoli cantaloupe and Ha Ogen honeydew – outdid themselves by producing a total of 42 delicious melons. What did we do with them all? Aside from indulging in fresh melon daily, we shared some with friends and donated others to the food bank.

The two potato varieties we planted this year – Viking Purple and Blue Belle – gave us our best harvest ever. The foliage stayed green and healthy all season long, in contrast to some years when the plants have struggled.

We had mixed results in our onion beds. While our long-storing Copra onions grew well, the Walla Walla Sweets were a huge disappointment. For some reason, they stopped growing early in the season and did not produce the large bulbs we all know and love. However, Ed Hume’s heirloom Italian Red Torpedo onions were a wonderful discovery; we’ll grow them again next year.

Our Musica pole beans, which we always grow on an arbor, weren’t nearly as productive as in previous years but I have myself to blame for that. I planted them in two raised beds that didn’t get quite as much sunlight as the rest of the garden. Note to self: don’t make that mistake again.

In May, I wrote a column about how my husband, Bill, has been trying to take over the vegetable garden, which simply will not do. However, I am willing to swallow my pride and tell you that he grew the most fantastic crop of sweet and hot peppers in our hoop house. Since I’m benefiting from that bounty, I guess it’s OK to let him have a little space after all.

This is my final column of the 2018 garden season. I will continue to write about all aspects of gardening on my blog ( and Facebook page ( so don’t be a stranger.

Susan Mulvihill is co-author, with Pat Munts, of “Northwest Gardener’s Handbook.” Contact her at Watch this week’s “Everyone Can Grow A Garden” video on

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