This year, in many ways, I bit off more than I can chew. It was a learning experience for sure.
Our garden was small, consisting of two beds in sort of a squarish parenthesis shape  with a narrow path in between and a wider area in the middle for maneuvering a wheelbarrow. I want my gardens to be of a size and scale that's manageable for harvesting. I like the idea of interesting shapes woven into the landscape, incorporating paths, hugel mounds and swales, to create lots of little micro-climates in a visually interesting, tapestry sort of effect. This shape worked nicely for my intended purposes.
We made one of the two beds a buried wood bed, and the other was a more traditional double-dug bed. Both got equal helpings of compost. The traditional bed was more productive than the buried wood bed this year, but I'm hoping to see what it can do once it really gets going in a year or two. We put a lot of old oak logs in there along with some brush trimmings and the ancient stuff we dug out of the old donkey/chicken pen.
Both beds got zero protection from deer, chickens, and other critters. This was another experiment - we plan on a fenced garden area area, but other things demanded our time/resources first and we do not yet have a deer fence. I'm hoping to get one in before next spring if all goes well. So this year allowed me to see at least what kinds of things can thrive outside the deer fence in the future.
My most successful plants were Joseph Lofthouses' Sprawling Groundcherries, which I will be saving the seeds from and planting more again next year. We only grew a couple of plants this year, but they did so well and were a novelty to everyone so we are really keen to get enough of the berries next year to make a batch of jam or jelly. My zinnias from Baker Creek were outstanding and are still growing strong. I got a bunch of herbs for free from my mom's garden, or cheaply from discount racks at the farm store, most of which are doing very well and I'm hoping will overwinter. The munstead lavender has grown almost twice as large as anything else, which surprised me, as I am used to thinking of it as a fairly slow going plant. My squash were growing really well until deer ate them one night, leaves, vines and all. Tomatoes struggled to grow and put on a crop all season and I only got a few small fruit, but my mom reported a lot of success with some extra seedlings I gave her, as did my co-worker. I know my mom planted hers against an east facing wall in a very well-nurtured bed. To be honest I didn't expect much from these in a first year garden made in what used to be a grass field, and our long wet spring didn't help matters much. Yellow onions did pretty well until the chickens discovered that if they scratched the bulbs up out of the soil, the patch was a great place to find bugs. Peppers were devoured by the deer, aside from the jalapenos, which still struggled somewhat. I got a small harvest from those. Hopefully this year is a benchmark to be surpassed rather easily in future years, as far as the garden goes. I especially want to investigate some of those things that supposedly repel deer, for plantings around and outside our fences.
There were no apples on the old apple trees this year, and no "wild" plums on any of our perimeter fence trees or any around this area from what I can tell. This neighborhood used to be a plum orchard back in the early part of the century and there are many, many seedling plums lining the ditches and roadsides here, but I never spotted any fruit this year. Our neighbor told me that last summer he saw a guy pull a truck in to the edge of our field and fill buckets of plums from one tree. I wonder if he is talking out of his ass, if we had a really off year, or if it's a bit of both. Maybe our wet, cold spring and/or droughtish summer affected them. I saw plenty of blossoms but not very many bees, if I can recall. Increasing the number of pollinator-friendly beneficial plants around our property is something I want to do anyway, but this makes me wonder if it is more necessary than I first thought. Our trees also look rather strange and are certainly old, neglected and overcrowded. My plum tree questions probably deserve their own thread.
We managed to get a half-basket full of hazeulnuts - maybe a pund and a half in shell - from both the standing filbert tree and the coppiced clumps. Leaving out vessels for the squirrels to store them like Joseph Lofthouse's method didn't work for us, our squirrels seem to prefer burying the nuts in our fluffy leafy mould to anywhere else and the scrub jays are also very industrious at pecking holes in the nuts, dropping them onto boulders from trees and getting the meat out. It took us practice to figure out which nuts were good and which were empty, withered hollow shells but by the end of the season I'd say we were pretty skilled at grabbing up about 80% good nuts and 20% duds. Our nut meats were not as impressive as some that were gathered from some trees growing alongside a local park, but those were in a wetter spot. I would like to propagate some seedlings of those trees to increase my plantings. I think if the trees were scattered in mixed guilds, or far from the house, or where the nuts can fall into tall/thick ground cover, like some of the hazels on our property, we would be far less efficient at gathering them, so I would like to extend the row near our house and mulch around them, and then introduce perhaps some very specific other plants so that gathering the nuts is still easy for us.
The walnut English and black walnuts gave a good crop, but I can't eat more than one or two without my mouth starting to hurt, so I don't gather them.
Right now is all about mulch. I'm gathering as many fallen leaves as I can for the garden, and layering with rabbit manure, chicken coop sweepings and chop and drop.
Our chickens working the garden.