Annual Report on the Vegetable Garden and Harvest - 2018 Growing Season

This last week I've been sitting down with all the notes, images, and maps from last year's annual vegetable garden, and seeing how we did.  According to my list of what we produced and stored, this year has been the most productive year yet for our 480 square feet.  It is hard to make a meal these days that doesn't contain something from our garden.

There will be a spread sheet at the end of this post showing what we have put by every year since 2012.

Potatoes - 1.5 bushels

Of our four main beds, one was dedicated to potatoes.  We saved our seed potatoes from last year.  The same varieties as last year:
  • Bora Valley (mostly blue flesh), 
  • Magic Molly (dark blue flesh fingerling), 
  • Adirondack Red (pink flesh), 
  • Adirondack Blue (blue flesh),
Plus one bonus variety.  In late spring, when our eating potatoes had run out, I bought some delicious red fingerling potatoes from RiverRidge Farm and liked them so well I saved two for planting.  
  • AmaRosa (red flesh fingerling) 
We didn't have huge potato yields.  And there was scab on almost all of the tubers. Probably do to a mid-season drought, combined with me leaving them in the ground well after they had died back and it was quite wet during that period.    I may buy new potatoes to get clean stock.  I do crop rotation, so hopefully I can keep scab from infecting all the beds.

Tomatoes - 9 qts, 43 pts sauces, salsas and soup, plus 4 gals dehydrated

This was a tough year for tomatoes because when there was heat there was no water, and then vise-versa.  Thanks in part to a lucky planting time combined with irrigation our tomatoes were ripening earlier than in my friends' gardens.  We had a decent yield, I didn't keep track of the number of bushels.  The first cherry toms were harvested around the Fourth of July.

As we started harvesting more tomatoes than we could eat fresh, I threw the surplus in the freezer.  I had enough frozen tomatoes to make a batch of pressure-canned tomato soup the first week of August.  Then at the end of the month paste tomatoes came on and I started canning salsas.  I have not loved my homemade salsas in the past, so I spent some time hunting down a cooked salsa recipe to pressure can that wasn't overly acidic or watery, or lacking flavor.  I found a good recipe that involves making the tomatoes into sauce and cooking the sauce down before adding the onions, peppers, garlic and vinegar.  While I dislike the tone of the blogger, his recipe is good: Thick and Chunky Home Canned Salsa.  I also took a stab at hot-sauce and made three different recipes.  Although, I didn't grow the peppers, so I'll save that for another post.

From July until our first freeze on October 16, I cut cherry tomatoes in half and dehydrated them.  Most of them came from our garden, and some came home from the farms when they had split ones or had more than they could sell.  Four gallons of dehydrated tomatoes were put into freezer bags and squirreled away for winter. These are still one of my favorite things we produce for ourselves.

Onions - a light bushel of 'Copra' yellow keeper onions and a peck of red 'Redwing' keeper onions

The same weather that held the tomatoes back, was bad for the onions.  I did have irrigation to supplement our paltry rain fall, but I didn't get straw as I had planned (I waited too long and then no one around me had any).  By the time I got some grass clippings to use, it was too late and the tops had started falling over.  Out at Joyfield Farm, I was helping bring in their harvest of softball size onions, while mine were more like a tennis or racket ball size.  I yielded about a light bushel of yellow 'Copra' storage onions and peck of red 'Redbull' storage onions.  That's not enough to feed our family through the winter, so I got an additional bushel of 'Patterson' from Joyfield.

Garlic - 65 heads

The garlic finished before the onions, I pulled our 100 heads on July 8th.  They were a decent size.  I saved the biggest cloves and planted them for next year's harvest at the end of September.  The remaining 65 heads should see us through to spring.

Cucumbers/Dill - 4 quarts pickles

I planted two hills of 'Harmony' cucumbers.  This is a variety I enjoy because it is both good for eating and pickling.  The spines are small and rub off easily when the cucumber is washed.  I didn't put up a lot of pickles, because we still had some left over from last year.  I did try fermenting a quart and those turned out well. We had more cucumbers than we could eat and when they were really coming in we shared the abundance with friends.

I planted a four foot row of dill and let a few volunteers plants grow in the garden.  I like using the dill flower heads when they are still budded for pickling.  That way the pollen doesn't discolor the brine.  We also eat fresh dill in potato salad and other dishes while we have it. 

Then towards the end of the season we start seeing black swallowtail butterflies visit. I look forward to finding the little striped caterpillars and don't mind that they eat the plants.  I bring in a vase of dill (or other carrot family) leaves in and we watch the caterpillars munch on the dining room table.  Just be aware that when they are ready to form a chrysalis they want to wander to find a safe spot. To keep them from going adventuring, I move them to a jar with a lid that has air holes poked in it.  Add a stick and dill leaves and we wait to watch it transform into a chrysalis.  A couple weeks later and you'll have a butterfly to release.  At the end of the season, those last caterpillars will overwinter in their chrysalis.  We still have two on our sideboard waiting for spring.

Basil - 10 batches of pesto

The other herb I grow in abundance is basil.  I allot a four by four square foot space that has about 16 plants in it.  In a good year, we can grow more than we can use.  My preferred variety is a classic 'Genovese' basil with its big leaves.

I have a kiddo who has sensitive skin and acid food like tomato sauce will burn his skin (and his whole digestive track).  Instead of the kid classic spaghetti and meatballs, we eat basil pesto on noodles at least two or three times a month.  This same kid is also allergic to tree nuts and peanuts, so he also gets sunflowers seeds or nothing and everyone else eats black walnut ground walnuts with their pesto. 

I went a little overboard last year and made 50 batches of pesto.  Follow this link to see how I batch freeze pesto.  We ate about 30 batches last year before we had fresh garden pesto.  This year I only needed to put by about ten batches of pesto for the winter.

The Japanese beetles found the basil in August, and we spent time hand removing them.  Picking them off the plants and then dropping them in a bucket of soapy water.  Once we had a few, they seemed to attract more and soon the plants were covered with them.  We sprayed the plant with a diluted vinegar solution in the evenings to rinse off whatever the bugs release to attract more beetles.  Basil is sensitive and I don't recommend spraying the leaves when direct sun is hitting the plants or when it is above 85 degrees.

Squash - 15 'Sunshine', 11 'Connecticut Field Squash', 1 'Musquee de Provence'

Hawkins Family Farm grew 'Sunshine' squash for their CSA in 2017 and I loved them.  They are three to four pounds each, one is a perfect size for our family to eat.  I grew three hills with 2-3 plants in each.  The plants had a little trouble with vine borer, but I used tweezers to pick out the ones I saw and all the plants made it.  We harvested 15 kabocha squash.  It is the end of January, and there are two left and they are starting to get soft spots.  They stored about four months.

From the Super Duper Seed Swap I got several different kinds of pumpkins.  Some didn't make it because of borer damage.  The Connecticut Field Squash took over and we got 11 large carving pumpkins.  The Musquee de Provence pumpkin got a late start and only one large pumpkin made it to maturity.  It is still sitting on the side board.

I didn't grow any butternut squash which are long keepers, so I got a dozen from Joyfield Farm that are still holding in the basement.  They will be eaten when the 'Sunshine' runs out.

As for zucchini, we lost several to vine borer and replanted.  We got enough fresh zukes to satiate.  I have frozen them in the past, but struggled to use them and chose not to put any by this year.

Sweet potatoes - half bushel

We had some problems with a vole nibbling the sweet potatoes.  I expected to yield about a bushel, but we had about half that.  They have been holding well in the basement root cellar.  I got an additional bushel from Joyfield to keep us going through the winter.  For the first time I have held back some sweet potatoes and I'll try to grow my own slips this year.

Green Beans - none

We had bunnies nibble on our 'Blue Lake' green beans and snip the shoots.  All this rodent damage is new to us.  Our cat, who was once a great mouser, is aging and the critters are finding their way into the garden.  Once other things got growing the bunnies let alone the beans enough for them to get vining.  We ate what few pounds of them we got fresh and didn't have enough to freeze.  (I didn't miss having them frozen.)

Closing Thoughts

It was a good garden year.  We are honing in on what the family wants to eat through the winter.  If we don't get enough of something, I place an order with a local farmer in July or August to get enough for the winter.  And if there is extra we share with friends and neighbors.  Now it is normal to go to the basement for onions and garlic to start dinner and open a can of our sauce when we make pizza.  It feels good to know where our food comes from.  I am happy to grow food without chemicals, that travels zero miles, and I know is grown in a way that builds soil.  Good food from our land for our table.

1 comment:

  1. I love reading these kinds of posts. Everything harvested is an asset and there's always something to learn for next year.