A review of this year’s garden…

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.

pretty trees
The trees are changing colors – here are some pretty trees – the view from our yard this morning.

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.

Here are a lot of the tiny tomatoes that have ripened, and some romas
tomatoes 1
A couple of the beefsteaks I got. I big red and a purple kind. And a roma above them.
tiny tomatoes
The rogue cherry tomatoes we have left waiting to ripen.

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.

A couple of tiny broccolini heads.

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:

the one pumpkin
Our tiny pumpkin.

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.

Here is the remainder of the harvest, sitting to cure before we store them (or just eat them all – my husband is a potato fiend).

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:

garlic to plant
My new porcelain garlic heads – hopefully my garlic will grow this big next year.

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.

sad garden
Here’s my main garden today – very sad and picked over.

Early Fall Gardening

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:

Some of our many tomatoes
Some very tiny cherry tomatoes. These are very tasty, and super prolific. I even had some sprout from last year’s lost broken tomatoes (I call them rogue tomato plants).
Some of our purple tomatoes. I thought these were Black Krim, but as I had others ripen I think these darker ones are actually blue beauty. I remembered Black Krim having a lot of green and these don’t.
The largest pumpkin I’ve grown, shown between my feet. These were supposed to be pie pumpkins. This is more jack-o-lantern size.
Another view of the pumpkin.
A nice sunny sunflower. This grew in my yard (not in the actual garden bed) , in an area that didn’t get mowed this year. The chickens didn’t eat it before it had a chance to grow either, so that was lucky.  I think the deer have stayed clear of my yard with all the dog and chicken activity.
The ducks enjoying a nice day in the back yard.
Here is our garden at the end of September.
Another view of the garden, from the porch.
Another large pumpkin. This one was hanging from our fence but I picked it so it could finish ripening on the porch. I like how the leaves look still attached here.
Downey checking out the porch. There are other pumpkins behind him.
A bumblebee on a sunflower.
A view from inside the garden in early October.
We finally are getting some cauliflower heads! I had given up, but then a few days ago I saw a white head. I tied the leaves up on the plant, like you’re supposed to. A day later I found another of my plants has a head, so I did the same thing. This is my first year growing it.
A pretty sunflower.
Here are the rest of the tomatoes. We are supposed to get down into the 30s tonight, so I got spooked and figured I’d rather bring the large ones in. It was a little dark when I picked them, so there may be others out there. These will ripen on the table. There are still a ton of cherry tomatoes outside.
Another Bee on a bright red sunflower.
butterfly 2
A butterfly on our zinnias. There has been a lot of bee and butterfly activity on all the flowers lately – I think some are getting ready to migrate somewhere, or store up food for winter.

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.

Early October on the farm

Fall is definitely here.  We’ve had lower temps – 50s and 60s.  We got a touch of frost – I saw some on the grass one morning.  But I think my house is in a bit of a microclimate – in our town there was a hard frost at the end of September, where you had to scrape frost off your windows.  We didn’t get that here – I’m only about 12 miles outside of town, but the way our property is situated we sometimes are spared from the frost.  I was worried things would die, so when we got the hard-frost warnings,  I harvested everything in the gardens that was anywhere near being ready.  I didn’t worry about things that can deal with frost, like Kale.  And then nothing happened, my plants that were left out there are all still doing fine.    Here’s a photo tour of how things are looking lately.

Here's what my garden looks like - a tangled mess with not much left for picking.
Here’s what my garden looks like – a tangled mess with not much left for picking.

I’m debating on whether to pick everything out, and cover it all with compost now, or wait and do that all in the spring.  Either way, the soil will have a layer of plants between it and the snow; I’ve read that is better for any mycelium networks (which are very helpful for your plants) – if you leave bare soil any beneficial mycelium that may be there can die, and you are depleting your soil.  That is why people plant cover crops – I don’t really want to do that because we really don’t have time.  Last year, we got snow at the beginning of November. I don’t think a cover crop would have time to sprout and grow.  So I may just use my already-there crops as “cover crops”; then in spring, I’ll pile on compost, and till it all in.  (I’ll still have to pull big stems out, like the old corn and sunflowers).

Our trees are very colorful – they had just started changing last week and then suddenly everything’s orange, red, and yellow (with a touch of green).

Here are some of the trees in our yard.
Here are some of the trees in our yard.
Another picture of those trees.
Another picture of those trees.
Here are the maple trees that we get sap from in the spring.
Here are the maple trees that we get sap from in the spring.

Most of my plants in the garden are on their way out for the winter.  Most of my sunflowers are spent, and have seeds that the chickadees have been enjoying.  I found this one that is a late bloomer.  It’s really tall but it fell over so it’s laying on the ground:

My maybe-last sunflower for the year.
My maybe-last sunflower for the year.

My marigolds are still going strong. They are so pretty, I love the orange color of these:

My marigolds.
My marigolds.

Our apple trees are doing well.  The biggest problem is that most of the good looking apples are way up on the tree.  I’m planning on picking a bunch more this weekend.  I picked a few several weeks ago and made apple butter.  I’m planning on making some more (since it’s delicious) and also drying some apples for snacks.

One of the apple trees.
One of the apple trees.
A closer view of those yummy apples.
A closer view of those yummy apples.

One thing I planted this year, just to try, was Amaranth.  I found out you can cook the seeds up kind of like rice.  I would like to try it but they are not ready yet.  The “flowers” are supposed to drop their seeds – you can test it by running the flowers in your hands, and if the seeds drop into your hand they are ready to pick. Mine are not there yet.  But they look like they are on their way:

Here's one of my Amaranth, it is a good 8-9 feet tall.
Here’s one of my Amaranth, it is a good 8-9 feet tall.
Here is the same plant, I leaned it over so I could get a detail of the flower.
Here is the same plant, I leaned it over so I could get a detail of the flower.

I got my hens some “chicken aprons” – they can wear them and it’s supposed to protect their backs from the roosters’ shenanigans.  I had the roosters separated but it’s getting colder, and I was worried that if the roosters are separate, they can’t actually do their job of protecting the hens.  So they are all together now.  Most of my barer backed ladies are now wearing these aprons:

Here is one of my australorp hens wearing her apron.  It doesn't help here wing "elbows", as you can see here, but her back is protected.
Here is one of my australorp hens wearing her apron. It doesn’t help her wing “elbows”, as you can see here, but her back is protected.

I also thought the aprons would help keep the hens a little warmer this winter.  Some of my hens still have completely bare backs, and I was worried about winter because with no feathers there, they would be too exposed to the cold.  They work pretty well, I do have a few hens that these seem a bit too big for. I ordered some standard size aprons from someone on Amazon.  They do have some smaller ones, I may have to get some of those.  Mine are all “standard” breeds but some are on the smallish side.  I have a barred rock hen that these didn’t fit – it’s like the middle bit of the apron is too wide to fit between her shoulders, so she just kept getting tangled up in it.  I only tried it on her for an hour or two, and then I had to take it off.

My escape artist chicken decided to pose today for me, I got some really nice pictures of her:

Here she is.
Here she is.
Here's another picture.
Here’s another picture.

She doesn’t have a name except “Escape artist” because if anyone gets out, it is usually her.  And she gets out almost every other day.  She must fly out, but then she can’t fly back in for some reason so I have to catch her and put her back in the run.  She sleeps in the rafters of the coop now, and she’s actually gotten one of her friends (my Cornish hen) to sleep up there with her.

Thanks for checking out my Fall farm pics.  I do like fall, but it always leads to winter, which I’m not really looking forward to.