Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Veggie Garden Wrap-Up: 2011
Last weekend I closed up shop in the vegetable garden as an impending frost threatened. Now of course it's sunny and in the 70s all week.
Although I'm aggravated about the green beans and vine-ripened tomatoes that might have been, it was a good time to call it a season. Now as I'm reflecting on how vegetable growing went this year, I think the entire operation is summed up by one word: decent.
Decent, not great, not horrible. The tomato yield was good, and I really enjoyed both varieties, Amish Paste and Hungarian Heart (pictured above). The former is great for making sauce, and the latter has a good texture for slicing. I've also used it for homemade salsa, which has been delicious. The fungal leaf spot that swamped the plants late in the season was an unwelcome development, but it was controllable and, thanks to shall we say challenging weather conditions, not all that surprising.
(Super Chilis...mis-labeled in an earlier post.)
The hot peppers were equally decent. The yields weren't as great as last year, but last year was much drier. Some of the jalepenos turned out to be duds (no spiciness) which confused me to no end. But oh well, I've got some frozen Bulgarian Carrot Peppers for the winter months and Super Chili peppers drying to make homemade crushed red pepper.
Broccoli and green beans were decent...barely. Broccoli plants, I have learned, are humungous and only a small percentage of those enormous plants is the edible part. So in a small garden like mine, it's difficult to have enough room to grow the number of plants needed for a truly fulfilling harvest. This is disappointing because my family loves broccoli. But for that reason I'll keep growing it and harvesting what I can.
The Kentucky Wonder green beans were delicious, but these heirlooms are clearly not mildew resistant. They struggled with powdery mildew early on, and that really slowed down the yield even after I got it under control with my 1-to-3 milk/water solution. Next year I will probably try another variety.
My exceptions to the "decent" label are lettuce (fantastic), and carrots and bell peppers (terrible).
The cool, moist conditions early in the season were perfect for my four varieties of lettuce (Lolla Rossa, Tom Thumb, Rough D'Hiver, and Wine Country Mesclun [courtesy of Renee's Garden]). I had more lettuce than I knew what to do with by June, which is a problem I'm happy to have.
On the contrary, bell peppers were a bust yet again. Every year I've grown bell peppers they don't start producing until September, by which time there isn't enough sun to get them to ripen. I honestly think next year I will skip them altogether.
Almost more frustratingly, I only harvested a measly five carrots. I tried two different varieties and my multiple sowings just failed miserably. The first sowing produced my only harvest, and all subsequent sowings resulted in wimpy, weak seedlings that never matured, if they even sprouted at all. I think the excessive heat had something to do with the poor germination and growth, which leads me to another lesson I've learned...
...starting seeds indoors is the best way for me to get good harvests. Mid-season sowings of broccoli, lettuce, kale, and those carrots all petered out due to the vagaries of summer weather and my neglect. I really tried to keep seedlings watered, but it seems that only when they're growing in my living room in a self-watering seedling kit will they get the attention they need to thrive and reach maturity. These vegetables that can survive cooler early fall temperatures don't like to germinate in the heat of summer. Throw in crazy, pounding rains and it's a recipe for disaster. The only issue is, will I make time to start seeds again in the summer? I thought about it this year and didn't make it happen.
(The seed starting kit that made it all possible.)
So there it is! Vegetable growing in 2011 was...decent. I'm already pondering what varieties to grow next year, what to bring back from this year, and how to finally get a quality mulch for the vegetable bed.
How was vegetable gardening for you in this year of wild weather? Can you agree it was decent?