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.





Beginning in Earnest

130526 (2) Garden PlanYesterday in the cold, rainy, windy weather I went through my seeds and actually drew up the garden plan.  It had been in my head for  a while just finally put pen to paper.  Today I plant the crowns and bulbs, put up the bean teepee and get out the seed potatoes.  Last night it was cold by any standard but the forecast for the rest of the week is warm and sunny.  By the 31st I should be able to put my seeds in the ground if the forecast holds true.  All of my seed comes from High Mowing Seeds in Vermont.  They are organic, non-GMO and many are open pollinated.  Honestly the best seed I have ever used.

I had taken all of my annuals in pots into the shed on Friday night, this morning I will go see how my lonely little eggplant fared. I will be mixing beans on the poles this year, I’ve planted just a green bean in the past couple of years but I really have missed the scarlet runners – and I’m assuming so have the birds.  I will also plant sunflowers in the corners with the popcorn.  I’m kind of taking for granted the popcorn will end up being fodder for raccoons but you never know.  This variety is Tom Thumb and only grows to a maximum height of 3 feet, I’m more than a little excited about this experiment.

We have a guy in Enfield we refer to as the flower gypsy.  He’s a wholesaler who has a van and goes from shop to shop selling cut flowers – this time of year annual pots and vegetables.  He comes around every other week or so with what he figures will sell for the season.  During the winter it’s always long stem roses from Ecuador.  Easter it’s lilies, cut flowers for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I was pleasantly surprised when I walked into the shop the other day to four pepper plants and four tomatoes.  Bill always buys me flowers but apparently he’s been listening and bought food.  Hehehe, excellent, my plan is working, one person at a time.

Little Patch of Tilled Earth

130519 Tilled GardenThis past weekend was a rather productive one considering it rained most of Sunday.  I made my way to the Shelburne Farm and Garden early on Saturday morning picking up a few plants, mostly for the newer perennial garden.  I completely weeded out the raspberries and the garlic patches plus planting all of my new plants by noon.  The dock growing in every bed is beginning to get to me since I have to use a shovel to get each one out.  The roots are all about a foot long now.  Dandelions everywhere, but when there are so many of them it’s rather pretty.

Cleomes were planted in the perennial bed, my all time favorite annual.  The garden center had some nice ones so I planted them in with the Echinacea .  I was disappointed with things not coming up but I think I’ve just been impatient.  Everything in the perennial beds is up as I remembered it being planted and it’s beginning to fill in.  I have been checking for the jack-in-a-pulpits on the north side of the house for a couple of weeks now and hadn’t seen them until yesterday.  They have been there the entire time we’ve been at the house so I would be disappointed if they were gone.

I bought an eggplant because I had never even seen one grown before last summer.  It’s been planted in a flower bed.  I will be putting asparagus into the north end of the vegetable garden this year, probably planting it on Wednesday.  I either had to plant it there or start an entirely new bed.  I couldn’t figure out where to put a new bed and figured committing space in the garden for the asparagus was worthwhile (it’s a 20 year commitment).  I’ll just have to till the rest of the garden with that in mind.

I tilled the garden on Sunday morning in between a couple of showers and swarms of black flies.  I had to get it done.  I also did a little soil test to see where the ph was and was pleased to see it was in a tolerable range.  I’d been worried that I was trying to grow plants that were just too unhappy with the soil conditions but it would appear that things are much better than I had thought.  I’ll hit it with some composted manure before I plant and continue rotating my plants every year.  Rotation works well for me because I bore so easily, each year feels like a new garden (well it is but I try to make the layout completely different).  Last year I had mostly rows going east/west, this year I will probably have more of a potager type.  The new, experimental crops will be a dwarf popcorn and some purple string beans.  For pole beans this year I will be interspersing Scarlet Runners with Kentucky Wonder I think.  I love the flowers and so do the birds, bees and hummingbird moths. Sharing my garden with these creatures is really what it’s all about for me.  Of course ask me again right after the raccoons destroy my corn.  Still unsure if I will do teepees for the pole beans or do a long trellis like I did a few years ago.  I will have to see what kind of saplings I can find in the woods.

The only things that will planted in the next week or so will be the asparagus, potatoes and onions.  Everything else will wait until the weekend of June 1st.  I’m always so over-anxious to get things into the ground I often put seeds in earth that is just too cold.  One more week won’t make that much of a difference.  I will be starting basil and nasturtiums in pots to scatter around the gardens.  I usually plant the nasturtiums in the garden but have found that they are difficult to weed around as they get going and they look great cascading over the sides of pedestal pots.

The photograph really makes my garden look rather small, in reality it is about 20′ x 50′, so it’s a pretty good size.  I haven’t put up the fence posts yet for my caution tape fence.  Chester spent a good deal of time yesterday in that fine tilled soil – he loves it.  You can imagine what he looked like after rolling around in it while it was raining.  And once again he has photobombed my pictures – he sincerely thinks he should be in every shot.



Seeds Ordered

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I did it. I ordered my seeds yesterday.  A commitment has been made.  Now all that’s left is the layout.

My favorite gardens have been potagers.  They are functional and beautiful.  They are interesting enough so I want to weed them and keep them clean (alright, sorta weeded and clean).  One of the real reasons I love potagers so much is the look on Russell’s face when he sees it.  He’s a straight row kind of guy and he always looks at my garden with scepticism.  It makes me laugh. My garden has rows, just not all rows.  I like things to have a certain whimsy about them yet be functional at the same time.  I always plant things for the birds, bees and butterflies.  I like color. Consequently I plant things that other people don’t.  I love Scarlet Runner Beans.  They are beautiful to grow.  Hummingbirds and butterflies love them.  I love picking the beans at the end of the season and marveling at their bright purple and pink spots. I can’t say that I like eating them so I plant them with another pole bean that I will eat and put up.

Each year I look through my past garden plans to see where the potatoes or tomatoes were planted in the past few years so I can rotate them around.  The potatoes are always planted in rows because of the ease in hilling but I plant the tomatoes in all different configurations.  This year I may plant blocks or circles of separate varieties instead of  in rows.  I also will be planting fewer varieties, but maybe more yellows. My new seed for the year will be Tom Thumb popcorn.  I always try something totally different.  Corn isn’t a do or die for me so when I plant it I do it totally out of curiosity.  I figure it’ll probably turn into fodder for raccoons but you don’t know until you try.

Things to remember this year is to add a lot of compost before I till.  Stake the tomatoes early (so they don’t get away from me).  Get more caution tape for fencing – yes, works better than anything I’ve found although it isn’t all that pretty. Sharpen the weeding tools.

Best of all I will be cleaning off the Adirondack chairs in preparation for relaxing and enjoying the view.