Monday, October 12, 2009

Pre-fall review 2009

So much happened in the garden this year, and I learned so much, that it seems to hardly matter that my camera isn't working well and probably needs to be sent away for fixing so I can't offer any good pictures. Grrrr.

I had planned to spend today shoveling compost mix into the few new beds that hadn't been filled, but since a storm is forecast for tomorrow, complete with "heavy rain and wind," I didn't feel as confident that I could get it all moved as I wanted to, and Eric certainly didn't think I could get it cleared. Trying to tarp a mountain of topsoil in the driveway while it washed into the gutter didn't sound like a lot of fun, so I managed to delay it a week. Updated -- it's now Tuesday and raining cats and dogs. That was a good decision!

That's also nice because I have to yank the tomatoes to make room for topping off their beds, too, and I was feeling a little wistful about that. They might not be pumping out fruit, but they are still bearing steadily. This gives them, and me, a few days of reprieve. I had better go out and make certain the chickens have everything they need inside too.

So instead of current pictures, I figured I'd go over what did well, what didn't and how I'd change it next spring. Fall is starting up well, and I'll have to review that in, oh, May or something. I apologize in advance for the unbelievably long and wordy nature of this post. Feel free to treat it as a page of my garden journal that you're not really too interested in, even though I've tried to tell stories to liven it up. Go on, now, move along. Nothing to see here. . .

Fruit trees: The espaliered apples were a wonder this year, really coming into their glory. Fireblight devastated some of them, primarily the Fujis. I may spray a fungicide ahead of bloom this coming year, especially if it's damp and cool like this past spring. In January, I may try my hand at grafting to repair the chopped-up espaliers. There's just something unbelievable to me about strolling out into my handkerchief-sized front yard and pulling a delicious big apple off and eating it. Sometimes I'd pull a few before I picked up Ellie and Tor from school -- they were generally greeted by cheers. I'm starting to wonder where I might fit in another row of espaliered trees. . .

The plums were a disappointment. Either it was the year-on/year-off thing or not enough water or a combination. Hopefully they'll do better this year. I got not a single apricot from the Katy tree. I have hopes for it this coming year, as well as the baby Blenheim.

Persimmon tree didn't set any fruit this fall, which wasn't a complete surprise. It's still there, though, so maybe next year? We still need to thin the municipal tree so we get more light through it.

Citrus in the front yard is coming along nicely. I look forward to a serious lime crop this year, and the lemon tree is starting to mature enough to have a steady supply of lemons. I guess we'll just have to investigate some kind of cocktail. We may try to put in a Lisbon lemon also -- one doesn't always want the sweetness of Meyers. Tangerine tree is still fairly pathetic. Bad site, not enough water. It may just have to stay pathetic.

Tomatoes: Some blight, but not an unmanageable amount. I planted four or so Principe Borghese, and that was more than enough. I have about three quarts of dried tomatoes in the freezer, and am constantly looking for ways to use them up. I would plant them again, but maybe only two plants.

Sungold did what they always do -- throw out handfuls and handfuls of sweet cherry tomatoes. I'd probably plant another two of those, even though I swore at them a lot.

Early Girl was a disappointment -- I think she needed much more TLC than the others. I'm definitely going to plant again, and hope that the real watering system makes a difference.

Amish Paste was a nasty looking plant, but the fruit is nice. Dilemma! I need a paste/canning tomato, and I need a lot, but I'll have to try different varieites.

Stupice didn't make the cut for me. It was "just" a tomato, and I don't need its earliness. The flavor wasn't that interesting.

Cherokee Purple I will plant more of. Such interesting flavor, and big fat tomatoes, much more than any of the other varieites. In fact, we had a fried-in-butter half tomato to go with our eggs this morning. Yum.

Peppers: The hot peppers did well, and I would plant more Anaheims and Anchos definitely. I don't think I'll do ruffled Pimiento again. Seriously -- who needs Pimiento peppers. I have some new varieties to try and I'm going to grow a lot more sweet bells. Granny inspired me with her pictures of frozen strips. I want some of my own! I won't, alas, grow the piquin peppers again. They are so incredibly cute, ripening from glossy purple to orange to red. The fact of the matter is I'm afraid to eat them -- I bet they're too hot. I'm getting more adventuresome but not that much! I'm also going to grow frying peppers again, maybe more of them. One or two Jalapenos -- they're useful but not a huge standout.

Kale: The love affair continues unabated. I'm so excited about the seed saving that I've already picked out one or two plants showing the best characteristics of the True Siberian to save seed from this time. I've got Lacinato and red kale planted, so we'll see if they make the cut. I could eat kale four times a week. My family generally goes along with this. Tonight I think I'll make kale calzone. Yummmmmmmm.

Flowers: I'll grow more sunflowers and pansies this year, and plant out the Lisianthus I finally got to start. Maybe I'll get the poppies dug out of the vegetable bed finally. They're just too big. I have sweet peas out in the yard - we'll see how they do. And more zinnias! I know they're an "average" flower, but they make such spectacularly nice cut flowers for so long. They're still going out there. I'll have to sucession plant to keep powdery mildew at bay. I will definitely grow much more indigo this year. It was such fun to dye with it and I bet some of my spinning friends would be interested in their own dye bath.

Cucumbers: I grew some pickling and some lemon. The Marketmore never bore -- again, I think it was a lack of care on my part. The lemon cucumbers are a dream. I love the taste, love their enthusiasm, and still would only plant two. I don't eat that many. Either I need to plant way more pickling cukes or not plant them at all -- the two or three plants I had didn't produce enough to pickle; they just trickled in.

Winter Squash: Yes, oh yes. Many more butternuts and I may try to banish them to the back yard on trellises. I have a hard time not trying every odd Italian pumpkin I can find, but there are space issues. I'm also thinking that growing Halloween pumpkins would make the children happy and the front yard less bizarre-looking for passers-by. Folks seem to understand Halloween as they don't Marina di Chioggia oddness. . . I tried to cook a Triamble last night and its shape made it difficult to bake it evenly. There might be good sense in smoother, less-loby squashes. It tasted okay, but not much better than a Butternut.

Melons: I won't be growing more cantaloupe-style melons. They don't do that well,. and they take a lot of room. I'd rather buy handfuls from the melon ladies at the farmer's market. I may grow some more small red watermelons, though. Those were good.

Herbs: I'd like to get a small isolated herb bed started so we can get them out of the back bed, for example. Maybe I'll transplant that True Greek oregano into a small dedicated bed. . . Everything did well, and I just want more. Marjoram, Tarragon, etc. Basil was a bizarre disappointment. I think it needs to go out later and get more water (sense a theme?). If I'm going to have good pesto, I have to stay with the basil more. Parsley I always feel as though I should dry, but it grows year-round here, so I'll just have to remember to succession-seed it so it isn't bolting. More cilantro! I love it and it definitely wants to bolt, so a regular succession program for that is a must. I may have to revise my garden plan again. . .

Eggplant: I broke down and planted a Japanese eggplant. I will try very hard not to do that again. I don't like eggplant. I use it only under protest. . . why am I growing it?

Artichoke: I think we need another one out front, and the established one needs more food and attention. We love, love, love artichokes.

Carrots: They did well and we are growing lots more this year.

Asian Greens: More, as they did well, especially the tat soi. More, more more. . . I have a large jar of fish sauce to use up, three drops at a time.

Grapes: They, like the plums, need more water. They also need much pruning. I got enough for some yummy yummy jam.

Summer Squash: I grew both yellow crookneck and a light green hybrid called Cute Fancy. The yellow was yummy, but got terrible powdery mildew. I'd have to carefully succession plant it and yank at the first sign of white spots. The hybrid was/is a very very nice squash. I'd grow it again. In fact, I'm still harvesting from it and it's just now beginning to show any mildew. It's so light green it disappears in most food, which can be a plus for the zucchini-phobic.

Cabbage: Another "not again" plant, right up there with eggplant. When I want a cabbage, which is about two times a year, I'll happily buy one at the natural foods grocery. Even at the most expensive organic markup, they're very affordable. Maybe we should eat it more, but we don't. I'm always seduced by how beautiful they are in the garden. That's me, a sucker for a pretty face. Still. Must be realistic, I suppose. If I had a farm, I'd grow not only cabbage, but I'd grow keepers, and the pointy-headed, and red, and savoyed. Probably I'd take lots of pictures of them, and then feed them to the chickens or something mostly.

Beans: I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, we like green beans, especially sautee'd with garlic until there are burnt spots on the beans -- sprinkled with salt and sesame seeds, it's such a treat I've snuck them into movie theaters for a snack before. But I didn't keep up with the beans. Partially it was the disappointing harvest. I think I might concentrate on bush beans so I could freeze them, and maybe some Romano pole beans. I also would like more keeping beans and more shelly beans, but I'll have to stay on top of them much more if I want to eat green beans. Maybe I would have to instantly blanch and freeze any I don't want to eat right away, so they don't sit on the counter and become very very sad.

Peas: We want lots more snow peas, as they are the winners of the pea world as far as my family is concerned. The kids pick them out of soups and stir fries and fight over them at the table. Oddly enough, I don't find the prospect of more table bickering coupled with the need for constant picking and blanching and freezing troublesome -- it sounds like a way to store up something we love! This may explain the bean/pea thing -- we just like these more. I've also planted a large amount of shelling peas. We're trying that for a new thing, as Sarafina likes peas in her macaroni and cheese and I'd rather she were dropping our homegrown home frozen peas in than even organic ones from a bag. The tomato bed is planned to be fully replaced by snow peas. I wish I'd bought some yellow ones, but we'll enjoy the green ones too and they'll help the bed's fertility.

Potatoes: These were an awful disappointment. I grew two pounds of Yellow Finn in a cubical stack, and I harvested. . . about two pounds of Yellow Finn. I may have harvested them too early, and I may have not watered enough. I'm going to try with a lot more this year, but in the beds in hills like traditional planting. Do I have to use "official" seed potatoes? Can I just put some from the organic grocery in the ground?

Swiss Chard: (I accidentally typed "swill" for "Swiss" in that one -- Freudian vegetable slip?) As a child I was encouraged for my Sicilian father's sake to eat Swiss Chard. Unfortunately, it was cooked in fairly nasty ways and the squeaky effect of the oxalic acid on my teeth. I have four plants of orange chard growing, and that's about the perfect amount. I can stay on top of the leaf miner eggs for that many leaves, and since I only use a few leaves at a time, to round out a pan of greens or fill a calzone or soup, I can pick a couple from each plant and feel pretty happy. Same with the cabbage, though. I'm so tempted by the pretty. Maybe if I grew them as a cut and come again baby greens bed I'd eat them in salad and feel less guilty about enjoying their colors yet not using a big stand of them. Worth a try, I'd say.

Tomatillos: I liked these and liked having them. They got some nasty rust or blight just before they were all ripe, and didn't get as big as they might have. More fertile soil and regular water has to make a difference. I want more enchilada sauce!

Bees: They're not a crop, necessarily, but they're an integral part of my gardening. I look forward to another bumper year because I have (carefully-stored) supers of drawn comb. I'll have to mark them for rotation, though. No sense allowing any disease spores to build up. The poor bees have enough trouble with mites. I hope to check them regularly. I'll do one more after this storm passes, then leave them alone for a few months until January or so.

The garden expansion is so exciting that I spend some of my down time drawing and redrawing rotation plans. The lesson I learned, though, is that every project takes a lot longer than I had hoped and I get to exercise patience whenever I do outside work. It's going to be a long, happy addition, though, so a bit slow at the start is not a bad thing. I hope I learned good things this year that make next year abundant and me a more effective gardener. If you've read this far, thanks, and I'd love to hear some suggestions if you have any.

Also, I know Denise has gone through this kind of exercise also and I'd love to READ hers!


el said...

Hah! You're just making up for the pictures being 1000 words is all.

Re: paste tomatoes: San Marzanos. Bear prolifically, somewhat late, kind of hard to find the fruit but they're easy to seed/peel.

Winter squash: maybe the triamble wasn't "done" enough? (cured enough?) Sometimes they take a while to convert their starches to sugars. Anyway I hope so as I have about 8 of them, and they're BIG.

Beans: I grow bunches (bush) to freeze (skinny, medium and flat/fat) and then have the better-tasting (IMHO) pole beans to eat fresh and as shell. Maybe that helps?

And spuds: no, you do not need seed potatoes but it helps. Sometimes a lot.

I'll be doing a seed trade sometime this winter and can hook you up, especially if you send some of those weird Italian squash my way!

Jeff Vandiver said...

Oh my gosh, I bet your fingers are about to fall off! That storm that's blowin' through there is supposed to go right through here in another day or so. Like we need the stinkin' rain.....

Mr. H. said...

Great post! I love to hear how other peoples gardens did. Kale is also my absolute favorite green and perhaps one of the true superfoods.

Don't give up on the chard, try dicing it up really fine and adding it to salads...we love it that way. Good job on a great garden year.

kitsapFG said...

Fall rains have arrived here too. It's fun to read your evaluation of the growing season and the different varieties you grew.

Stefaneener said...

el, you flatterer you. I got a new lens to replace the erm, broken one! Pictures soon.

I was thinking San Marzanos -- they are the standard and I may even have some seeds.

You may be right about the Triamble. Still, it's an odd shape to cook. I'll see how the beans go this year. Part of it is attitude. I'll keep my eyes open for your seed exchange.

EG, I could have done a video, I suppose!

Mr. H., yes, I used to laugh at a midwife who pushed kale. Now I see how right she was.

kitsapFG, all three of our totes are full. I'll get to use them out front exclusively this coming year!

Jackie said...

Good on ya, for doing a complete write-up! You've inspired me to do something similar...eventually. For beans, I grew pole beans that produced quite well until they got spider mites in August. I had to pick them about every other day and I would store them in the fridge until I had several pounds. Then I would pressure can them. Not too much trouble really.

I had a terrible potato harvest, as well. Mine got some sort of blight. (I've heard it's common around here). They never produced flowers and I only got about 8 lbs from 8 plants. Organic potatoes are cheap and good from the farmers market, so I think I'll leave it to them.

Tomatoes: I'm thinking about ordering seeds for Amish Gold (cross between Amish Paste and Sungold). Are you going to grow Amish Paste again?