Nov 13 2008

How Does My Garden Grow?

I wanted to blog regularly about our garden this year, with pictures and updates on how things were growing, what we were planting or harvesting each week, and so on. Clearly this did not happen. Oh well, something to do better on next year. I thought I’d write up a little recap, though, and maybe I’ll remember to look back at this next year to remind me of a few things.

Our garden consisted of two 4′x8′ raised beds in the back yard, with about 5-6 hours of sunlight.  The raised beds were a blessing this year, since we got tons of rain for once.  Other people had plants drowning, while ours could drain and maintain the right moisture for most things.  We never had to water at all, which was very nice.  So, on to the individual plants:

Lettuce: It’s always the same story with me and lettuce.  I get excited about all the varieties and plant half a dozen different kinds, and then end up only picking it 3-4 times before it all bolts.  We really only need 2-3 plants for the amount of lettuce we’re actually going to use; but in March, salads sound really, really good.  This year was the same: planted too much, didn’t thin it enough, and it got tall and spindly and bolted.  While it lasted, we ate as much as we wanted, though.

Peas did very well.  We had an edible-podded snap pea variety, the name of which I don’t recall, and Little Marvel and Alaska for shell peas.  Little Marvels really can’t be beat.  The Alaskas were nearly a week early, but the Little Marvels drastically out-produced them.  After opening a few dozen Alaska pods with only 1-2 peas in them, I knew why my mom sticks with Little Marvels.  The edible-podded ones grew to the top of a 3′ fence and back down to the ground again.  They did great, but all the peas got a rust or mildew from the wet weather, and died off a little sooner than they really should have.

Radishes did well, but I didn’t replant them after the first batch, so I just got one big helping.  The wet weather was good for them.

Carrots were a complete loss, as they usually are for me.  I’ve never grown a decent crop of carrots, and I don’t know why I keep trying.  I don’t even like them much, except for a little flavor in soups and stocks.  Our soil was too nitrogen-rich and wet for them, and they mostly just grew tops.

Onions were also almost a complete loss.  They really didn’t like the rich, compost-heavy soil or the moisture, and they grew maybe twice the size of the original sets.  I cleaned up 50 or so of them, and they all fit in a half-gallon freezer bag.  I’m tossing them into stocks and crock-pot recipes a half-dozen at a time, so they won’t last much longer.  We probably shouldn’t try onions or carrots in these gardens again, unless we mix some sand into a corner to make the soil drier.

Swiss chard was awesome as usual.  I’d never grown the Bright Lights variety before, and the colors are very pretty, but the taste is a little bitter or something, not as good as the old standard Fordhook.  It’s still going strong now, just a little droopy from the recent frosts.

Green beans (Blue Lake bush variety) did great as usual, but we could have used more of them.  By the time we planted them we were running out of space, so we just ended up with about four square feet of them.  We managed to freeze a few quarts, though, after eating plenty of them fresh.

Tomatoes did great, which was unusual around here this year, from what we heard.  Four Roma plants produced enough for a few salads, five pints of diced tomatoes, a couple batches of sun-dried ones, and a few quarts of sauce.

That was it for our little backyard gardens.  We also tried some new varieties of squash and melon in a plot over at the community garden, but that didn’t go so well.  Several different people grew squash, and when the squash bugs got started, they wiped out all the vining plants in a hurry.  Our plants melted in a little over a week.  We did manage to harvest a couple dozen white scalloped squash before the invasion, though.  The downside to those is that they need to be picked small or they get tough and tasteless, so going across town once a week to check them really isn’t often enough.  We learned that, for us, a garden needs to be close by, preferably where you see it every time you go outside.

Next year, we may add another 4×8 bed, but we haven’t decided that yet.  If we cut back on the lettuce, carrots, and onions, leave out the colored Swiss chard, and add more green beans, we should be in good shape, even with our small plots.

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