A mixed bed in all it's late summer glory

A mixed bed in all it's late summer glory

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Asparagus to Zucchini 2016

By the time I finally finish this it is April 2017. Spring is late, as if to compensate for the late onset of winter.  The killing frost stayed away till early December. Even so, I decided the dark season from Samhain to Imbolc is resting time. The mind wants a turn. I took the greenhouse roof off in the last days of October, by myself. I will need help to get it back on, any day now. The snow is receding fast.
At the time I wrote this: Some bulbs were planted. About half the raspberries were pruned and the garlic is in. If we get some nice days I may putter, weed flower beds and spread wood chips in pathways. If cold and snow arrive tomorrow the remaining  work can wait till spring. After decades of this we know that work that is a chore in fall is joy in spring.


And now, the moment you've all been waiting for, the annual round up!


Asparagus.
It came up just fine. We had a few good generous meals and expected many more.
I did notice a few red spotted beetles on one plant but that's organic gardening for you, right? I briefly wondered why lady bugs would prefer asparagus. The next picking yielded a huge cluster of  bugs, to the point where I threw out some spears in disgust. I noticed they were kind of elongated for a lady bug. A little bell went off in my head and I googled asparagus beetles. Bingo. Photo by Google.
At first there was just the orangey red kind, then they were joined by a more speckled variety. 

That was it for the harvest. I did not want to stress the plants more and focused on picking off bugs. I also removed the mulch, because the bugs love to shelter in the duff. They did not get watered enough but are once again a vigorous forest. I still have to do their fall cleanup and give them a dose of COF. We shall see what the spring brings.

Beets
Meh. I love them, but it is a one sided affair. They took forever and stayed small in spite of generous applications of COF. One good thing: the improved golden beet performs better than the old variety. I will keep trying.

Beans
I planted three tipis of pole beans, 1 Emerite and 2 Blue Lake in the main garden.
Emerite was once again less vigorous and not noticeably earlier than Blue Lake. No more.
Some Roc d'or and a small section of Jade bush beans were planted in the greenhouse, and a patch of Delinel bush beans in the top garden.
For bush beans I much prefer Jade to Delinel. It is good at all stages while Delinel needs to be picked small. We ate lots and there is plenty in the freezer. For some strange  reason the beans in the greenhouse did less well than those in the garden. In other years I had a tiny patch in the greenhouse yielding tons. 

Broccoli
This gorgeous head was dinner on June 6! I came close to getting the succession right. They keep giving side shoots for weeks, but at some point it makes more sense to rip a plant out and replace it with a fresh start. The greenhouse works so well for getting lots of starts happening.

Brussels sprouts
 Not the worst we have had but not the best either. The plants looked great earlier but the sprouts were smaller than I like. No cabbage loopers but lots of slugs to make up for that. Also, the leaves turned a weird yellow, I have never seen that before.
They could have used more water in summer. By the time it got wet the days were short and the the slugs thrived on the moisture. Even so we have eaten many all during December. The last stalk is still sitting in a pail outside the kitchen door. I get the impression they would prefer to have the bed to themselves except maybe very early in spring. I have plenty of room for green leafy things elsewhere so I will do just that next year. It might be nice to have some narrower beds, just 2 feet wide, for crops like the large brassicas and peas on trellis that do not need three feet.


Cabbage
Not a bad haul at all! I started with half a dozen nice savoys in a single file large brassica bed, in between the ubiquitous kale. 
Remay kept the loopers off early in the season. Egg shells, sluggo and the vigor of the starter plants helped to deter slugs. Then there was the garlic/cabbage succession. In 2014 it worked, in 2015 it failed, this year it worked again. The trick is to have the cabbage starters as big as possible. This year I had vigorous plants filling their one quart yogurt containers, going in early August. Growing and harvesting is only half the work, then there is all the preserving. I made some sauerkraut and it worked! I should have made more but did not trust myself enough and just shredded/froze a bunch.

Carrots
Once again the early crops got slugged, in spite of being lovingly planted in between rows of egg shells. I finally got some going in one of the small squares after the potatoes had come out in August.
For some reason these came up fine, but it was too late in the season. I got some fresh carrots in October, the size you get excited about in early July.

Cauliflower
Not this year. Let's face it, they are prima donnas. Fortunately Andy the Intentional peasant at the market had a bumper crop and I got some for freezing from him at a good price. I don't freeze broccoli. I had been pinning my hopes on Romanesco, that crazy green broccoli with the fractal towery thing, as a fall crop. It performed beyond expectation in 2014, failed in 2015, and almost made it in 2016 but not quite. 

No matter how long the last frost is postponed, at some point plants stop growing. These Veronicas were tiny, still wrapped in their cover leaves, and frozen solid when I picked them December 6. It was the latest haul ever! The picture somehow makes them look bigger. It took all three to make one meal.

Celery
The good news is, I had tons of it from my own starts. Tango Hybrid comes up vigorously and is a good sport about being transplanted. I had it next to the Brussels sprouts and in between onions. 
The sad news is, the stalks were thin and tough, no good for salads. They do work fine for winter soups and I froze lots. I suspect they want more water and more nitrogen.

Chard
Last year I fell in love with Lucullus, a pale variety that is more like spinach. Planted lots but, I hate to admit this, it suffered from being taken for granted. It needed more TLC in the form of a side dressing of COF and more water and/or mulch. Wait. Slugs love both mulch and chard. Sometimes you just cannot win! I did get some but wanted to have more of it in the freezer. This year I will plant it again, but will also plant more Rainbow chard. It is more vigorous. Besides, I love how it looks in the garden. I want more chard for the freezer and will not freeze kale again, dehydrator only.

Cucumber
I had high hopes for the beautiful vigorous starts in the greenhouse. Two varieties this year: Sweet Success hybrid and Fanfare. Fanfare because Home hardware was selling seeds dirt cheap at the end of the season, Sweet Success because the reviews were so incredible. Early, girl flowers make babies without needing help, and disease resistant. 


The seeds were very expensive and the performance was disappointing. Cucumber must have heat. As reported earlier, July and August were relatively cool. I had enough for fresh eating but not tons. I am the only one in the family eating them so even two plants performing below par yielded enough with some to give away. I wonder if planting them in the bed in the greenhouse that has hardware cloth in the bottom has an effect? The yield in those beds, prepared with such care, has been disappointing.

Garlic
As usual the rot demanded its sacrifice, even though I planted in a new section that had never been cultivated before. Crazy thing: one of the small beds, about 3 X 8, was more than half rotted, but the other bed was mostly fine. I did not plant them on the same day and wish I had kept better records. 


Also as usual, the garlic that was intact kept just fine and I had enough for my small household with some to give away. I am still eating it.

Greens
I had all I wanted to eat which is not saying much. I really enjoyed having some greens in containers in the deck, for easy grabbing of a quick lunch time salad. I finally managed to get arugula seeded every few weeks and I grew a nice crop of Pak Choy in the greenhouse. Praise Sluggo!

Kale
Kale was its usual abundant self, bless the stuff. Dehydrated kale makes a nice gift to health conscious non gardeners. I grew red Russian, or rather it grew itself, Lacinato, and the traditional Dutch curly variety called Westlandse. 

I did get some aphids, but they are easily rinsed off with a good stream of water. 

Leeks
As reported earlier my own starts mainly failed. I bought some but they were pretty pathetic too this year. But wait! The  2017 crop has been started! Hope springs eternal in the gardener's breast.

Onions
I wanted to grow extra multipliers, the variety that grows best for me. Regular onions always get some kind of rot. Yes, I rotate crops religiously. Multipliers are mostly grown for green bunching onions. The bulbs are tough as nails and will survive sitting outside without protection. Even getting frostbitten and thawing out again does not stop them from remaining either edible or fit for replanting. They keep well as an eating onion too. So I thought I'd be clever and just plant them by way of main onion crop. Somehow many of them turned out to be ordinary onions, maybe two instead of one, but not the cheerful cluster of bulbs I was counting on. Too big and singular to be a multiplier but smallish for a main crop onion. Many were also attacked by the rot. I wonder if the fault lie in the bulbs? Could some of the sets have been mislabeled by the seed company? I planted some of the good ones in fall. Meanwhile it was an excellent year for those wonderful Egyptian Walking Onions.

Peas
Once again a nice harvest of Norli snow peas and Sugar Anne. I love having the earliest snow peas in the greenhouse. 
By the time the trellis is needed for cucumbers they are almost ready op top.

Peppers
The best EVER! 

In spite of the coolish late season I finally managed to grow decent bell peppers with a good thick wall. I kept them in containers on the table in the greenhouse and from now on that is where they will be. Only two plants each of Jalapeno and Bell yielded a surprising amount.
I may do more container growing. It is fun and age friendly. On a good day I am itching to get started on serious digging and hauling, on a bad day I can feel that I am not 60 anymore, 0r 70 for that matter. On such days the season ahead looks daunting, and I think it may be time to move into the village. Can you tell I have a mild cold as I write this?

Potatoes
A decent year, with the earliest meal ever as posted earlier. I actually did that chitting thing. I now keep them under Remay during flea beetle season in early summer. 
I had been hoping to see more potatoes growing through the piled up straw, but I finally learned that forming spuds UP only works with late varieties. Thanks for that to youtubing urban food growers Hollis and Nancy.  It does irritate me when food gardeners call themselves homesteaders but we will forgive these sweet people. Garden porn on youtube is my antidote for despair about the state of the world.
I learned from them that, just like tomatoes, potatoes can be determinate or indeterminate. Early varieties are determinate, and will only set tubers below the point where they first emerge from the soil. I never knew! 
We still ran out before January, but that is partly because we ate more potatoes this year. 

Squash
The success story of the year: BUMPER CROP! I have never managed to grow a meaningful amount of winter squash before, but I did it this year. The secret was using an unfinished compost heap, slightly flattened out to form a new bed in the newish section of the top garden, in between the asparagus and the former raspberry bed. 
The beginning, July 1st.
Six plants of Avalon hybrid butternut squash grew into a wonderful jungle by mid August.


 In September we could see green squashes hiding underneath the foliage.  
I picked one to test it. The catalogue said the fruits would be about 4 to 5 pounds. The first big ones were around 7 and the flesh was a pale greeny yellow, not quite ripe yet. I cannot stand food waste and made a mild curry soup out of it anyway that was surprisingly tasty. 
By early October I decided to harvest. I wanted that space for garlic, and I did not want to wait till autumn cold made the work a burden instead of joy. By this time I had learned that squash will keep ripening even after harvest. Tadah!

  They ripened to a beautiful, deep orange. Wonderful versatile comfort food. At some point in late winter I cooked them all up and froze them. I am still enjoying them.



 Tomatoes
This was not their finest year. First, a small tragedy occurred early in the season. I had splendid plants in one gallon pots waiting their turn on the big table in the greenhouse. 
They were so sturdy and I was so busy that it never occurred to me that they might be in need of staking. Wouldn't you know it, the very day before I was ready to plant them out they keeled over and I lost a bunch. I ended up with only 6 paste tomatoes. Roma never quite made it. Summer was coolish and by the time the trusses were loaded it was too late in the season. There was always a few for fresh eating, but never enough for canning or dehydration. The beefsteak tomatoes in the greenhouse took their time but did reasonably well.
Somehow I don't seem to have the knack for tomatoes. Needless to say I shall keep trying. 

And, last but least,

Zucchini
Only three plants but what more does one need? By the end of the season they did need all that room.
 They did great and were enjoyed, with plenty to give away.























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