By now, it’s frosted enough that almost everything is toast (except those peas – they just keep on going). Since there probably won’t be any further updates this year, now would be a good time to do a final recap of how things went in 2011. The following is not for the faint of heart.
Beans – started well, and that’s about as far as they got. The bush beans were shaded by the giant peas that just wouldn’t die, so they produced next to nothing. The pole beans took a long time to bear fruit, but did okay, until they got hit with anthracnose. The dried beans I tried were just okay; I probably got a few cups worth. Next year: space them out a little more, and provide taller things to climb up for the pole beans. And for Pete’s sake, don’t plant the bushes behind the peas. Grade: C-
Peas – started well, and never stopped until I pulled them out. The second planting is tall, but not as many peas (not enough pollinators out anymore?). Next year: nothing different. Grade: A+
Lettuce – had a hard time starting them from seed; I had much more success with the ones I started inside then transplanted. For about a month, we had good production, and were able to enjoy lots of salads. The late season planting did nothing. Next year: boost the soil nitrogen; I’ll probably just start all the lettuce inside and not even bother directly sowing it. Grade: C+
Spinach – this came up from seed pretty well, and my succession plantings worked out well. Unfortunately, they didn’t get more than a couple inches tall before bolting (nitrogen deficiency), so I got maybe a small handful of leaves all year. Next year: nitrogen. Grade: F
Carrots – I planted a shorter variety, since the long ones need deep, loose soil, which is nonexistent around here (the raised beds helped a ton, but they’re still not deep enough to accommodate a 10-inch carrot). Produced pretty well, most were decent-sized and uniform. Next year: add more soil to provide for deeper growth. Grade: B-
Beets – the Chiogga variety is beautiful; this was the best year I’ve ever had for beets (not that I’ve had many years of trying them, but anyway…). Because beet seeds often actually contain more than one seed, I had a lot of pairs coming up right next to each other, and I didn’t do a great job with thinning them out. As a result, several of them did not reach optimum size because of overcrowding. Next year: keep up with the thinning. Grade: B-
Onions – I grew some yellow and reds from sets. I thought having a nicer soil would help, and it did to some extent, but onions remain an enigma. I don’t think I’ve ever grown an onion that was bigger than a golf ball. We ate some and they were good, just not enough. Next year: I’ve read that starting them from seed may yield bigger onions than using sets. I’ll try that. Grade: D-
Swiss chard – Germinated nicely, and looked pretty (the Bright Lights variety), but seemed to suffer from low nitrogen like the rest of the leafy stuff. Still produced enough that we were able to eat it, but the leaves didn’t get as big as I’m used to. Next year: nitrogen. Grade: C
Sweet potatoes – these were a late addition, something I threw in the garden because we had a couple sprouting in the cupboard, so I didn’t expect much. And they didn’t let me down. I dug up maybe a pound or two. Next year: start them earlier, give them more room. Grade: D
Potatoes – German Butterballs. They grew well, then got hit with a plague of flea beetles that left all the leaves pretty chewed up, and I didn’t take enough action until too late. Got maybe 10 pounds from 2 lbs of seed potatoes. Next year: I’d like to make one of the beds quite a bit deeper and devote it solely to potatoes in the future. I think they were hampered this year by not enough depth. Grade: C-
Squash – not great results. Summer squashes produced about two fruits per plant, then crashed (I’ve never had that zucchini-coming-out-of-your-ears problem). Winter squashes did about the same, some slightly better than others (I tried acorn, butternut, spaghetti, and delicata). Powdery mildew was surprisingly not really a problem until they were already on their way out. Next year: give them some more space, taller trellises for the climbing ones. Not sure what to do with the summer squashes – maybe try to find a place with more sun? Grade: C-
Eggplant – I was excited about the eggplant, because I had a couple pretty varieties. But they got off to a slow start, were hit by the flea beetles (only other plant besides the potatoes that was affected), and when they started to produce, many of the fruits split (around the time when all the tomatoes were splitting), which I’ve never seen in an eggplant. I didn’t end up picking any of them. Next year: nitrogen. Grade: F
Peppers – grew several different varieties. The jalapenos produced great off of only two plants. The Anaheims were very late to join the party, so by the time they started bearing, the season was pretty much over. Mini bells produced fairly well, but not my favorite. The regular bells also produced pretty well. Next year: nitrogen? Protect them from cutworms (I lost a few early on). Grade: B-
Cucumbers – I did two plantings to try to draw out the season. The first planting did have cucumbers coming out of my ears, and I made lots of pickles. The second (just a few weeks later) produced next to nothing. I think maybe because the first ones got so big, they shaded the new ones when they were small, and so the second planting just ended up kind of spindly and wimpy. Next year: definitely give them something higher to grow up – they reached the top of this trellis in, literally, days. More space, or no succession plantings. Grade: B+
Herbs – I grew basil, summer savory, marjoram, cilantro, dill, rosemary, parsley, oregano, thyme, sage, couple different mints, and tarragon. They all did pretty outstanding, and I have lots of dried and frozen to get me through until next year. Next year: not sure how to top this. Probably add a few more different things. Grade: A
Overall 2011 grade: B/B-. Not the best year, but not a total loss either. The weather was crazy, and it was the first year in the new place, so there were lots of learning experiences along the way.
Next year I’d like to add a few more beds, increase and/or decrease the amount of some plants I grow, and bring on some new additions, like brassicas (think cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower), and maybe leeks if I’m feeling up to it. And make sure everything has the proper nutrition.