End of Year Garden Assessment

130915 (1)I took this photograph yesterday morning overlooking the best garden of weeds I have ever had.  I have had a vegetable garden for a good ten years now and this has to be the worst one yet. Fortunately the rest of the view is pretty nice.

For some reason in my mind it is the first week of October (I even tore off the September page of the calendar on Saturday and didn’t realize it until Sunday).  It may be the weeds or my confused state but I decided to dismantle most of the garden this past weekend.  I had Cherry Belle radishes the size of beets – over 5 feet tall and gone to seed (which was interesting since I had never done that).  I had a total of two beets the size of radishes.

130915 (2)I really began by pulling up all of my popcorn.  It had been raining the past week a good deal and I thought I should probably get it out of the ground.  I laid all of the stalks in my garden wagon thinking I would keep the ears on the stalks to dry further.  This was Tom Thumb popcorn, an heirloom variety developed in New Hampshire.  It was bred to do well in a short season.  It only grows 3 feet tall and is quite cute.  It did well.  Sunday I decided to pull all of the ears off of the stocks, peel back the husks and let them dry further.  They are supposed to dry to a 14% moisture content.  I’m not sure how you’re supposed to figure that out but most people just try popping a few kernels every so often during the drying period to see when they pop.  Works for me.  Did I mention that none of these ears is more than 4 inches long?  Most are in the 3 inch category – hence the name Tom Thumb. 

130915 (3)I then pulled what carrots I had.  I had planted two varieties – the old standby Danvers and Atomic Red.  Another rather disappointing harvest.  This is all I had – a total of 6 pints when it was all said and done.  When I saw them scrubbed up in the bowl I was glad I had planted both, they look great together.  I canned them with a brown sugar glaze.  I had heard a review from my sister that this was the only way to go.  Well, when you only have 6 pints you have to make a choice,  I went with sweet.

The rest of the potatoes were dug on Saturday and left out in the sun until yesterday afternoon.  Not a particularly good year for them either.  We had a lot of rain and the earth really compacted around them.  The potatoes are delicious, the yield was just not there (that and the fact that we ate fully half of them as new potatoes).

130915 (4)Then there is the matter of tomatoes.  The vines in the garden have been brown without leaves for a couple of weeks.  The yellow cherries just kept coming – we are at a loss to understand why.  This tomato is extremely prolific.  The bonus is it takes them a long, long time to rot.  Another interesting thing is they drop off of the vine as soon as they begin to turn yellow so rather than pick them off of the plant you end up picking them off of the ground.  I was pulling the stakes up that were holding the plants and these tomatoes were everywhere.  Not being one to let good food go to waste I picked them up and canned them with 4 red tomatoes that were the only ones left.  I ended the tomato season with an additional 6 pints of beautiful golden sauce.

I planted a total of seven eggplants – they produced 4 fruit.  They were delicious but I’m not sure if it was this particular year’s weather or my growing season is just too short.  The plants are blossoming like crazy right now but I know there won’t be enough time before we have a frost.  I feel a little bad pulling them up but I’m not going to weed around them.

The asparagus looks great. The bed will be cleaned out, mulched and  some edging will be put in this fall.  The rutabagas are just okay this year, they will stay in the ground until a couple of frosts hit, then I will pull them.  They are smaller than usual.  The rest of the garden will be tilled in the next week or so (because I can’t look at the crabgrass any more).

We have scoped out a new area for the garden.  This will involve outside help for excavation and some fill but it holds the promise of being a better location long term.  We have some mature maples along the south end of where the garden presently is and that is the one tree we are loathe to cut down.  I figure the way the crabgrass grew in this year it would take about a month to turn the present garden into lawn since most of the lawn is crabgrass anyway.

 

 

 

 

Garden Economics

130824 Garlic

This is my garlic harvest for this year.  A year ago about this time I was thinking I really needed to grow some of my own but when I went onto the High Mowing Seed website with the intention of ordering some and they were sold out.  Bummer I thought – then figured I’d order it for this year. Garlic is planted in the fall, like tulips and daffodils, it needs that fall and winter time to set out its roots.  It then blossoms in June or so and is ready to harvest in July (at least here it is).  The seed companies send out their garlic for planting the first week in October.

I moved on completely forgetting about the garlic. A couple of weeks later I received a package in the mail – a pound of garlic for planting from High Mowing.  I had forgotten that I had ordered it with my spring seeds back in February.  It felt like pennies from heaven because I’d paid for it back in February as well.

The garlic I had ordered is called Music.  It’s a hardneck variety which I know seems to do pretty well around here. I dug a nice bed for them in a sunny, well-drained sight and placed each clove about 3 to 4 inches deep, covered it and walked away.  When spring arrived it was the first plant out of the ground.  In June the blossoms, called scapes, emerge.  I pick all of them off – doing this puts the plants energy in forming bulbs.  The scapes are delicious – I chop them and cook them in eggs for breakfast but they are great in all kinds of things.  Two harvests from one plant.

Towards the middle of July the stalks of the garlic begin to turn brown from the ground up.  I’ve heard that timing is everything with garlic.  You don’t want to dig it up too soon- you want those bulbs as big as you can get them.  If you wait too long the bulb will no longer be tight, the cloves will have splayed out – ready to continue growing for another year.  I had to guess.  I waited until the plants were brown half of the way up the stalk and then I dug one out to see.  It was a thing of beauty.  I dug the rest.

Curing the garlic takes another 3 to 4 weeks. The skins dry to that thin paper we are all familiar with.  I just laid the whole plant on paper in the house and waited (of course a couple of bulbs were sampled along the way).  This weekend I cleaned and trimmed the crop. What you see in the photo is what I grew.  This was a pound of garlic cloves.  The cloves are very large on this garlic so it doesn’t take many to get to a pound.  For every clove you plant you get a bulb.

This garlic is so good I vowed to plant 3 times as much next year – the problem?  It would probably cost over $60 for the seed.

Bill and I gazed at these beautiful bulbs and decided that I would use most of what I grew this year as seed for next year.  It made me a little sad to think about not eating most of what was in the basket but I could quadruple the number of bulbs next year just by planting what was in front of me.  It was sort of a no brainer, but all I want to do right now is eat garlic mashed potatoes from the garden.