10.04.2017

Annual Report on the Vegetable Garden and Harvest


It is October, 2017 and we are approaching our first frost.  The garden is still straggling along; most of the harvest is in.  It is time for the annual report.  We moved into this house in the spring of 2012. After that first year, have steadily increased our gardening knowledge and harvest.

We had four garden beds, each four by thirty feet:
  1. tomato/cucumber/dill
  2. basil/sweet potato/butternut
  3. potato
  4. onion/garlic/zucchini

    and beans on the tee-pee
Potatoes

We started the year in early April by planting potatoes.  I grew four varieties this year, all from The Maine Potato Lady.  I ditched the 'All Blue' out of disappointment that they were not in fact all blue.  I chose four varieties with colored flesh; going back to my old favorites of 'Adirondack Red' and 'Adirondack Blue'.  And also, tried 'Magic Molly' and 'Bora Valley' for the first time.  In the past, I have left all my potatoes to harvest at the end of the season, then stored them and been discouraged when we couldn't eat them all before their eyes grew and the potatoes got wrinkly.  This year, I only planted one bed with potatoes and I dug them as we needed potatoes starting in July.  They were small, but it was gratifying to have those early tastes.


September 3, I began the full harvest digging all the 'Adirondacks' first.  Then as time allowed I dug the 'Magic Molly' on September 24st; and the 'Bora Valley', on October 3rd.  We have been eating the harvest as needed.  I took the bulk of the potatoes down to the basement to store in our cardboard lined milk crates.

We had maybe a peck of each Adirondack and the 'Bora Valley', a half peck of the 'Magic Molly', which is a fingerling potato and not expected to produce as much as the others.  Over all, the 'Adirondack Blue' is my favorite.  The 'Adirondack Red' is more of a pink.  Perhaps there is a better red fleshed potato out there.  More variety trialing is in order.  The 'Bora Valley' produced well, but was a disappointing wishy-washy blue.  The Magic Molly was indeed a magical dark, almost purple, blue and worth its space in the garden even with lower yield. 

Tomatoes

We planned on twenty tomato plants:
  • 12 'Amish Paste', 
  • 4 'Sun Gold' cherry tomatoes, 
  • 2 '100 Sweet' red cherries,
  • 2 slicers - 'Mortgage Lifter' and 'Pineapple'
We always seem to wind-up with a couple extra tomato plants, which we throw along the garage.  This year we had an extra 'Sun Gold' and '100 Sweet'.  Then two tomatoes the kids got from the Farmer's Market Kids Power of Produce program.  One was a red plum tomato and the other a red cherry.  The red plum was surprisingly productive, no splitting or other problems.  The German Baptist woman who was running the tent, said they were seeds she had been saving that had been passed down from her grandpa.  I should remember to save some of the seeds too.  Those little toms were great for Caprese and throwing in the dehydrator for sun dried tomatoes.



My paste tomatoes had a rough go.  They got some type of fuzzy white bug, probably wholly aphids.  I should have tried to manage them, but I did nothing and the plants produced, but not that much.  We also had to put netting over them, because there were birds pecking them as soon as they got color.  They yielded about a bushel in the first big flush.  I used them to make pizza sauce.  I had to buy/work-share for  two and a half additional bushels to reach what I needed for canning.  One of the bushels I got was a lug of heirloom slicers that were very juicy, but mostly water, and to get a nice thick consistency to my sauce, I had to cook them down to about 1/3 of their original volume.  It reminded me why I grow paste tomatoes for canning.

The 'Sun Gold' were slow to get started, but have been producing nicely, despite also being infested with wholly aphids.  The '100 Sweet' cherry are my pick for dehydrating.  It is nice to just slice them in half and pop them in.  I froze about two and a half gallons of dried tomatoes this year, most were cherry tomatoes, but some were from the farms I work-share with and some were random tomatoes that had split or needed to be processed immediately and couldn't wait for me to make sauce.

Of the two slicers 'Pineapple' was more productive and tastier than 'Mortgage Lifter' by far.   All that appealed of 'Mortgage Lifter' was its name.  'Pineapple' was a large, juicy fruit, yellow with a red/orange flame and had a full, sweet flavor.  It was prone to cracking, but self healed and sliced beautifully for BLTs.

Alliums



The garlic was lovely this year.  Last year, I planted five by four feet with cloves.  I have been saving my seed each year, from heads I originally got from the Kindys four years ago.  In the spring, they came up well and scaped in early June.  I made some pesto from the garlic scapes that the kids refused to eat.  It was very strongly flavored.  I froze two batches to enjoy with friends this winter.  I harvested over 100 heads of garlic a month later.  It took me a bit to get them cleaned and into storage.  I held back the best heads to replant this fall and the rest of the garlic is in in the basement ready for the long nights ahead.



My onions were a bust.  I ordered sets from The Maine Potato Lady.  They arrived at an inopportune moment when it was very wet.  They had to sit awhile before I got them in the ground.  And then once they were planted we got a late frost and that was the end for 80% of them.  The few 'Red Wings' that made it past the frost, grew into huge onions. They had a great summer weather and lots of room after most of their brethren bit it.  Hawkins were nice enough to give me a couple trays of their extra bunching onions, which I planted in the now vacant space.  They grew well enough, but they aren't storage onions.  I work-shared for a bushel and a half of storage onions at Joy Field Farm to have something onhand.

Cucumbers and Dill

It seems natural to grow cucumbers and dill next to each other.  We had a good pickle season.  I had more than enough for our dill pickle needs and plenty to share with neighbors.  I planted two kinds of cucumbers 'Harmonie' and 'Northern Pickling'  both were older seed, so I hedged my bets and put two pips of each in my three hills.  Surprisingly both germinated.  The 'Harmonie' were clear favorites.  They have a darker green skin with lots of tiny bumps and a sweet firm flesh.  The 'Northern Pickling' had the larger bumps and lighter green color.  The flavor was watery and the seeds in a four-inch or larger cucumbers were much more developed and harder than the 'Harmonie'.  Guess which one I'll grow again next year?



Dill grew fine, like dill seems to do.  I have been growing a variety called 'Dukat Leafy' dill.  It is nice, four plants produce more than my needs.  For the first time this year, I didn't cut the heads off to prevent self-seeding.  Instead, I let the seeds mature and (tried) to cut them when the seeds were starting to dry on the heads, but hadn't yet started to shatter.   I saved a lot of seeds if any local friends would like any.

Basil



I allotted four by four feet to the basil.  Basil is a finicky seed, and doesn't have a long shelf life.  Maybe my seed was old, but multiple sowings did not yield any sprouts.  We got 30 seedlings from grandpa.  Sixteen went in the sixteen square feet of space.  The others in random openings around the garden.  It was a great year for basil, very wet and mild.  We did a good job harvesting regularly to prevent flowering.  Last year we had a low harvest of basil and ran out of frozen provisions in April.  We had to go several months with no pesto and as noted in the allium section, the kids don't like garlic scape pesto.  So I was more ambitious this year.   Over the last couple months, I froze 52 batches of pesto!  That's more than I've ever done.  It's the outside goal of one batch a week for the whole year.

Squash

Zucchini is something Jeff insists we grow.  We've both come to like the yellow varieties because they are easier to see and pick than the green versions.  'Yellow Fin' is a nice straight variety that has become a favorite.  We had old seed and poor germination.  Then once new seed was acquired, we over seeded and then didn't thin, so production was low over all.  We did have a couple weeks of plenty in early September.  I didn't freeze any this year.



Butternut Squash is one of my favorites.  It gets sweeter as the winter gets darker and is one of the foods we can enjoy in the lean months of February and March.  My seed for this year was also not cooperative.  We wound up growing random bulk seeds from the hardware store.  They had a late start and are maybe going to make it to maturity before frost.  I've been bringing the squash in as they get ripe and harden up, we will probably yield 10-12 small ones.  I would have loved to have 20-30 butternuts to store for winter.  I got ten more from Joy Field to supplement our harvest.

Sweet Potato

It has not frozen yet and I'm letting the sweet potatoes keep growing.  This is my first year growing them.  I bought six slips of 'Beauregard' and six of 'Covington' from The Maine Potato Lady.  I'm excited to see what they have produced in their hilled rows.  I'll have to come back and update after the harvest.

Green Beans

When Junebug was little I decided she needed a space of her own in the garden, a tee-pee to play in.  I didn't think much about what would grow on the tee-pee, that wasn't the important part.  It turns out neither of my kids liked playing in it much, but it has been an excellent place for pole beans.  We grew 'Blue Lake' green beans because they were available at the hardware store and said they were string-less.  From the six plants, we yielded around three gallons of beans.  Most we ate fresh, but a gallon or so, plus another gallon and a half from the Kindys, were pressure canned into pints.  I've always frozen my beans in the past, but there wasn't room in the freezer this year.  I hope we like canned beans.  After the initial flush of beans in late August/early September, I've been harvesting a handful here and there. There are still flowers coming, but the season is almost over.

Closing Thoughts



And that's it for the 2017 Growing Season.  This was the year of the bountiful basil and the pathetic onions.  In our 480 square feet of space, we grew veggies and herbs to eat fresh and enough to fill most of my canning jars and the chest freezer.  The old coal-shoot in our basement that we use as the root cellar needs more shelves to hold all the goodies we stored for winter.

Next Season 

After spending time reflecting on the garden writing this post up, I have a few ideas I want to write down for my future garden-planning self.

Things to try next year:
  • Nasturtiums - you can eat the flower and the seed pod, plus they are pretty.
  • Save more of your own seeds, particularly try cucumbers and tomatoes - the wet seeds are always intimidating - just go for it.   
  • Be more proactive if onion sets don't take.  Make sure you are buying storage onions like: 'Patterson', 'Copra', 'Red Wing', or 'Red Bull'
  • One bed of just potatoes and one of just allium is good for our family of four.  
  • Maybe expand so you can have more room to try more pumpkins and winter squash.  Wouldn't some French Cinderella pumpkins be awesome for eating and decorating with? 
For more on my gardening and cooking adventures follow me on Instagram where I post daily @FoyUpdateBlog

2 comments:

  1. Wow! You did great! I love seeing your success, and that last photo is absolutely beautiful! Are those globe onions you had trouble with? I've never had much success with those but multiplier onions do very well for me.

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  2. I always think of Sarah Lockray when I start nasturtiums because they grew in front of her duplex when you were children. I love nasturtiums and had about 4 varieties this year in the ground and in containers. I always like canned green beans vs frozen -- hope you do too. Great report; I enjoyed all your observations.

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