Okay, so this post is very late in coming, considering we’re already nearly 3 full months into 2010. But better late than never, right? (this is going to be a long post, by the way...)
Let’s start with the harvest tally. There were a few crops that I failed to consistently weigh (herbs, onions, potatoes, carrots, strawberries, lettuce…basically anything that I’d typically go out to the garden and pick as needed), but according to my notes here’s what we ended up harvesting last year:
• Beets: 8 lbs
• Broccoli: 4 ½ lbs
• Butternut squash: 3 lbs
• Cabbage: 7 lbs
• Carrots: 1 lb
• Cauliflower: 4 ¾ lbs
• Cucumbers: 5 lbs
• Eggplant: 2 lbs
• Fava beans: 2 lbs
• Green beans: 3 lbs
• Hubbard squash: 5 lbs
• Lettuce: 1 1/3 lbs
• Onions: 4 lbs
• Peas: 4 ¼ lbs
• Peppers: 1 lb
• Potatoes: 15 lbs
• Rainbow chard: 6 lbs
• Tomatoes: 97 lbs (yep, you read that right!)
• Yellow squash: 3 ½ lbs
• Zucchini: 4 ½ lbs
• TOTAL: 214 ½ lbs!!
That’s quite a haul, huh?! I wish I could say that we ate and enjoyed it all, but that wouldn’t be honest. So without further ado, let’s dive into the winners and losers of the 2009 garden...except I’ll start with the losers so I can end on a high note. :)
2009 Garden Losers (nobody’s perfect!)
Squash (butternut, hubbard, zucchini and yellow squash): Lots of vines, hardly any fruit. Not sure what happened, since squash usually grows like mad in home gardens. In 2008 I had zucchini coming out of my ears, but in 2009 all 4 of my squash varieties struggled. Maybe they didn’t like being grown in the same bed as tomatoes? Maybe they cross-pollinated and got confused? I’ll definitely continue to grow summer squash (zucchini and yellow squash), but depending on space availability I may or may not grow butternut and I probably won’t grow hubbard again because I’m just not sure what do to with it and I let the 2 nice-sized ones we grew go bad last year.
Cucumbers: We got a good haul of cucumbers, but I either let them get mushy and rotten or I tried (and failed) to make pickles out of them. I think I’ll stick to Parker’s Pickles from Woodring Northwest from now on.
Fava Beans: These grew really well, but for the amount of space they take up you really don’t get that much of a haul. I won’t grow these again, especially because you can usually find a really good deal on them at the farmers markets.
Eggplant and Peppers: We just don’t have a long enough hot growing season up here in the Pacific NW to have much success with eggplant or peppers (at least, not in my yard). I’ve tried to grow both of these veggies for two years in a row now without hardly any success. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me??
Watermelon and Cantaloupe: Ditto to the comment above about eggplant and peppers. Plus, something chewed these down once the little seedlings came up and I never re-seeded.
Tomatillo: Some bug/critter/something sure did love this plant, as the seedling didn’t even last a week before it got chewed down to the ground. I think I’ll try this again though, because Karl loooooooves salsa verde and I’d love to can some homegrown green salsa for him.
Spinach and Cilantro: Grew really fast and then bolted (i.e., went to seed) almost immediately...for two years in a row. Won’t be growing either of these again.
2009 Garden Winners (the cards were aligned just right)
Beets: Beets are easy to grow, and 2009 was no exception. I accidentally left some of them in the ground and they went bad, but we still got a nice haul. I love Chioggia beets when they are peeled, cubed, tossed with olive oil/salt/pepper and then roasted in the oven. They taste like candy!
Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Peas, Lettuce and Rainbow Chard: Great cool-season crops that grew REALLY well for us last year. Our favorite way to eat broccoli comes from my man Christopher Kimball at America’s Test Kitchen – heat oven to scorching hot (500 degrees) with the baking sheet on the lowest rack, cut the broccoli (stalks and florets) into pieces, toss with olive oil, sprinkle with a bit of sugar/salt/pepper to taste, put broccoli on the hot baking sheet in a single layer, roast for 9-11 minutes, squeeze fresh lemon juice over the top just before serving. DELICIOUS! (But do beware that our smoke detector goes off every time with this recipe due to the high heat, even with our new vent)
Carrots: My brother always has a hard time with slugs or moles eating his carrots, but (knock on wood) we haven’t had that issue. The issue I did have is that I didn’t thin them enough once they started to come up, so the carrots’ growth was severely restricted. Oh, and Henry figured out that there were still carrots in the ground this winter so he was constantly digging around for his favorite treat…let’s hope he doesn’t do that during the growing season this year!
Green beans and peas: Love ‘em, can’t get enough of ‘em and luckily I can grow ‘em pretty well, too. :) And if you knew me growing up, you’d probably be surprised to hear me say that I love green beans since I used to be forced to eat my age in them at the dinner table. Still not a fan of canned green beans, but fresh-off-the-vine green beans? Yes, please.
Onions and Potatoes: Two new crops that I tried in 2009, with smashing success. So I let a few onions die in the ground, and we didn’t build up our potato bins fast enough to get the full success that we were hoping for…but we didn’t buy potatoes or onions for months since we harvested so much, and we eat a lot of potatoes and onions in our house. Lesson learned for 2010: potatoes grow like CRAZY when the temps warm up, and you have to mound the dirt on them before the stems get more than 4 inches tall in order to have new potatoes grow all along the stem.
Tomatoes: 97 pounds. ‘Nuff said. :)
Marigolds: Not a vegetable, but man did I have good luck with marigolds last year! I planted them all from seed, and they grew exceptionally well.
2009 Novelty Crops
Every year I grow a novelty crop or two, just to see if it works. My novelty crops for 2009 were melons (big flop) and dried beans. For dried beans we grew kidney beans and white beans, and they both did really well! One thing I learned is that you have to let the bean pod shrivel up and die on the vine before you pick it so that the beans inside have a chance to dry out. Then you can basically just shell them and use them like any other dried bean you’d buy at the store. We allocated small portions of the garden for dried beans, and we got about 2 cups of each type out of it. This year I think I’ll try black beans and maybe sweet potatoes as my novelty crops. I also have a dream of trying to grow loofah one day, but I think that’s a hot weather crop so I’m not sure how much success I’d have with it.
The Plan for 2010
Unfortunately I haven’t gotten any seeds started indoors yet, so we may be buying mostly all starter plants at the nursery this year. We use our guest bedroom as the seed starting room, and with the number of houseguests we had during February (prime seed starting season) I just didn’t want anyone to have to share a room with a BRIGHT GROW LIGHT that’s on 16 hours a day. So we’re going the easier, albeit more expensive, route and buying starters. I may still start some tomato plants from seed though, because we had a few that were such great producers last year that I want to try them again.
The thing I need to get busy on is figuring out the crop layout for this year. Conventional wisdom suggests putting your crops on a 3-year rotation so that the soil isn’t unduly depleted of nutrients in any one location. If I follow that logic, I unfortunately won’t be able to plant nearly as many tomato plants this year because I just don’t have the space to put 28 plants in different locations from 2009. Hmmmm, still need to noodle on this one for a bit. We also still need to weed, till and amend the soil before anything can be planted. Lots of work, but it’ll all be worth it when I’m out on maternity leave this summer and enjoying all of that fresh homegrown produce!
My whole 2009 garden Flickr set is HERE, if you’re interested in checking it out. I’ll be starting a 2010 photo set very soon! :)