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.

tomatoes
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.

brocollini
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.

potatoes
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.
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Harvesting the garden…

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:

tomatos
I grew five varieties of tomatoes this year: Early Girl, Druzba, a Blue type, Cherry (very tiny) and some Romas. We got a good crop of them this year.
canned-tomatoes
My first attempt at canning tomatoes! I think it went alright. The half pint jars were a little small, I have realized. I will do pint jars for the next batch I can.
green-tomatoes
My canning book talks about picking tomatoes green and letting them ripen on the counter, maybe so they all ripen at the same time? We picked most of what was left. I keep worrying about frost anyway, so this way I don’t have to rush out and cover anything.
yellow-squash
One of the last yellow squash we picked. We got a whole lot of these. I had three plants, which was too many for us this year. We froze a lot of this.
backyard-sunflower
One of my sunflowers from our back yard. This was several days ago, when it was still standing tall, before we got days and days of rain…
weepy-sunflower
Here it is today… looking very sad.
watermelon
The watermelon has not grown a whole lot. I think it’s supposed to have stripes as well. It’s still hanging in there. I will let it sit as long as possible and see if we get an edible melon.
tiny-pumpkins
Our tiny pumpkins. The plants are done for this year. I really like these, and will grown them again next year, along with a little bit bigger variety.
tiny-eggplant
A tiny eggplant. These plants grew wonderfully, but didn’t flower until late August. Now they have tiny fruits on them. They are not ripe yet. Hopefully they will get bigger and ripen before we get a freeze.
kale
Our Kale, still going strong. I’m going to attempt to leave these, and see if they will come back in spring. I have heard that Kale (and Chard!) will grow as perennials. We will see if they come back in spring. I have been cutting, using/freezing, and then waiting for more to grow, like cut-and-come-again style. We have a lot of kale frozen for winter.
garden-9-28
Here’s my garden today. It’s still very green but there is not much in terms of vegetables left.

Harvesting and Freezing

I’ve gotten a lot of vegetables so far this year.  I’m still waiting on my tomatoes to ripen, but they are coming along. I’ve been picking suckers and new flowers left and right, and I can see the tomatoes are starting to get a pinkish tint to them.  We’ve had 80-90 degree temps this week, and it’s expected to continue – I think that will help with the ripening.

In the winter we were buying a lot of kale, so I grew a bunch of it, and we haven’t used a whole lot yet.  So this weekend I decided to pick as much as I could, and freeze it.  I left the plants, with new baby leaves in the centers, so I will still have fresh kale until we have snow (it supposedly can survive frost, and gets better after a frost, so we’ll see how that goes).   I ended up with a giant basket of kale:

My big basket of kale.  This basket is about 2 feet long, 1 foot wide, and just under a foot tall. That's a whole lot of kale.
My big basket of kale. This basket is about 2 feet long, 1 foot wide, and just under a foot tall. That’s a whole lot of kale.

I took the leaves off the stems, blanched them for 2 minutes, and then froze them up.  I ended up with about 10 cups of frozen kale.

This year I decided to grow lemon balm.  I picked some to dry for tea.  It smells so good!

Lemon balm.
Lemon balm.

I have had tons of zucchini and yellow squash, and I have frozen a lot of it.  I read online that you can get away with not blanching it first, so I am trying that this year.  Last year I blanched it, and it worked fine but it was more labor intensive;  Also, since it was wet when I put it in freezer bags, I ended up with blocks of frozen zucchini.  I don’t know if the slice/freeze method will still produce this result; I’ll have to wait and see.

I also grew acorn squash for the first time this year.  I had four plants; most produced only one fruit – I did have two forming on one plant, but when I went out this weekend I realized that one of the fruits was rotting on the vine.  The other four seemed ready to pick.  The plants still have flowers so it may produce more, I will have to wait and find out.

Acorn squash.  Yum! We love eating them roasted with cinnamon sugar and butter.
Acorn squash. Yum! We love eating them roasted with cinnamon sugar and butter.

My corn is getting close to being ready.  The silks are turning brown on the cobs. Last year I read that you wait 10 days after the silks turn brown – I checked a few cobs and I think by this next weekend they may be ready.  I noticed today though that I must have raccoons or something attacking the corn.   It must be raccoons – they are notorious for getting into corn in this area – I found a half eaten cob in my garden on the ground. I hope they give me time to get at least a few ears before they get them all. I’m not sure how to deter them – they climbed my fence.   I’ll have to figure out some kind of raccoon deterrent – maybe putting a lip on the top of the fence so they can’t come over the top of the fence.

The garden is growing…

What a difference two weeks makes! I love watching my plants grow – it’s nice to look back at pictures of what it looked like a few weeks ago.

The left shows my garden on June 24th, and the right is my garden today, 7/12/15.
The left shows my garden on June 24th, and the right is my garden today, 7/12/15.

My plants are doing really well in the garden.

Here is my corn. The older batch, shown here, is just over a foot tall now.  I have some on the other side of the garden that I planted 2 weeks later, when I noticed that the original seeds I tried to plant didn't take.  Those are about 6 inches or so now.
Here is my corn. The older batch, shown here, is just over a foot tall now. I have some on the other side of the garden that I planted 2 weeks later, when I noticed that the original seeds I tried to plant didn’t take. Those are about 6 inches or so now.
Here are my brandywine and beefsteak tomatoes.
Here are my brandywine and beefsteak tomatoes.
Here are my black krim tomatoes.  I have not tried these, they are supposed to be an almost black / purple tomato that tastes really good.
Here are my black krim tomatoes. I have not tried these, they are supposed to be an almost black / purple tomato that tastes really good.
A sunflower that somehow ended up in the corn rows.  I don't care, I love sunflowers. I must have dropped a seed while walking in the garden.
A sunflower that somehow ended up in the corn rows. I don’t care, I love sunflowers. I must have dropped a seed while walking in the garden.
A mystery squash.  Could be a zucchini, yellow squash, or acorn. I'm not sure yet. I lost track of where they were planted with my efforts of re-seeding in empty spots when seedlings died.
A mystery squash. Could be a zucchini, yellow squash, or acorn. I’m not sure yet. I lost track of where they were planted with my efforts of re-seeding in empty spots when seedlings died.
A calendula plant - it's forming a flower. I'm excited, I haven't grown these before.
A calendula plant – it’s forming a flower. I’m excited, I haven’t grown these before.
More sunflowers. These ones were planted on purpose.
More sunflowers. These ones were planted on purpose. The taller plants on the lower left of this picture are Amaranth.
My beans are doing really well, and are starting to climb the strings I put in to support them.
My beans are doing really well, and are starting to climb the strings I put in to support them.
The artichokes are doing well also.
The artichokes are doing well also.
Here is one of the pansies I put in amongst the vegetables.  This one has really pretty coloring.
Here is one of the pansies I put in amongst the vegetables. This one has really pretty coloring.

I really enjoy seeing my plants get bigger.  Thanks for taking a look.