08 December 2010

Garden Harvest

This is our garden plan that we made in the spring while we were planting our garden. I thought I’d also just write out some notes about which plants did well and which ones didn’t, so we’d know what adjustments to make for next year’s garden.

• All the strawberries did well, especially since we’ve been told they don’t produce as much the first year. I’m glad that they come back each year, and we’ll have those plants for the rest of the time we’re here.

• The onions and garlic tasted good, but I don’t know if they’re worth it because they didn’t grow very large.

• The sugar snap peas were delicious – I don’t think any of them made it into the house because we just ate them off the vines. We should plant more of them next year, and I was told they do well in the cool, early spring months, so we should plant them earlier next year than we did this year.

• The basil grew well and produced a lot all season. We learned not to pick the biggest leaves from the bottom, but to pick the smaller leaves from the top (this helps make a more round bush, instead of a tall thin plant). Need to keep up on picking them before they go to seed, but they still did well even after we had to catch up on the seeing parts several times. The lemon basil really did taste like lemon, which was cool but we didn’t use it as much as the normal basil. We don’t need to plant more than 1 or 2 bushes next time. We didn’t use the cilantro barely at all before it totally went to seed and stopped producing the leaves.

• The tomatoes turned out well – probably our biggest and longest producers. The grape tomatoes and orange banana tomatoes produced the most, with the yellow pear tomatoes right behind them. The black krim didn’t produce many, and we didn’t see any beefsteak tomatoes (unless they were so small we didn’t realize it). We used the “Square Foot Gardening” book to plan the spacing of our plants, and found out after we planted the tomatoes that the part in the book about planting 4 plants in 1 square foot was a mis-print, and they need more space – oh well, they still did pretty well for the most part. I also learned that when a book says to trim the “sucker” branches, it does not mean to cut off all the big side branches, but to trim the little branches coming out at the fork between the main stem and the big side branches – I wonder how many more tomatoes we would have had if I hadn’t done that? Oh, and the orange banana tomatoes vined up the fence the best, but really all the ones along the fence vined pretty well. The yellow pear tomatoes and grape tomatoes tasted the best.

• The cucumber vined well and grew well, but these cucumbers seemed a little bitter – we should try a different kind. They also grew in a funny shape, kind of like a crook-neck squash – we should try a larger variety next time.

• The zucchini made 6 very good, very large fruits (which we used for yummy zucchini bread and salads), but then both plants died.

• All of the summer and winter squash and the pumpkins did this too – there were lots of flowers and lots of bees going to the flowers, but no fruit ever grew on any of them and then they all died. I noticed that the base of the stems almost seemed a little sponge-y inside, and someone told me there’s a bore that goes after squash and you can put something organic down to get rid of those, so that’s probably something to try next time – I was so looking forward to those winter squashes!

• The bell pepper plants from seeds never got big enough to produce anything before the end of the season. The sweet pepper plant we planted did great, though. It produced a ton of peppers, then when we picked those it produced even more – we need to remember next year to pick the first crop of peppers right away when they’re ripe to give the second crop plenty of time to ripen before it gets cold out.

• The carrots and beets were a little disappointing, but I think I’ll give them another try next year and see if we have better luck. They took forever to grow, and were still mostly pretty small when I finally picked them in the fall. And many of the “golden beat” seeds turned out to just be normal beets. They
did taste good, and the beet greens were good for salads, just would have been nice if they were bigger. Someone suggested we add some plant food or something next time.

• The spinach was great for the first month or so, then when it went to seed it was pretty much done for. But it was probably worth it while it lasted.

• The swiss chard, after being planted from seeds and taking a while to get started, didn’t produce a ton. And, unfortunately, I picked it and the leaves wilted right away – we couldn’t bring ourselves to eat it, so we never tried it. Although it was recommended by the gardening book, I heard after planting it that it’s quite bitter, and we probably won’t try it again.

• The romaine lettuce was good, and so was the head lettuce.

• The eggplant was good, and we had lots of fun once we perfected broiled eggplant. They also produced a second time after we picked them. Wish they had grown bigger – maybe plant food would help with that too.

• The broccoli grew nice big plants, and nice heads of broccoli, but only one main head (and maybe a little more if you’re lucky) per plant didn’t really seem worth it to us, since our family could easily eat more than 1 head in one meal.

• The beans weren’t bad, but they weren’t great. The seed packet said “garden beans” and showed a picture that looked like green beans, but these were much tougher than other fresh green beans I’ve had, so I wonder if I just got the wrong thing. They had on ok taste, but I would probably try something different next time.

• I wasn’t going to plant watermelon, but Eli really wanted to, so I found some seeds. We got two nice plants that vined up the fence, with lots of flowers, but only two fruits. The first fruit grew to about the size of a large grapefruit, and we ate it one afternoon – it was good. The second fruit shriveled up before getting very big at all. Don’t know if it’s worth it, but the kids liked watching that one grow, so it might be nice to do again (especially since we already have the packet of seeds).

• I won’t do potatoes again – not worth it. You plant a seed potato, and then as the leaves start to grow you cover them with dirt more and more (supposedly potatoes that grow near the surface come out green), then I waited and waited and when I went to dig them up, there were a little of tiny potatoes (like between a quarter and a golf ball size), a few good sized ones, and maybe one large one. And usually a really gross mushy rotten one too. Didn’t produce a lot of potatoes, especially the red ones we were looking forward to only made a few. And all that digging to try to find them, when there aren’t a lot to be found – just not worth it.

So, I think next year we will try out adding some more nutrients and see if that helps. We’ll probably also look into something to keep the bores away from the squash and try that again (since winter squash it my main motivator for planting a garden). The onions and garlic are probably better bought at the farmer’s market. I’ll probably try some more peppers and tomatoes (spaced and trimmed correctly this time). Lettuce and spinach are good for salads, and a little basil too for our pizzas. And I’m sure looking forward to our strawberry crop this next time around.

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