It is now mid-October and our weather is taking a turn for the worse. We’ve had a month or so of way too much rain, with a few days of nice temperatures and sun thrown in, until this past weekend – I had ice on my car window yesterday morning. I knew this was coming so we pretty much pulled everything in that remained outside. I experimented a bit this year, I grew some sunchokes and some crosnes – those grew but never flowered. The deer ate most of the sunchoke plants the other day. I am leaving them where they are to see if they will come up again in the spring. I grew peanuts and ginger. Our ginger did really well in the early part of the season, with our hot weather, but then we got lots of rain in the later part of the summer and the temperatures really weren’t warm enough – I have two plants and I have pulled them both in the house to keep growing, under grow lights. My peanuts, however, did really well, despite the rainy later summer/fall. Below you will see some highlights of this year’s garden:
I still have a few things in the ground that may be ok till the ground freezes – kale, brocolli, and some brussel sprouts. I planted my garlic and some shallots last week and covered them with some straw. All in all, I feel 2019 was a pretty good gardening year. I do wish the rain would spread itself out over the whole season instead of walloping us either early or late – this year we got nothing in the spring and way too much in the later part of the season. I am already thinking of what to plan for next year’s garden.
We’ve been busy in the garden. I am starting to get carrots now – I had planted seed tapes this spring, with tons of carrots. My double dug beds are supposed to allow you to cram things in, so I had seed tapes next to each other and carrot seeds spaced about 3 inches between (so I wouldn’t have to thin.) Because of our lack of early summer rain, the seed tapes didn’t do so well. I got several carrots, but they are spaced way far between – I planted about 140 with the seed tapes and I think there are maybe 20 or so that have done anything – but they are HUGE. I had a couple that were popping out of the ground, so I picked them – they were mostly dark purple and 11-12 inches long. I had planted a mixed blend (old seeds I had on hand), plus these dark purple carrots called Black Nebula, and some yellow and orange carrots.
The garden is doing well, but we are getting into fall and the Old Farmer’s Almanac is predicting some yucky weather later this month. (They talked about a snow/rain mix at the end of September. Yuck. I hope they are wrong). Hopefully I’ll get all my vegetables to ripen before we have to worry about frost or snow.
Summer is over, and fall is in full swing. The garden is now pretty much done for the year. I picked the last of the Kale and Chard yesterday, or at least I think this is it. I may go pick some more broccolini if it produces, but I’m at the point I get to every year where I’m pretty tired of the garden. Picking and processing things have taken their toll, and I’m now ready to just stay warm inside and not deal with a garden. I know that in a couple months I’ll be tired of winter, and again be perusing seed catalogs and getting excited for spring. This happens to me each year, I have found.
This was a weird year for gardening – most things grew ok, but there are a few things that didn’t. In the early season this year, we lucked out over last year in terms of rain – my seeds all lived and everything seemed to take ok. But this fall has been really wet and cold. We got so much rain that a lot of my tomatoes got blossom end rot – probably half of what I planted was lost, and even some of the rogue tomatoes. Thankfully I had a lot of rogue cherry tomato plants – those made up for the loss of other tomatoes. I did get a few really nice beefsteak tomatoes from the planned-plantings, but those were all ripened in the house.
My kale and chard did good; I grew broccolini this year – I had shied away from any kind of broccolli because I tend to have a lot of problem with cabbage worms. I haven’t had much luck with brassicas except for Kale. I remember my mom telling me once that broccoli wasn’t worth growing because of all the bugs in the heads. This year I tried broccolini because of the tiny heads. I am very glad I did. I grew about 5 plants, and it’s been a nice cut-and-come-again patch for us. You start the plants, and then cut off the first head that grows (which would be the main head), and then the plant will grow tons of tiny heads – those are the brocollini that you pick. I did have a lot of cabbage moths – I found worms on my kale this year which usually seem to be immune to them, but this year the worms were really bad. I think the tiny heads of the broccolini make them easier to pick the worms off. It was a bit time consuming for cleaning, but not bad. And the crops weren’t decimated, just a tiny bit munched on – surprising for how many moths were flying around. I’ve grown cabbage before and had the worms get it all before I even realized what was happening.
Some things did really well, and some things didn’t. We had too much lettuce – I will grow less next year. My tomatoes and pumpkins and squash were in the back garden, which ended up not getting as much sun as the plants needed. I think that and the rain contributed to the tomato problem, as well as the fact that my squash didn’t produce too well. We got a few patty-pans, some zucchini, and a yellow squash or two. But I had 6+ plants and we didn’t harvest nearly what should have come from that amount of plants; we should have been overrun but we weren’t. I did notice a couple of tiny zucchini rotting on the vine at the end (because of the rain, I think – I do think they had been pollinated). Next year those will all be moved back to sunnier areas of the garden.
My pumpkins didn’t do very well – I grew a tiny variety and got several, but some most of them were rotting by the time they were ripe enough to pick. I’ll probably grow a larger variety next year, in a sunnier spot. I missed having some for the freezer for this year. I had a couple pumpkins that rotted once we had picked them (they must have been on the way to doing that when they were picked) – I got one that actually is lasting:
We didn’t have a lot of luck with our vining plants except for cucumbers. I got tons and tons of cucumbers – we made lots of pickles. I gave tons of cucumbers away. And at the end the chickens got a lot of them, we got so tired of them – I grew a Spacemaster variety, and had 4 plants – next year I may grow two of them. Or one -we’ll see. I also grew an Iznik variety which is more of a salad cucumber, I believe – it didn’t have many seeds. I only got maybe 5 or 6 cucumbers from one plant.
My watermelon didn’t do very well – I grew a Yellow Doll variety and we got one melon; it was tasty but way too seedy – we won’t grow that one again. I grew some cantaloupe that didn’t get very big; I found that they need sandier soil than we have in that garden, so next year I’ll plant them in the behind-the-house strawberry bed/herb bed – it’s next to our foundation and has extremely sandy soil. I grew a tiny Tigger melon that got a few melons really late (I picked them last week when we had a freeze warning). They didn’t have a lot of flavor. Next year I probably will only grow one cantaloupe for melons and give up on the rest for now.
Our potatoes did fantastic – we got over 45 pounds of potatoes! I grew them in chicken and dog feed bags that were converted to grow sacks – I cut each bag in half, cut handles onto the sides, and then poked some holes in the bottom for drainage. I planted 2-3 potatoes in each bag, covered with some dirt (I used old composted chicken bedding from last year – it was nice and crumbly) and then once they had grown a bit I buried them to the top of the bag with dirt – then I just let them grow. I had 12-13 bags growing. I probably started with a few pounds of seed potatoes – I used smaller ones so I didn’t have to cut them. Our local feed store has seed potatoes in spring, so I was able to hand pick the individual seed potatoes I wanted. Next year I will weigh the seed potatoes so I know what I started with. We grew a red variety and Kennebec, a white variety. They are all very tasty.
If you read my other posts, you may have seen that we had a really nice garlic harvest. I’m going to be planting garlic today for next year’s harvest. I saved a couple of heads from our harvest that had really big cloves, and I also ordered some new varieties from Fillaree Garlic farm – I had been growing an artichoke and a purple striped kind, but the new ones are Porcelain garlic (I got Music and a German variety) – Porcelain garlic has 4-6 cloves per head! The heads I got are huge – almost like an elephant garlic but they are just normal garlic – I will be planting these today:
We also got a decent crop of carrots and beets, and beans and peas. I also grew edamame (soy beans) and those did fantastic – I will grow those again next year. I think the garden in general did really well, except for a few hiccups. I have already planned out next year’s garden layout – we’ll see if it holds up or if I change it in the middle of January when I start getting wistful for spring.
We’ve been harvesting tomatoes left and right. We’ve gotten a little bit of zucchini. It’s funny how you plan for the year and things just grow how they want, with no regard for your planning. Last year I was overrun with zucchini and yellow squash, so this year I grew one plant of each. They have not done well, so I’ve gotten 2 zucchini and it’s already October. With the amounts of rain we had this year (and it’s not done) the garden has been a little hit or miss for some things. Here are some newer pics of our garden:
The garden is starting to wind down a bit. We still have a lot of stuff to harvest, but most of it will be ok if we get frost. Carrots and beets are still getting larger, and I have some Kale to pick. We also have peas and beans, but I’m letting those dry on the vines. I’m hoping I get enough peas to make a little bit of pea soup. I usually don’t let them go that long (they are so yummy picked earlier) but I want to give it a try.
Today I harvested my onions. The onion bed got away from me for a bit, so they were entrenched in a jungle of weeds. I went to weed tonight and realized that most of them were probably not going to grow much bigger – they didnt have much of a chance this year. I planted them and then the chickens thought the onion bed was a fantastic place to dust bathe, so I put up a makeshift fence, and then the weeds tried to take over a couple times, and then the chickens found a way in again, and I just decided better to harvest now and actually get some onions. I’ll find them a better spot next year. This is actually the first onion harvest I’ve had – I tried growing from seed last year and they didn’t really take. This year I planted sets. Here are my onions:
I am growing potatoes in chicken food bags this year. I planted 9 bags with seed potatoes, but I noticed some of the bags had fallen over. One looked really bad, the leaves on the plant were a bit yellow, so I checked to see if they were ready:
As you can see, they have some way to go before we should harvest any more. I also have potatoes growing in the strawberry patch – I had planted some there last year and I guess we did not harvest all of them. (Another reason I’m growing them in bags). I may try tubs next year, it would make it easier to add more dirt as the plants grow. The bags were a little hard to fold up higher, and if they get moved the opening can get too small to let rain in, which is what I think happened to the one bag before it fell over.
I also harvested a bunch of greens today – mustard spinach, which was a seed packet I bought for this year – it has a really mild mustard flavor; and some kale and chard. I only have a few plants of each, but I harvest the outer leaves as they are ready, and the plant keeps producing all summer. It still gives us a lot of greens.
I also found my first bloomed sunflower of the season (growing in the onion patch, of all places – a re-seed from last year’s flowers).:
We usually have a nice hollyhock patch growing next to our shed – this year I’ve let the chickens and ducks wander the yard, first because their fenced run was too wet, and then we continued because they didn’t destroy the yard like we were worried they would – we only let them when we’re home because they like to wander near the road – we need to be home to shoo them back. Anyway, they’ve messed up the hollyhocks a little. A few of the plants grew well before the chickens could get to them, but any that were low enough for them to munch on got munched. So we have about half of what we normally would. Next year I’m going to put up some kind of barrier. Here is the first bloomed hollyhock for this year:
The garden is in full swing, and we’re starting to really see the results.
This year’s garden is starting to wind down. Our growing season is not typically very long. I’m hoping we’ll hold off on getting a frost for another month, but a lot of plants are done producing anyway. I pulled out our yellow squash, and picked most of the tomatoes. There are a few straggler tomatoes left on the vines. My son harvested about 8 ears of corn from his 10 or so plants. We still have a few things waiting to be picked, like beets, kale, chard, eggplants, and zucchini. Take a peek at our recent harvest:
We currently have a lot of roosters. We had 3 adults, and I’m not yet sure how many up-and-comers from this year’s hatches. I really wasn’t noticing the crowing, until last week my neighbor said something – he mentioned that the roosters were getting a bit annoying. His mentioning it made me notice it, of course. So I figured out who the worst offenders (at that time) were – it was mostly our older roosters Wonky Top and Splash, and one of our younger roosters from our first batch. I thought about it and realized that the only reason I had kept so many was for breeding purposes, which have now been accomplished. I have 14 chicks that were all from my chickens, so my older roos have spread their genes. We culled the three worst offenders, for now. We were planning on taking out some of the younger ones anyway, but I hadn’t planned on Wonky and Splash (since we named them), so that was a bit hard. We kept our best (and quietest) year-old rooster, General Dorko.
It has been quieter on the farm lately… or it was, until my silly little bantam roosters started crowing more. They are very small so their crows are little (it sounds like a regular rooster sucked some helium first). They are really tiny, so in terms of meat it would be a lot of work for not much payoff. I think I may sell them along with the hen. Her eggs are going to be small – the bantams were a bonus when I bought my hatching eggs anyway. They are cute, but not really what we’re trying to do here.
With all the harvesting we are having to do, I feel like I’m killing something every weekend. Actually, I literally have been lately. I need to figure out timing for future years. We did 5 rabbits a few weeks ago, then a duck (we skinned it instead of trying to mess with waxing / scalding – the meat was delicious). Then the three roosters last weekend. And I have a backlog of “animals we need to cull soon” – ducks, chickens, and rabbits. I have to do some rabbits later tonight.
Next year, we are not planning on hatching any chicks, so that will help. We won’t have ducks, since we are going to take them all out this year, and we don’t plan on having them ever again since they are ridiculously messy. The rabbits are relatively easy (no feathers to pluck) but it still sucks having to actually kill them. And they are eating a lot, or at least this batch is – I don’t know if it’s the summer heat or what. We were trying to decide whether to keep rabbits at all anymore, and I think that we will, at least one more year to see where we are at (if it’s actually saving us money or not). But I won’t breed them again this year, and I need a different schedule for next year – maybe a batch in spring, one in the fall, or something. Summer seems too hard on the does. We will be retiring Fire (our black Rex doe), because this last litter was only 3 bunnies – I don’t know if something is wrong with her or not, but we will be taking one of the younger bunnies we have and raising it up to be a breeder. I’ll probably sell her to someone as a pet.
I enjoy farming, I just need to figure out a better balance in terms of timing.
I have been growing Artichokes this year. I love artichokes – especially whole ones steamed/boiled with Italian dressing, where you pull off the leaves and dip them in butter. Yum. I tried to grow them several years ago living in L.A., but with my work schedule they didn’t get watered enough and they didn’t do so well. I’d read that they can grow as annuals in northern climates, so I planted 9 plants. Two have produced fruit! (Actually a thistle, not a fruit). They are pretty small, but I’m still very excited.
I noticed that one of my plants is now growing another thistle off the stem where one of the above fruits was cut off.
I think one reason that only two of my nine plants produced fruit was that they ended up getting overcrowded by my nearby tomatillo plants. The tomatillo plants are very large and leggy, almost growing like an indeterminant tomato plant. My tomatillos got fruit this year also. Last year I planted some very late in the year, and didn’t get any fruits. This year I got them in early and I have a decent sized crop – some of them are a little small, but they were ready to pick. Here they are in a pot boiling up for Salsa Verde:
I will definitely be growing more artichokes next year (and giving them more space), and more tomatillos.