The seed catalogs have been coming in hot and heavy for the past month (is it just me, or do they seem to come earlier every year? I didn’t even have the garden put to bed for the winter before the first one showed up), so I figured this would be a good time to take a look back at the previous gardening year and do a little recap. Mostly for my benefit, but maybe you’ll pick up something interesting too.
Overall, an okay year. As in every year, some things did better than usual, some didn’t. The weather was a little cooler and wetter than normal (I may have watered things once or twice, but really didn’t need to). The season was actually pretty long – last frost was early May (not Memorial Day like the year before), and the killing frost didn’t hit until a week into November (had a light frost before that, but it didn’t hurt anything).
Didn’t have any major pest problems, unless you count the dogs… I know, I have dogs to keep the deer away and they end up causing more trouble than the deer. We tried a few new things, stopped growing a few others… it’s a constantly-evolving process.
I grew a variety of cabbages, kales, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Not the greatest year. Broccoli did decent, though I’ll probably start growing broccoli raab or something along those lines going forward for more consistent production. A lot of the cabbage got eaten by slugs because it was so wet early in the season. I had a few form decent heads, but not much.
Kale did well, until the dog ate it (at least he waited until the first frost). I won’t be trying Brussels sprouts again, unless I continue to expand the garden space and have more room for them. I planted them early but still didn’t get any actual sprouts formed before the freeze hit.
I also tried rutabaga for the first time. I had some nice roots going. Then the dog at those too. He really has a thing for cole crops.
I seem to grow more roots every year: we use them quite a bit, they’re versatile, relatively easy to grow, easy to store, and make for good hearty winter meals.
Carrots did pretty well – I grew a rainbow mix and added a new type, St. Valery, which had a nice yield of big roots. For beets, I planted almost all Cylindra, simply because they’re more productive because the root is longer.
I tried salsify, celeriac (both repeats from last year), turnip-rooted chervil, and parsley root (both new), but didn’t get anything from any of those. I may not have helped their odds by planting them later (by which time some of their neighbors were already big enough to partially smother them).
Parsnips had a banner year, but didn’t get a whole lot from the turnips except chicken fodder. Radishes were okay, but bolted pretty early, and I still have yet to get a usable daikon.
Hit and miss here. Garlic had a typically solid year. Onions were typically… okay (still waiting for that first baseball-sized onion). Leeks, which were great last year, just never really grew much this year. Kind of a disappointment.
Stuck with my reliable Mammoth Melting Sugar snap peas, and as usual, they didn’t let me down. Produced well into the heat of the summer and I was able to freeze a bunch. I didn’t plant any shelling peas this year because production was always pretty low relative to the real estate I gave them.
I planted several new beans, and several repeats. I transitioned almost all of my pole beans to Kentucky Blue, added Fortex to the mix, and got pretty good production out of them.
For the first time, I grew Scarlet Runner beans – they get tall and have clusters of beautiful red flowers that attract bees and hummingbirds (and also hordes of Japanese beetles…) and produced a pretty good amount of dry beans over the course of the summer and fall. And the beans themselves look pretty.
For probably the last time, I grew Lima beans. Again, just not enough output for the space they take up.
I also planted a few different dry beans – Jacob’s Cattle (a stalwart) and Coco Noir (new). Decent production – I may try to space them out a bit more next year to see if I get more production from few plants. Another new addition were cowpeas (just a short row for testing purposes). They produced well, but the cowpeas are so darn small that I only ended up with about a cup of them. Probably won’t be space for them next year either.
Grew a row of pickling cucumbers, which got off to a late start, but ended up getting a few jars of pickles out of them.
I tried a few new squash (Long Island Cheese and Australian Butter) in addition to the usuals (butternut, spaghetti, and a couple summer squash) – pretty much a bust. I had one small Long Island, a small butternut, and a couple zucchini – just not a good squash year around here.
I continue to try a few different melons, and continue to get nothing… maybe next year I’ll start a few inside to get a head start on the growing season.
Not a good year for pumpkins either – I generally end up with 8-10 of them from a couple plants, but nothing at all this time around.
Eggplant didn’t do a whole lot – they always seem to get stunted by flea beetles early, then by the time they really start growing, it’s too late in the season.
I grew the same peppers – a few multi-colored sweets, a couple jalapeno, and the seed that I’ve been saving from the mini-sweets that we bought at Costco once (which are almost certainly some kind of hybrid, but which continue to produce well and the same kind every time). Froze and canned quite a bit – decent pepper year.
Some tomatoes did well, others didn’t. I tried a couple new varieties, including Matt’s Wild Cherry and Black Icicle. The smaller varieties produced pretty well, but I didn’t get as much from the sauce types as I normally do. Still had enough to make several pretty multi-colored tomato dishes 🙂
Grew a wide variety of greens: lettuces, spinach, chard, endive, mizuna, mustard, arugula, claytonia, mache, tatsoi… Had a few early season salads, but most besides the lettuce bolted pretty early again (I replant in the fall for a winter harvest). I’ll probably try something like New Zealand spinach next year; it’s not a true spinach, but is interchangeable and won’t bolt in warm weather, so I should be able to pick it throughout the summer.
I cut out the sweet corn, mostly since we live in prime corn country and I didn’t want to devote that much space to it. I did grow a dent corn, Hopi Blue, for polenta and the like. The stalks were shorter and they blew over which stunted them. I ended up with some, but I prefer the Bloody Butcher that I’ve grown in the past.
Grew Kennebec, German Butterball, and All-Blue potatoes. Did pretty well, but I found some tree roots encroaching into their bed that probably limited their production somewhat. I suppose that’s what happens when I grow close to the edge of the woods. I’ll probably try to squeeze in some sweet potatoes next year. I didn’t grow any this year, but have gotten decent output in previous years.
Tried a few Red Burgundy Okra plants and froze a bit of that, now that it wasn’t being smothered by tomatillos.
And speaking of tomatillos, I grew a purple variety, which was just as prolific as the green variety.
The cutting celery I grew last year survived the brutal winter, came up in the spring, and produced heavily again. I might have to move it to a more permanent location.
So as I start to plan this summer’s garden, there will certainly be some things new added, some things phased out, lessons learned… and maybe a bigger fence to keep the dogs out.
One of the things I love about gardening (aside from the food thing) is that it’s an evolution, a continuous learning process, a lifetime of tweaks to your methods. Once you think you have it all figured out… wait ’til next season.