One of the Joys of Maturity
A Year in Our Garden - 2016
Rather than doing the month-by-month review I've done in the past, I decided to look at what worked, what didn't, and what fell in between this gardening season. I've summarized our results in a table below.
Our garden plots were somewhat limited again this year. Last season, we didn't plant our East Garden plot due to my hip replacement surgery in May (2015). I tried to not overdo things this year, as I'm still rebuilding muscle strength lost from when my hip was bad and I babied myself a bit too much. Our East Garden that often has lots of crops was limited to yellow squash, melons, sweet corn, and potatoes this year. Well, I did plant sage plants around the plot as corner and halfway markers and a long row of zinnias down one side and another long row of nasturtiums down the other side.
Our raised beds were somewhat reduced from years past. I planted about half the spring carrots and lettuce as usual. I also cut back our planting of peppers, other than the open pollinated Earliest Red Sweet variety which we're trying to save from extinction. A single row of spring green beans was planted instead of our usual two. The spring planting of green beans was due to the fields around us being planted to soybeans. We got our beans picked and canned before the usual hord of Japanese Beetles migrated from the soybeans to our garden plots.
Here are the results from our 2016 garden. While it looks like we did pretty well, there were more total crop failures that we usually experience.
In gardening, you're going to win some and lose some each season. We got beat up pretty bad on sweet corn, potatoes, and tomatoes this year. But we had a bumper crop of butternut squash with just three or four plants producing a hundred winter squash. Our spring broccoli was a disaster, but our fall broccoli filled our freezer with delicious broccoli florets. We had another great crop of garlic, lots of peas and green beans, and so many carrots that I donated some to our local food bank.
Our first year with a true, separate herb garden planted in a new raised bed around our shallow well was a great success. We had good basil, parsley, sage, rosemary, dill, oregano, and thyme. I also had dill and basil planted in some of our other garden plots which did really well.
Our eighty foot row of zinnias along the north border of our East Garden were spectacular this year. Zinnias are easy to grow, and I had lots of saved seed to make the planting economical. I had to seriously weed the row just once early on. I later was able to hold back weeds with grass clipping mulch.
Canning - Cool Storage - Freezing - Drying
We only canned green beans, applesauce, and Portuguese Kale Soup this year. We had lots of canned tomatoes and pickles leftover from last year, although the pickles are disappearing fast.
We have garlic, onions, a few potatoes, and butternut squash in cool storage in our basement. The basement actually runs a bit warm and dry for such storage, but we do okay with it. I have to frequently check our onions for sprouting and rot. The few potatoes we dug this year are already getting a bit wrinkly.
Our carrots are stored in Debbie Meyer Green Bags in the vegetable bins of our refrigerator. I've been trying to use the few spring carrots that have put up shoots from the tops, but for the most part, the carrots are storing well so far. We usually can store our fall carrots well into spring this way.
We froze peas, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, pepper strips, some cull carrots, and asparagus this year. After using some of the frozen asparagus, we'll skip that one next year.
We dried rather than canning our kidney beans this year. We also dried cowpeas. From our herb garden, we dried thyme, rosemary, dill seed and dill weed. I didn't attempt drying any parsley, basil, sage, or oregano, as we still had lots left from previous seasons. We really enjoyed having fresh herbs when cooking growing just a few steps from the kitchen this year.
We save seed to cut our costs in the future and to help preserve some good, but endangered vegetable varieties. Our main targets for seed saving this year were Abundant Bloomsdale spinach, Earliest Red Sweet peppers, and Who Gets Kissed sweet corn. We saved a lot of seed from the first two, but deer and raccoons consumed all of our sweet corn this year! Two of three would yield a superstar baseball batting average of .667. Of course, two of three yields 67%, a failing grade in most schools. I'm choosing to be happy with what we got.
Other saved seed, in no particular order, includes Carpet dianthus, dwarf basil, Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers, Moira and Quinte tomatoes, Eclipse and Encore peas (both of which are PVP protected, so I can't sell or share seed, but can grow and save enough for us to re-plant), hosta, zinnia, asparagus, cantaloupe, gloxinia, and impatiens.
From Steve Wood, the at Senior Gardening