Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 tally

This year's harvest, other than perhaps the garlic, was pitiful. Mostly due to bunny damage, but also some weather issues and wrong-variety issues and lack-of-weeding issues.

The tally:

Extra-hardy garlic: 54 heads
other garlic (didn't count)

Onions: Just sad. The largest ones were about the same size as the smallest ones we'd harvested in prior years. The white onions were somewhat more successful; the bunnies seemed to prefer red varieties of both the onions and the swiss chard.

Ace peppers: Good numbers, some very large at the peak, but there were also some non-Ace varieties (including one hot one; surprise!) mixed in with the Ace plants.

Banana peppers: What I thought was a mild variety similar to banana peppers (b/c banana peppers were nowhere to be found) turned out to be a hot pepper. It was particularly loved by the bunnies, but came back toward the end of the season to provide hot peppers for Kevin.

Tomatoes: The Jetstars did quite well, producing early and consistently without being overly attractive to critters. The oxheart produced amazingly large (and tasty) fruits, but the critters (slugs, this time) agreed, and gutted them. The yellow pear produced well, but just didn't taste all that great. Next year: all Jetstars, all the time.

Sweet potatoes: considering that the bunnies ate the vines down to the ground several times during the season, we were luck to get a couple pounds of teeny-weeny sweet potatoes. They tasted good, though!

Butternut: 2 fruits. And they didn't seem to have a good shelf life. Mine started getting soft within a couple months. Still perfectly edible, though.

Swiss chard: slow to really fill out, and most of the red ones were eaten by the bunnies. Eventually produced a nice crop, only to succumb to critters again -- deer, maybe?

Zucchini: one fruit. Just enough to make a big batch of zucchini bread when a friend visited in July. I always aim to have just one zucchini fruit, and get dozens. This year, I actually achieved the goal, and then wished I had more, because I gave away most of the first batch of zucchini bread. Oh, but we had good amounts of yellow squash too.

Asparagus: Very nice crop this year. The new plants from 2010 are settling in, but weren't quite ready for harvest this year. Maybe in 2012. ETA: We spent about $80 to $90 for the plants and seeds that led to this harvest.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Gourmet bunnies

The extra-cold, extra-wet weather this past winter seems to have kicked the wildlife's reproduction levels into overdrive. Bunnies galore! So many, that they're eating things that usually they won't touch, especially onions and pepper plants. Apparently they're gourmet bunnies, though, because they only eat the red onion tops, not the yellow onion tops.

The broccoli and kale were eaten down to their roots. The swiss chard has been thinned out. Apparently the yellow-stemmed varieties (in the Northern Lights mix) aren't as tasty as the red-stemmed, so all that's left are the red-stemmed. I've never noticed a flavor difference, so I'm just grateful they left anything at all!

The banana pepper plants were damaged worse than the Ace pepper plants. One of the banana pepper plants (out of six) may recover, and I'm hoping that at least a dozen of the Ace pepper plants (out of twenty-four) will recover.

Sweet potatoes -- this is my first year growing them, so I don't know what they should look like by now. I'm reasonably certain, though, that they should be a LOT bigger, with fewer leaves bunny-stripped.

The squashes got a late start, mostly because of cold weather. The bunsters haven't eaten them, fortunately. The yellow crookneck and zucchini are just producing flowers now. Should be squash to eat in another week or so.

The early crop of garlic was harvested about a month ago. Got about 30 small heads (which is normal for that variety). We weren't enthusiastic about it last year, but I've come to appreciate it a bit more this year. I think we may have left the harvesting until later than we should have last year. It only takes a few minute, and a very small corner of the g arden, to grow 30 to 50 heads of garlic that is ripe a month early. That's a reasonable return on investment. Especially in a bunny season, when garlic is about the only crop (along with tomatoes) that hasn't been touched.

The main crop of garlic was harvested today: fifty-four really nice-sized heads of German Extra-Hardy. I've set aside about a dozen of the biggest heads as seeds for next year. There are probably another twenty or so smaller heads still in the ground, and I left them, so they'll form the bulbil tops. We like to nibble on the bulbils, and any left-overs get scattered in a bed that produces what we call our "wild garlic" crop -- single cloves that grow from the bulbils, and that are easy to pickle for winter use.

Tomatoes went into the ground late, again because of the cold, wet weather. The Jetstars have quite a few small green tomatoes; I haven't seen any set tomatoes on the yellow pear or the Oxheart (which went in last, but were the biggest seedlings).

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Brief bit of sunshine

We've had rain or heavy clouds almost non-stop since my last post. The broccoli has become leggy from lack of sun, even though it's in what should be the sunniest part of the garden. I cut back the main head on each of the plants, hoping to inspire some side shoots.

I'm a little worried that we're in for a repeat of the 2009 season -- rainy and wet, with tomato blight. I FINALLY picked up plants (another $18 spent) today, a couple weeks later than I would in a normal year. Decided to get kale (5 plants, one of which is a bit puny), since cool-weather crops may be the only ones that prosper this year!

Also got: 6 Corno di Toro sweet peppers (since the generic banana peppers were sold out), 24 Ace sweet peppers, 6 yellow pear tomatoes and 6 Jetstar tomatoes. And a thyme plant, because last year's plant is really thriving in a corner of a small whiskey barrel, and I like thyme a lot, so the plan is to fill that whiskey barrel completely with thyme.

I'd like perhaps 6 more tomatoes in a variety that's better for cooking, but I thought I'd experiment this year, perhaps with an oxheart, except I haven't found them. I've also got some Matt's Wild Cherry seedlings to add to the tomato collection.

Highest priority (except that I ran out of energy in the sudden heat) now is to prepare the bed for the sweet potatoes (dig up the weeds, lay down black plastic, heat up the soil) and get them planted by the end of the weekend.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

I'm such a cheapskate

Shortly after I picked a couple pounds of asparagus this morning, I went to the local grocery store, and saw they had a special on asparagus. At TWO BUCKS A POUND.

It's not very nice of me, but I couldn't help gloating a bit. I'd just picked about four bucks' worth of asparagus. For free!

Okay, so it's not really free. We did spend twenty or thirty bucks on new plants to fill in some gaps in the asparagus bed last year, but the quality can't be beat, and we'll be harvesting from them indefinitely. After this year, at least; the new plants are a little scrawny still, so I'm letting them put all their energy back into the roots. We've got enough to pick from the pre-existing plants, which went into the ground something like twenty years ago!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Onions by the hundreds

We received and planted somewhere between 250 and 300 onions. Two-thirds of them red and a third of them yellow storage onions. I think the grower sent us extras, though, because we should have had 180 red and 60 yellow, and I'm pretty sure we have more than that. The birds are unplanting them in their search for breakfast, so we may end up with fewer than what we have now.

Asparagus is doing well. Ate several stalks with my neighbor a week ago, brought some to a friend at work a few days ago, and picked a whole bunch of them yesterday. At least some of the newly planted roots survived their first-year neglect and are coming back, albeit as scraggly little shoots, only visible if you know where to look.

Lettuces (green simpson and a red variety) and tatsoi are thriving on both my deck and my neighbor's. Hers are a bit further along, and I did some weeding and thinning yesterday. In the process, I got to eat the first lettuce of the season. Not exactly a whole salad. More like three one-inch-square leaves. But, hey, the first bites of the season are always the best.

I may be making rhubarb crisp tonight. I'd like to see if harvesting some branches now will, in fact, spur the plant into producing more branches than it would otherwise. I've already removed the flower stalks. I really want to make blueberry-rhubarb jam again this year, as soon as blueberries come into season.

Meanhile, I'm craving broccoli. I love broccoli, but mostly I love it raw. And I can't eat it raw any longer, because I have thyroiditis, and raw broccoli makes that problem worse. So I swore off broccoli. Until recently, when I decided that lightly cooked broccoli (which is okay for my thyroid) is better than no broccoli at all. I'm hoping to pick up the plants today and stick them in the ground today or tomorrow.

Basil seedlings have sprouted in duplicate. I thought I'd killed the first batch of seeds, and put the pots outdoors to be composted, but a week later (I tend to be slow about getting stuff out to the compost bin), there were sprouts in the pots. Both the outdoor pots and the follow-up pots indoors. So, lots of basil this year. Except I have no idea where to put it. I'm aiming to set new records for overly intensive planting this year.

Monday, April 18, 2011

April 2011 status check

Last year, we spent $125, and the year before that about $170. We still have some seeds and supplies left over from prior years, reducing the current year's expenses.

So far, we've spent about $66 on:

200 red onions
50 yellow onions
20 (?) sweet potato plants
basil seeds

We're likely to spend another $30 to $50 on plants and fencing (to go around the sugar snap peas, which I should have planted a week ago, but will do soon).

There are about 50 German Hardy garlic plants sprouted from good-sized cloves, another 20 or so from smaller bulbs, plus about 20 of the early garlic variety from good-sized clives and a few smaller plants. Plus at least three patches of small, one-two-clove garlic plants growing from the bulblets tossed into the garden in prior years.

We missed a few onions during last year's harvest, so we've been eating the second-year sprouts as scallions.

The rhubarb, puny as the stalks are, is looking a little fuller than in prior years.

Last week, we noticed that the lettuce on my neighbor's deck had self-seeded and sprouted. We transplanted some of them to give them some breathing room, and also tossed some tatsoi seeds into her other planters and a planter on my deck. My tatsoi has sprouted, so I'm assuming hers has too.

I'm planning to fill an old metal firepit with soil and then lettuce seeds for my deck this year. Might get the soil today, as a celebration of the end of tax-preparing season.

This morning, I planted some basil seeds (indoors, of course), along with a few wild-cherry tomatoes and a few hot pepper seeds. The plan is to have just one or two of the wild-cherry tomatoes (because they can take over the whole garden otherwise) and just one or two hot pepper plants, because only one of us even likes hot peppers, and they go to waste otherwise.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Harvest summary

I'm writing this some months after the actual harvest, but this is what I remember from last year:

Not much asparagus was harvested, but we planted some new plants, so we should see more in a couple years.

Tomatoes did well, especially the wild cherry, which seems to need truly hot weather to ripen properly, instead of simply setting more and more green tomatoes. The first frost was extremely late, but there were still enough green paste tomatoes to make into green tomato mincemeat -- my great-grandmother's recipe. I'd forgotten how much I like it.

Peppers also did well, in large part because of the late frost, which extended the growing season. I lost count of how many we harvested, or even how many pints of pickled peppers we consumed. The banana peppers were all consumed fresh or pickled. I dried some of the green peppers on trays in my car (using it as a solar collector), and they lasted through the winter. I also tried sauteeing some of them before freezing, for using in rice dishes. They were kind of mushy when re-cooked, but with fresh peppers at three bucks a pound, I can live with a little bit of mushy-ness, as long as I can get some pepper flavor into the rice.

Swiss chard did poorly; it was planted in a too-shady spot. Mini carrots did well in a planter, but we tended to forget they were there.

The onions were a little smaller than we'd become accustomed to. I don't know if it was because they were a different variety than the previous year or if it was due to a slight drought right when they needed water the most. Or, perhaps, to our less-than-stellar weeding. They lasted into spring of 2011 before sprouting.

Summer squash (yellow and zucchini) did fine. I finally managed to plant only one zucchini plant, so there was a reasonable amount. The butternut squash were a total loss. Many of the volunteers turned out to be some sort of weird hybrid of butternut plus spaghetti plus summer squash. And then the critters started eating them, and we let them.

Green beans were late but prolific. All the herbs did well.

The early variety of garlic didn't impress. The harvest was puny, and a lot of our wild-growing garlic was edible (albeit small) at about the same time the early garlic ripened, so it didn't really fill a particular need. We did save the largest heads (which were smaller than the average heads for the German Hardy variety) to replant for the coming year, just in case their less-than-stellar performance was a fluke of soil, weather, or non-weeding. They did get planted later than I'd have liked, in late October, when I would have preferred to get them in by the end of September. The pickled garlic did, indeed, last through the winter, with the bulbs remaining firm and un-sprouted after the fresh garlic had turned soft and sour. On the other hand, I pickled far more than I could possibly use before the next fresh crop comes along, so I'll make fewer this coming year.

Not bad, actually, for the investment of $125.